Limbering up for a twerk circa 1920
The Oxford English Dictionary has released its list of new words to enter the great book, and included in the latest to be added are “meh” (popularised by The Simpsons) and our favourite new entry, “fo’shizzle” (for sure). Now we’ve been given proper literary licence to use that one, we’re going to make the most of it. Fo’ shizzle we are! But the most interesting nugget of linguistic information to emerge today is that researchers have discovered that the word “twerk” has been around for nearly 200 years.
“Twerking” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013 after Miley Cyrus’s infamous performance at the MTV Music Awards where she wriggled around with a large foam hand and Robin Thicke, though to be considered for inclusion in the dictionary a word must have been used for at least ten years in newspapers and novels. Miley’s performance simply brought the word into the mainstream. Or did it? Back in 1820, and spelt slightly differently as “twirk”, the word had a similar definition, and referred to a twisting, jerking motion. It is believed to have been used as a verb as early as 1848, before changing its spelling to “twerk” in 1901.
The current dictionary definition of twerk is to dance “in a sexually provocative manner, using thrusting movements of the bottom and hips while in a low, squatting stance”. Researchers at the OED are confident that the 1820s word has its origins in the same style of dance, and that it may have come about as a combination of the words “twist” or “twitch” and “jerk”. Other new words to find their way into the dictionary include “e-cigarette”, “twitterati” and “webisode” (referring to an online episode), though my outdated version of Microsoft Word hasn’t caught up just yet…language is evolving even quicker than technology.