Yes, Collins chose Permacrisis and the Oxford users voted for Goblin mode but we think Merriam-Webster captures the true feeling of living in Mzansi with Gaslighting.  


The act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.

The term saw a 1,740 percent increase in 2022, with high interest throughout the year. It also gained popularity as a public feeling at the tail-end of a tumultuous 2022 with a section 89 report on Phala Phala trying to get president Ramaphosa to resign on what can only be described as a legal reach.

  • Gaslighting dates back to 1938. 
  • A man named Patrick Hamilton wrote a play called Gas Light in which a man attempts to make his wife believe that she is going insane. 
  • His mysterious activities in the attic cause the house’s gas lights to dim, but he insists to his wife that the lights are not dimming and that she can’t trust her perceptions. 
  • The play was adapted into two movies in the 40s, the most notable being released in 1944, starring the legendary Ingrid Bergman. 
  • The film was also Angela Lansbury‘s debut film role. 

A key (but silly) modern example of gaslighting is the debate that’s constantly had by Americans and the Brits over what to call that sport with 22 men running after a single ball for 90 minutes.

Is it called football or soccer? 

The Americans famously call it soccer, much to the chagrin of the Brits, who call it football. But according to Tony Collins, a professor of history at De Montfort University in the UK soccer is a British term – adapted from the term Association Football  that is used to distinguish soccer from other forms of football like Rugby Football and American Football.

So who’s fooling who?

In more recent times, when Ellen DeGeneres was outed for allegedly creating a “toxic work environment”, and many celebrities like SA-bound Kevin Hart (not surprising) and Katy Perry rushed to defend her, they were accused of gaslighting those who had spoken out about the abuse.

We’d argue that the celebs were singing for their supper, but we digress.

In the age of rampant misinformation, conspiracy theories and trolls, gaslighting by political figures happens frequently. 

Gaslighting is rife in Mzansi. In the South African context, we’re led to believe that things are getting better, but the potholes and ever-escalating crime say otherwise. 

We’re also led to believe that there is a bigger conspiracy at play against Jacob Zuma and his cronies when it’s just about (allegedly) corrupt politicians refusing to take accountability for their actions.

Gaslighting wasn’t the only word on the list. 

For Merriam-Webster oligarch was a close second – a direct response to the sanctions placed on Russian oligarchs and their families following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Collins meanwhile lists Kyiv, Partygate, and Quiet Quitting among 2022’s most used and searched terms.

Lookups for Codify increased by 193 percent, driven by the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The abbreviation LGBTQIA also enjoyed popularity frequently (up 1,178 percent) during the entire month of June, Pride month, when the rights, equality, and culture of LGBTQ people are celebrated worldwide.

Loadshedding dominates the Mzansi lexicon since first seizing the local zeitgeist as a way to explain the rolling blackouts that have been a constant fixture since 2009. Hopefully we will see the back of it in the near future and move towards the world language trends soon.