[Ads-l] [Non-DoD Source] Re: "Gaslight" as a verb only five decades old

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 11 18:20:46 EST 2017


Here's an example of the verb "gaslight" in "The Grudge Match," an episode
of "Gomer Pyle: USMC" that aired on 12 Nov. 1965 (antedating OED's 1969
cite for the verb, as well as the Dec. 1965 cite for the verbal noun).

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0590040/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnKkE0nrZx4 at 12:10
Duke: You know, you guys, I'm wondering. Maybe if we can't get through to
the Sarge we can get through to the Chief.
Frankie: How do you mean?
Duke: I mean psychological warfare.
Gomer: Huh?
Duke: The old war on nerves. We'll gaslight him.

Later on (at about 17:35), Duke says:

Oh, he was gaslit all right. If anyone was gaslit it was him. You see,
Gomer? Psychological warfare, it's the only thing that can save the Sarge.

And at 19:30, Sarge says:

That gaslighting worked on me too.

On Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 5:20 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:

> I checked with Josh Chetwynd, and he shared a "gaslight" example from a
> 1952 episode of The Burns & Allen Show entitled "Gracie Buying Boat for
> George":
>
> http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1696383/
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EG5BFBYo97M
>
> At 16:20 in the YouTube video, Harry (Fred Clark) says to Gracie, "Give
> him the gaslight treatment!" and then explains what that means. A bit later
> you hear George say, "So they sold Gracie on the gaslight bit."
>
> Could this be the original TV incarnation of "the gaslight treatment/bit"?
> (And could it be what JL was remembering?) Additional "Gaslight" references
> can be found here:
>
> http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0036855/movieconnections
>
> --Ben
>
>
> On Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 4:23 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
>
>> In "Lucy Gets Mooney Fired," Lucy says, "We'll give Cheever the gaslight
>> treatment." At 11:55 here:
>>
>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IN9ydOxNXhc
>>
>> Later, Mooney says to Lucy, "You may be able to work that gaslight stuff
>> with Mr. Cheever, but don't try to pull it on me."
>>
>> Close, but no verbing. "Gaslight treatment" does appear in print in 1966,
>> a year before the "Lucy Show" episode (but a year after the Reporter
>> article).
>>
>> ---
>> New York Amsterdam News, Mar. 26, 1966, p. 14, col. 1
>> "P.S." by Cathy W. Aldridge
>> In one household, the husband is giving the wife the "gaslight"
>> treatment, and in the other, the wife is "playing" like crazy.
>> ---
>>
>> From Josh Chetwynd's new book, _Totally Scripted: Idioms, Words, and
>> Quotes from Hollywood to Broadway That Have Changed the English Language_:
>>
>> ---
>> https://books.google.com/books?id=uwx5DQAAQBAJ&pg=PA72
>> At first, the idea of _gaslighting_ was picked up for benign purposes.
>> Beginning in the 1950s, TV sitcom writers named scenarios where one
>> character was fooling another as the _gaslight treatment_ or the _gaslight
>> bit_. Programs like _The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show_, _Car 54,
>> Where are You?_ and _Make Room for Daddy_ all used the _gaslight treatment_
>> to comedic effect.
>> ---
>>
>> On Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 12:22 PM, MULLINS, WILLIAM D (Bill) CIV USARMY
>> RDECOM AMRDEC (US) <william.d.mullins18.civ at mail.mil> wrote:
>>
>>> I vaguely recall an episode of the The Lucy Show in which gaslighting is
>>> a plot element.  Google reveals:
>>>
>>> "06) Episode 141: “Lucy Gets Mooney Fired” (Aired: 11/06/67 | Filmed:
>>> 09/21/67)
>>>
>>> Lucy inadvertently gets Mooney fired after she covers up a bank
>>> shortage. To convince Cheever to give Mooney his job back, Lucy gives him
>>> the Gaslight treatment.
>>>
>>> Written by Fred S. Fox and Seaman Jacobs
>>>
>>> I love how kooky this episode is WITHOUT managing to insult its
>>> audience’s intelligence. Taking a cue from Gaslight (1944), Lucy decides to
>>> make Cheever think he has gone crazy, so that he’ll agree to rehire Mr.
>>> Mooney. The script itself isn’t that funny, but the bits Lucy does to make
>>> Cheever flip are great. This is, deservedly, a fan favorite."
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> > -----Original Message-----
>>> > From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
>>> Behalf Of Ben Zimmer
>>> > Sent: Wednesday, January 11, 2017 10:23 AM
>>> > To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
>>> > Subject: [Non-DoD Source] Re: "Gaslight" as a verb only five decades
>>> old
>>> >
>>> > All active links contained in this email were disabled.  Please verify
>>> the identity of the sender, and confirm the authenticity of all links
>>> > contained within the message prior to copying and pasting the address
>>> to a Web browser.
>>> >
>>> >
>>> >
>>> >
>>> > ----
>>> >
>>> > There's a 1956 "I Love Lucy" episode called "Lucy Meets Charles
>>> Boyer," in which Ricky conspires with Charles Boyer to make Lucy think that
>>> > Boyer is merely a lookalike. There are obvious parallels to
>>> "Gaslight," but I watched the episode here and I didn't hear anything about
>>> > "gaslighting":
>>> >
>>> > Caution-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEg-3yqLLVQ
>>> >
>>> > --Ben
>>> >
>>> >
>>> > On Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 10:49 AM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>> >
>>> > > Jon: The earliest HDAS cite is from 1956, quoting an unnamed NYC
>>> > > woman, age 41. There's nothing about "I Love Lucy," and I've never
>>> > > heard anything about the show spreading the word. Do you have more
>>> > > information on this you can share?
>>> > >
>>> > > --Ben
>>> > >
>>> > >
>>> > > On Mon, Jan 9, 2017 at 11:11 AM, Jonathan Lighter
>>> > > <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>
>>> > > wrote:
>>> > >
>>> > >> Check HDAS, with earlier cite from "I Love Lucy" - which probably
>>> > >> popularized the verb through infinite reruns.
>>> > >>
>>> > >> JL
>>> > >>
>>> > >> On Mon, Jan 9, 2017 at 10:28 AM, Yagoda, Ben <byagoda at udel.edu>
>>> wrote:
>>> > >>
>>> > >> > George Cukor’s 1944 film was in turn based on a 1938 play by
>>> > >> > Patrick Hamilton. The OED’s first citation for “gaslight” as a
>>> > >> > verb is a
>>> > >> sentence
>>> > >> > from a 1965 article in “The Reporter”: "Some troubled persons
>>> > >> > having
>>> > >> even
>>> > >> > gone so far as to charge malicious intent and premeditated
>>> > >> ‘gaslighting.’”
>>> > >> >
>>> > >>
>>> > >
>>>
>>

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