« Gaslighting », the word of the year according to Merriam-Webster

The American company Merriam-Webster, which notably publishes the famous English dictionary of the same name, revealed on Tuesday that gaslighting was his « word of the year ». It was one of the most searched terms online in 2022. The equivalences in French, however, remain less well known.

“In this age of misinformation — fake newsconspiracy theories, Twitter trolls and deepfakes —the gaslighting has become a buzz word,” Merriam-Webster said.

Their dictionary defines the word as « the act or practice of grossly deceiving someone, especially for one’s own benefit ». Merriam-Webster says online searches for the word increased 1740% last year.

The term gaslighting was first popularized by the movie gas light (1944) by George Cukor, adapted from a 1938 play, where a man (Charles Boyer) manipulated his wife (Ingrid Bergman) into believing she was going mad in order to steal her jewelry.

The term was then taken up in various fields, notably in psychology – by certain authors only, it does not designate an officially recognized condition – and in feminist studies.

In 2017, the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) proposed the term « cognitive diversion », in response to the growing popularity of the English term in the mid-2010s.

The OQLF defines the expression as « manipulation aimed at making a person doubt himself by resorting to lying, denial, selective omission or distortion of facts, in order to draw profit from the anxiety and confusion thus generated ».

Radio-Canada also proposed the term “décervelage” in 2018. The Larousse dictionary defines this word as an “action of depriving someone of all ability to reason correctly”.

Among other 2022 « words of the year », Merriam-Webster also noted « oligarch », « Omicron » and « queen consort ».

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