Gaslight Motif

So what, you're thinking my Cliche Snark t-shirts are suddenly not your cup of tea? Wow, that attitude's quite a one-eighty since the last time we got together. Or don't you recall? I mean, let's face it, that memory of yours is like a sieve. And don't get all sensitive on me, buttercups. It's not like it's my fault your moods and your opinions are all over the place. Come to think of it, that's par for the course for you guys. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised; you readers are a such a fickle bunch. Hell, it's a wonder you even found the time or the inclination to log back into Or even possess the mental faculties, for that matter!

Harsh much? Sorry. Just my way of introducing today's theme: gaslighting. Chances are if you've heard of the word it's probably relatively new to your vocabulary. Although coined some eighty-plus years ago as the title of a stage play and then made into the movie, "Gaslight", a bit later in 1944, the term toiled in relative obscurity until recently. My intro to it was on the Steely Dan album, "Two Against Nature" released in 2000. Having first listened to the song, "Gaslighting Abbie" I had to check out the dictionary definition to help me get a handle on Becker and Fagan's storyline. Turns out the tune is about an affair between a married man and his mistress who are plotting a way to drive his wife insane. Their modus operandi?... gaslighting.

Gaslighting is loosely defined as manipulating someone to question their own sanity; the play getting its name from when the gas lights would dim each time the husband left the house--his ploy to make the wife think she was losing it. Typical examples include "countering" (questioning a person's memory), "withholding" (pretending not to understand or refusing to listen), "trivializing" (accuse of overreacting), "denial" (blaming others), "diverting" (changing focus by questioning other person's credibility) and "stereotyping" (using negativity about gender, race, group association, etc.). So, basically all the stuff I just said to you, the reader, in the first paragraph. Ya' know, if you can remember the first paragraph. Hint: it's the one at the top of the page. And that's providing you can even understand it (sorry again, this gaslighting thing can be pretty addicting).

So yeah, I bring up "gaslighting" not just to recognize a word that's now firmly ensconced in today's lexicon while shining some light on its origin but also to marvel at how prevalent it's become in such a short time. And now that it's made its way into your subconsciousness watch how many times it pops up on your radar. You'll see it in movie plots and sitcoms, in TV and magazine ads, on soaps (not that watch but I hear stuff) and especially on reality shows, ya' know, the ones where people get kicked off the island weekly for bad singing, dancing, cake baking and dress making, be they bachelors, bachelorettes or actual people just trying to survive on an actual island. And let's not forget the mother lode: politics. Without gaslighting in politics?... sorry, don't know what I was thinking there. And when it comes to real life look no further than online battles pitting pro against con in every way imaginable, starting with high school teens throwing shade on other high school teens, therapists seemingly the only ones to prosper in the equation.

Gotta say, while I would never condone gaslighting anyone I do admit to a bit of a facination with the snarky aspect of the technique. After all, my t-shirt biz, Cliche Snark (reachable at, has the word incorporated right into it. But obviously you know that 'cause you're here. And seeing as you are, what, you can't check out the tees? Like that would be some huge inconvenience? Like you'd be so put out? God forbid you'd have to go through all the trouble to scroll down and read both the cliche AND the snark! And don't act all put out 'cause I raised my voice a tad. What're you, a hot house tomato?! Now take those alligator arms of yours and reach into your wallet--the one with all the cobwebs--and come up with a couple bucks that'll both augment your wardrobe and stamp out triteness in our time. That is, if you can muster the courage!... Admit it, I'm right; you'd have to be crazy to... Hey, where ya' goin'? I'm not done... Damn readers, you're all the same!