twerk / twerking

Discuss word origins and meanings.
Post Reply

twerk / twerking

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Oct 18, 2013 2:28 am

<2013 “A Florida woman was accused of ‘dancing in a vulgar manner’ in front of children, but instead of being asked to host Saturday Night Live, she was arrested. . . . This is not the first public twerking arrest in Florida. Last month, internet vlogger Carmel Kitten was arrested by an undercover officer while she was trying to record a twerk video at a public bus stop.”—Time NewsFeed, 8 October> [[vlogger = video blogger]]
Once again I am puzzling over a word that most everyone but me is probably familiar with (twerk: 19,700,000; twerking: 13,700,000 Google hits at my space-time coordinates). For my compatriot sticks-in-the-mud, here is the definition. And for them and also for the more with-it folks, I additionally provide some juicy tidbits.

OXFORD DICTIONARIES (added to its listings in 2013)

TWERK intransitive verb informal [1990s]: Dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance: <Just wait till they catch their daughters twerking to this song.> <Twerk it girl, work it girl.> [Probably an alteration of work.]

Here’s a bit more:
<2013 “Twerking, the rump-busting up-and-down dance move long beloved on America's hip-hop scene, has officially gone mainstream. It's got the English dictionary entry to prove it.

Britain's Oxford Dictionaries said the rapid-fire gyrations employed by U.S. pop starlet Miley Cyrus to bounce her way to the top of the charts had become increasingly visible in the past 12 months and would be added to its publications under the entry: ‘Twerk, verb.’

Although Cyrus's eye-popping moves at Monday's MTV Video Music Awards may have been many viewers' first introduction to the practice, Oxford Dictionaries' Katherine Connor Martin said ‘twerking’ was some two decades old.

‘There are many theories about the origin of this word, and since it arose in oral use, we may never know the answer for sure,’ Martin said. ‘We think the most likely theory is that it is an alteration of work, because that word has a history of being used in similar ways, with dancers being encouraged to “work it.” The “t” could be a result of blending with another word such as twist or twitch.’”—Associated Press Online, 27 August>
And for the full monty see linguist/lexicographer Ben Zimmer’s article in Language Log titled Getting worked up over ‘twerk.’ In one paragraph of this article he provides the following on the word’s etymology:
<2013 When considered lexicographically, a word like twerk can tell an interesting story. As mentioned, it started out in New Orleans c. 1993, when bounce-music anthems like DJ Jubilee's "Do the Jubilee All" exhorted listeners to twerk. The ODO [[Oxford Dictionaries Online]] entry sensibly suggests that twerk is an alteration of work, as in "work it," and Oxford etymologist Anatoly Liberman has further suggested that the tw- form is influenced by twitch or twist. That seems more likely than a straight-up blend of twist and jerk, as some have conjectured, and certainly more plausible than the theory that it is a clipped form of footwork. (On Twitter, several wags took the etymologizing to more absurd levels, deriving twerk from German Gesamtkunstwerk 'total work of art'.) – Language Log, 28 August>
The following quotes are from archived sources:
<2001 “He co-wrote and produced seven songs, performs on ‘Twerk a Little,’ and the music percolates with the quirks, blips, and burps that have become Timbaland's trademark.”— Boston Globe (Massachusetts), 9 October>

<2003 “Now the duo is ‘twerking’ the dance clubs anew with an even bigger hit, ‘Say I Yi Yi,’ another ode to dirty dancing. But not Patrick Swayze-style dirty dancing, . . .”—Fort Wayne News Sentinel (Indiana), 1 May>

<2006 “Inspired by popular music and videos, ‘grinding’ or ‘club dancing’ or ‘twerking’ -- in which girls swivel their buttocks into boys' crotches . . .”—St. Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota ), 13 November>

<2009 “Hey, if Madonna can still drop it like it's hot without a cane and twerk it for her senior discount at McDonald's, there's no reason the New Kids can't shake their money makers for hot moms.”— (Virginia), 31 March>

<2012 “This Saturday night at Good Life, a whole bunch of butts will go berserk -- that is, they will twerk.”—Boston Globe (Massachusetts), 8 February>

<2013 “A video showing what seemed to be a young woman accidentally setting herself on fire while twerking . . . upside down against a door . . . when her roommate walked in, causing her to topple over onto a table with lit candles. She catches fire, starts screaming, her roommate screams, etc.”—Oakland Tribune (California), 10 September>

Ken G – October 17, 2013 (secretly twerking at the keyboard)

Re: twerk / twerking

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Oct 18, 2013 3:42 am

For me, the chief utility of twerking is that we now finally have a word with which to replace the awkward description '[making] dry-humping movements or gestures that are typically executed on a dance floor'.

In other words, it's a lot more elegant.

Finally: if you can't dance vulgarly in Florida without having to get the ACLU to defend your First Amendment rights, all hope of civilization in America is lost.

Re: twerk / twerking

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:42 am

Fear not Ken, there were 11,100,000 hits here, but your post was the first I had ever heard of it.

Come to think of it, I have never actually heard Miley Cyrus either, but I have come across her name once or twice.

Anyway Ken, we are not alone, MORGAN FREEMAN appears to be a twerking virgin as well!
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: twerk / twerking

Post by trolley » Fri Oct 18, 2013 7:55 pm

I heard this word for the first time when the whole Miley Cyrus thing blew up at some awards show last month. We always referred to it as "dirty dancing". While the word "twerk" is pretty new, the act sure isn't. This sort of thing was going on in "juke-joints" all over the southern states, at least 80 years ago. I've heard it called "juking" or "juke-dancing".

Post Reply