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Gaslit, gaslighted... gaslated? The word has flummoxed the internet for years. It turns out the answer is complicated.

A lit gas lantern on a counter top in front of a set of windows.
"Gaslighting" was Merriam-Webster's word of the year in 2022.Getty/Matt Mawson
  • Internet users have turned to the web for years to find the past tense of "gaslight."

  • A linguist TikToker went viral when he joked "gaslighted" and "gaslit" were both wrong.

  • An expert said this isn't the case, but there isn't exactly one right answer either.

People have been trying to agree on the past tense of "gaslight" for years, and a viral video has just added more confusion to the mix. Was someone "gaslighted" or "gaslit"? Or something else entirely?

Gaslighting is a term originally associated with psychological abuse. It stems from the 1938 play "Gas Light" (and its multiple movie adaptations) about a woman who is manipulated by her husband into thinking she is losing her sanity. Throughout the story, her husband causes the gas lights in their home to dim but attempts to convince his wife that she is imagining it.

Victims of real-life gaslighting can find themselves questioning their own mind, as a perpetrator "screws with your sense of reality to manipulate you, causing you to distrust yourself and trust them instead," psychologist Perpetua Neo previously told Business Insider.

But the popularity of the phrase has skyrocketed in recent years, especially online, where it's sometimes used to describe behavior that likely wouldn't be categorized as abusive, such as someone disagreeing with you on a topic or issue.

In 2022, Merriam-Webster reported they'd seen a 1,740% increase in searches for the term as it became "the favored word for the perception of deception," and "gaslighting" was named their word of the year.

With the rise in the term's popularity has also come confusion about its past tense. If a light was "lit," one would assume a victim of gaslighting was "gaslit," yet it's often used interchangeably with "gaslighted."

Multiple people have turned to Reddit and X, formerly Twitter, in search of answers. In 2017, one user asked Meriam-Webster directly, which responded that the correct form of the verb was "gaslighted."

But a language enthusiast recently went viral when he insisted both were incorrect.

Enter: 'Gaslated'

Adam Aleksic is a 23-year-old TikToker who studied linguistics at Harvard University and shares videos on etymology, which examines the origin of words.

He's has gained 295,000 followers explaining linguistics to his audience, but told BI he likes to play around with the medium, which can range "from serious, well-researched content to silly stuff like making animal languages or explanations of language in pop culture."

On December 16, he decided to get playful, when he told his viewers to stop using "gaslighted" and "gaslit," as he said they were both incorrect.

"You're wrong, you've always been wrong," Aleksic said in the video as he jabbed his finger at the camera.

As the background lights slowly dimmed throughout the course of the TikTok, he insisted the correct past tense was, in fact, "gaslated."

He falsely claimed that the root of the word "light" also led to the past tenses "illuminated" and "elucidated," suggesting -ated is the correct suffix for all light-related words. (In fact, "illuminate" and "elucidate" come from Latin, while "light" has Germanic origins, and of course the past tense of "to light" is undoubtedly "lit.")

Aleksic told Business Insider he thought the whole explanation was "a pretty obvious bit," but not everyone picked up on the joke.

The upload received 1.3 million views and over 2,200 comments. Many joked that Aleksic was trying to gaslight them into using the wrong word but others appeared fully convinced that "gaslated" was correct.

"I guess that's what happens when you build up credibility for a while only to bait and switch with a manipulative meme video," Aleksic told BI.

It turns out none of the options are exactly wrong

Dr. Laura Bailey, a senior lecturer in English language and linguistics at the University of Kent, England, confirmed to BI that Aleksic's video was recognizably a joke — but couldn't quite settle the issue of what the right answer is.

The English language doesn't have an official body that governs its "correct" use, although dictionaries are often used as the arbiter of what is right and wrong.

According to the Linguistic Society of America, "English is now changing in exactly the same ways that have contributed to making it the rich, flexible, and adaptable language so popular throughout the world today. Living languages must change, must adapt, must grow."

Bailey agreed with Merriam-Webster that the word you're looking for is probably "gaslighted," treating it as a regular verb that would take the suffix -ed for the past tense. But she said "gaslit" also works for her.

"Linguists don't tell people what's correct, only what people actually do," she said.

Aleksic echoed this sentiment.

"Don't ever trust a linguist who tells you how language is supposed to be used," he told BI. "We're only here to observe, not to tell you what to say. But that doesn't mean I can't goof around with it."

So if Aleksic's "gaslated" is your preferred option, no need to let the fact that it's made up put you off using it — even if you do get some confused looks.

Read the original article on Business Insider