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Turns out ‘twerking’ dates back almost 200 years


Twerking; a hip-hop dance move that it believed to have originated in West Africa and later seen in the 1980s and 1990s in New Orleans and Miami, became a word so widespread after Miley Cyrus’ 2013 VMA performance, that even our grandparents now know its meaning.

Twerking is a specific dance move that incorporates thrusting hips and a shaking bum movement whilst bent over- it’s surprisingly difficult to perfect.

Well, turns out, the word was first used in 1820.

According to researchers for the Oxford English Dictionary, the word was first used as a noun in 1820, spelled ‘twirk’ to refer to a twisting or jerking movement, or a twitch.

The word then re-emerged again in 1848, as a verb, and by 1901, was in popular use and had been changed to the current spelling, ‘twerk’.

Today, the dictionary describes twerking as dancing "in a sexually provocative manner, using thrusting movements of the bottom and hips while in a low, squatting stance".

It is believed twerk is a portmanteau word of ‘twist’ and ‘jerk’, according to the dictionary, but other origins could be from the word work – ‘to work it’ – evolving into ‘twerk it’ over time.

Fiona McPherson, Senior Editor of the OED, said: “We are confident that it is the same origins as the dance. There has been constant use up into the present day to mean that same thing. I think it’s quite spectacular, the early origins for it. We are quite surprised.”

In order for a word to qualify for entry into the OED, it must have been in use for 10 years in newspapers and novels so, based on this discovery, twerking more than qualifies.

The news comes as more than 500 words gain entry to the dictionary.


The OED has announced 500 new words

Words added also include:

Twitterati – the celebrity users of Twitter

Fo’ shizzle – slang meaning “for sure” – if you ask us, this ones more of a phrase than a word.

Freegan - a noun or adjective first recorded in use in the Sunday Times in 1997, meaning a “person who eats discarded food, typically collected from the refuse of shops or restaurants, for ethical or ecological reasons”.

Guerrilla - describing activities carried out in an irregular and spontaneous way

Cisgender – a person whose internal identity matches their gender at birth

e-cigarette – a cigarette-shaped device containing a nicotine-based liquid or other substance that is vaporised and inhaled, used to simulate the experience of smoking (although ‘vape’ was added last year)

Also added is the word “Meh” – an onomatopoeic expression of indifference or lack of enthusiasm – which the OED believes was first used in 1992 and was then popularised by The Simpsons.

McPherson said that the new entries had “earned their place” in the English language.

It feels like we’re all going to need to swot-up on the meanings of any unfamiliar new words, as recently a whole bunch were added to the Scrabble board...

Words: Harriet Hall

Images: Rex Features



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