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    ‘Gaslighting’ is the word of the year

    NEW YORK (AP) – “Gaslighting” – behaviour that’s mind manipulating, grossly misleading, downright deceitful – is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year.

    Lookups for the word on merriam-webster.com increased 1,740 per cent in 2022 over the year before. But something else happened.

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

    The gaslighting was pervasive. “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 Merriam-Webster’s editor at large Peter Sokolowski in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.

    “It was a word looked up frequently every single day of the year,” he said. There were deepfakes and the dark web. There were deep states and fake news. And there was a whole lot of trolling.

    Gas lamps illuminate St Louis’ Gaslight Square on April 2, 1962. PHOTO: AP

    Merriam-Webster’s top definition for gaslighting is the psychological manipulation of a person, usually over an extended period of time, that “causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator”.

    More broadly, the dictionary defines the word thusly: “The act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.”

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

    It can happen between romantic partners, within a broader family unit and among friends. It can be a corporate tactic, or a way to mislead the public.

    There’s also “medical gaslighting”, when a healthcare professional dismisses a patient’s symptoms or illness as “all in your head”.

    “Gaslighting,” Sokolowski said, spent all of 2022 in the top 50 words looked up on merriam-webster.com to earn top dog word of the year status. Last year’s pick was “vaccine”.

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