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Oxford English Dictionary Gets a Little ‘Twerk’

Notting Hill Carnival

Hot dance: Twerking has its origins in New Orleans ‘bounce’ music scene and perhaps Notting Hill’s Carnival

We’ve been doing it at the Notting Hill Carnival every summer, even as far back as 1820 according to the wordsmiths at the Oxford English Dictionary. Twerk, that is, but it is only now that the word has finally ‘twitched’ and ‘jerked’ its way into the latest refresh of the OED.

Researchers found the word, one of 500 new dictionary entries, was first spelt ‘twirk’, described as a ‘twisting’ or ‘jerking’ movement or ‘twitch’. The verb is believed to have resurfaced in 1848 and the twerk spelling was in wide usage by 1901.

American pop singer Miley Cyrus brought the dance to mainstream consciousness in 2013 at an MTV awards show as she gyrated in skimpy attire on stage. The OED describes twerking as dancing “in a sexually provocative manner, using thrusting movements of the bottom and hips while in a low, squatting stance”. Twerk may have even been borne out of a combination of the words twist or twitch and jerk, the dictionary says.

Fiona McPherson, senior editor of Oxford English Dictionary, 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 were quite surprised.”

New Entries

U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama kiss as they dance at the Commander in Chief's Ball in Washington,

Flotus and Potus: U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama kiss as they dance at the Commander in Chief’s Ball in Washington

Other new inclusions included Twitterati denoting users of the micro blogging site. FLOTUS was another new entry depicting a growing fondness for abbreviations. It is derived from the acronym describing the First Lady of the United States and was said to have been used first in relation to Nancy Reagan in the early 1980s. POTUS (President of the United States) is a more widely used variation.

Twitterati: The new social network users have staked a claim in the new entries released by the OED

Freegan, an amalgamation of free and vegan has also been recognised due to our constantly evolving diets and refers to ‘a person who eats discarded food, typically collected from the refuse bins of shops or restaurants, for ethical or ecological reasons’. It is also used as an adjective with reference to that practice.

And if you ever tire of our constantly changing lexicon you could show your lack of enthusiasm through the interjection meh, and express your indifference. It is believed to have been popularised in the US cartoon series The Simpsons.


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