This is all getting a bit meh. A while ago, Scrabble decided that slang such as lolz, newb, tuneage, and shootie were acceptable words. Then the peeps at Merriam-Webster didn’t want to look like a bunch of squares, so they added lotsa new words to their dictionary. And now the Oxford English Dictionary is getting in on the act, adding such words as twitterati, twerking, and meh to its new edition. Fo’ shizzle. Although we all know that English is an ever-changing, living language, according to the Oxford lexicographers, a word must be living for at least ten years before it can be considered for the dictionary. So although twerking – defined rather clinically by Oxford as “dancing in a sexually provocative manner, using thrusting movements of the bottom and hips while in a low, squatting stance” – is a word that most people associate with that incident involving Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, and several large teddy bears from a couple of years ago, the word has been around for a lot longer.
Oxford’s Fiona McPherson tells the Guardian that the first instance of the word dates back to 1820, when it was a noun (‘twirk’) used to describe a “twisting or jerking movement.” McPherson commented that lexicographers 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.”