Trending: gaslight

Lookups spiked 14,000% on November 8th, 2018.

Why are people looking up gaslight?

Gaslighting shone much brighter than you would expect a gaslight to shine on November 8th, 2018, after New York Times writer Binyamin Appelbaum took to Twitter to vent about it, appearing to cast doubts on the existence of the word. Respondents to Appelbaum’s tweet seemed uncertain as to whether he was attempting to gaslight them, or was merely displaying a deep and abiding ignorance of the way in which language functions.

What does gaslight mean?

We define gaslighting as “to attempt to make (someone) believe that he or she is going insane (as by subjecting that person to a series of experiences that have no rational explanation).”

Where does gaslight come from?

The modern sense of gaslighting comes from Gas Light, a play (1938) by British writer Patrick Hamilton, subsequently made into British and American films entitled Gaslight (1940 and 1944), in which a man attempts to trick his wife into believing that she is going insane. Used as a verb and verbal noun, gaslighting has been in this figurative use since at least 1956.

What is unusual about this use of gaslight?

Naturally, gaslighting may also be defined more literally as “lighting by means of gaslight.” This older sense dates back to the beginning of the 19th century.

Citations

These, however, were but imperfect trials, when compared with those made in 1805 at Messrs. Philips and Lee’s cotton mills at Manchester; and upon the results of which, all subsequent procedures, with regard to gas lighting, may be said to be founded.
The Analectic Magazine (Philadelphia, PA), Jul. 1816

Trend Watch is a data-driven report on words people are looking up at much higher search rates than normal. While most trends can be traced back to the news or popular culture, our focus is on the lookup data rather than the events themselves.

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