This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 29 January, 2020

So it turns out twerking has been around for 200 years...

Sorry Miley.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

FOR MANY THE word ‘twerk’ can only conjure up indelible images of Miley Cyrus gyrating in front of Robin Thicke at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.

But that particularly spectacular performance is just the tip of the iceberg – for it seems twerking, which basically means bending over and waggling your behind if you’re feeling flummoxed, has been around for a long, long time. Almost 200 years in fact.

The latest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) legitimises 500 new words of which twerk is but one.

While the verb ‘to twerk’ was in use in early 1990s New Orleans, it seems its origins come from much, much further back. 1820s England to be precise.

Back then the word was a noun, spelt ‘twirk’, referring to a jerking movement or twitch. That sounds familiar alright.

‘Really the Germans do allow themselves such twists & twirks of the pen, that it would puzzle any one’ says a letter dated February 1820 by a Charles Clairmont.

Source: Fail & Win Compilation/YouTube

“We are confident that it is the same origins as the dance,” said senior editor with OED Fiona McPherson.

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.

As such, ‘to twerk’ (which is now officially defined as ‘to dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low-squatting stance’) is joined in its new-found valid state by such (well-known and others not so much) oddities as:

  • Carnap – to steal a car
  • Freegan – one who only eats food that has been discarded by others
  • Meh – an expression of indifference (thank you Lisa Simpson)
  • Crowdfund – to obtain finance via ordinary people on the internet
  • FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out
  • Photobomb – To ruin someone else’s photo by jumping in the background of the shot
  • Gimmick – A night out with friends
  • FLOTUS – First Lady Of The United States
  • Totes – Totally
  • Fo’ shizzle – for sure, certainly
  • Staycation – A holiday taken at home
  • Sext – Well, you probably know what that one means

When did speaking English get so complicated…

Read: Women not shaving their armpits are having a mainstream moment

Read: 9 songs that might be total rip offs of other songs

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article

Read next: