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Experts baffled: ‘Gaslighting' named ‘word of the year’

No ‘single event drove spike in curiosity’

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December 23, 2022


04:46 AM

Experts baffled: ‘Gaslighting' named ‘word of the year’

With more than a billion pageviews annually, Merriam-Webster knows what words are on people’s minds. This year, the website saw a 1,740% increase in lookups for “gaslighting” over 2021, making it the online dictionary’s “word of the year”.

Feeling manipulated

Psychologist Chivonna Childs, PhD defines gaslighting as

a form of emotional manipulation by someone to make you feel like your feelings aren’t your feelings or what you think is happening isn’t really happening.” [Emphases added].

Of course, by the time someone looks up “gaslighting” to get an exact definition of the term, they are already in the process of untangling what it is that led them to feel manipulated. Yet, AP reports that experts are at a complete loss as to what has caused the sudden interest in manipulation tactics this year.

There wasn’t a single event that drove significant spikes in the curiosity, as it usually goes with the chosen word of the year.


The word of the year in 2021 was, understandably, “vaccine” as the mRNA injections were released that year. The year after half the world's population received the new injections, word experts claim to see no connection between current events and the use of the gaslighting phrase.

“It’s a word that has risen so quickly in the English language, and especially in the last four years, that it actually came as a surprise to me and to many of us,” said Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press ahead of Monday’s unveiling. “It was a word looked up frequently every single day of the year…” [Emphasis added].


Gregory Anton, the protagonist in the 1944 film version of the 1938 British thriller play, “Gas Light,” compliments his cleaning lady’s appearance and jokes about how she must be “breaking hearts,” all in front of his wife. When the cleaning lady leaves the room and his wife complains about the way he spoke with her, Anton claims that he only spoke to the cleaning lady to make her feel like an “equal,” not looking down at her but not flirting. He then turns the episode on its head, implying that his wife is losing her mind for thinking that her husband’s flirting causes the cleaning lady to look at her differently:

I hope you’re not starting to imagine things again; you’re not, are you?

Similarly, in the 1940 adaptation, Gaslight, the wife, Bella, correctly notes that someone appears to be turning gas lights on in an unseen part of the house, causing the gas light in her room to dim, as the water pressure may decrease in one shower when a shower in a different bathroom in the same house is started.

Bella (the wife): “A moment ago, the wires on the gas dimmed . . . as it does when someone turns on another light in the house. Did you turn on another light, Elizabeth? 

Elizabeth (the cook): No, ma'am. There's no one in the house but us. Nancy's out, and the master.

Bella: But it did a minute ago.

Elizabeth: There, there, ma'am. There's only something wrong with the pipes. You must have dropped off and been dreaming you heard something [in the attic, where Bella's husband was secretly rummaging for jewels].

Bella: That's right, Elizabeth. Dreaming. If I dream things when I'm awake . . . I'm going out of my mind, Elizabeth.”

In fact, Bella’s husband is turning on a gas light on the upper floor in search of rubies hidden there by Bella’s mother before her murder. Her husband denies that there are noises coming from upstairs and also moves objects around, and then denies doing so, in order to make Bella believe she cannot remember moving them herself.


One clue word experts give as to what drove interest in gaslighting in 2022 is that the interest was nonstop from the beginning of 2022 till today.

The gaslighting was pervasive. . . . “Gaslighting,” Sokolowski said, spent all of 2022 in the top 50 words looked up on to earn top dog word of the year status. 

What happened throughout 2022 that made people feel like what they were seeing was not really happening?

Frontline News reported in 2022 on a hospital’s failed attempt to run ads normalizing myocarditis in children, ignoring the spike in children’s myocarditis following the mRNA jabs.  Myocarditis is a “hallmark side effect of the COVID-19 injections which even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was forced to address."

The video, which transitions between live-action footage and animation, is titled, “Pediatric Patient Story” and involves a young girl named Suri. 

“I’ve been into fashion since I can remember,” begins Suri. “But one day, I had a stomachache so bad I didn’t want to do anything. 

“The team at New York-Presbyterian said it was actually my heart. It was severely swollen – something called ‘myocarditis.’ But doctors gave me medicines and used machines to control my heartbeat. They saved me. So now I can become the next great fashion designer.” 

The ad ends with the caption “Stay Amazing” and fades to the NewYork-Presbyterian logo. 

Children’s Health Defense publication The Defender reported on reactions to the ad. 

[the ad fails to make] any mention of what may have caused the potentially fatal heart condition … 

Dr. Vinay Prasad, a hematologist-oncologist and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, retweeted the ad on Sept. 18, adding his own questions and comments.


People who were injured by mRNA injections or who know someone who was injured by them feel gaslighted when they’re told that the jabs are safe and that the fact they suffered an injury shortly after receiving the shot was a coincidence, despite a spike in heart attack rates.

The AP article even pointed out that politicians and the media can gaslight.

Gaslighting is a heinous tool frequently used by abusers in relationships — and by politicians and other newsmakers . . .

Mainstream media, too, acknowledge the existence of medical gaslighting, quoting, of all people, a heart expert.

“Medical gaslighting is when concerns about your healthcare are being dismissed, they’re not heard and they are minimized,” says Stacey E. Rosen, senior vice president for Northwell Health’s Katz Institute for Women’s Health and co-author of “Heart Smarter for Women — 6 Weeks to a Healthier Heart.”

A 2022 article asked“What Is The Reason For The Increased Number Of Heart Attacks In Young People?” 

Myocardial infarction (MI) was once thought to be an issue for the elderly. A heart attack in someone under the age of 40 was extremely uncommon, but now one in every five-heart attack patient are [sic] under the age of 40.

The article lists six possible causes of heart attacks in people under the age of 35. A vaccine side effect is not listed.

Nonetheless, AP maintained there was no way to know what led to the surge in interest in gaslighting surmising that some people just want to know whether to hyphenate the word.

Merriam-Webster [staff] don’t slice and dice why people look up words, which can be anything from quick spelling and definition checks to some sort of attempt at inspiration or motivation. Some of the droves who looked up “gaslighting” this year might have wanted to know, simply, if it’s one or two words, or whether it’s hyphenated.

Some may even feel that they are being gaslighted about the word gaslighting.

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