While the dance now known as “twerking” has been a part of rap music’s vocabulary for years (ie the Ying Yang Twins’ 2000 hit “Whistle While You Twurk,” the ultimate ass shaking anthem Juvenile’s 1999 classic “Back That Thang Up,” and almost every song ever recorded by Luke & 2 Live Crew) it took a former Disney star for twerking to officially go mainstream.
Miley Cyrus’ much talked about VMA performance over the weekend and her viral videos that took over the internet earlier this year have made the pop star the face of “twerking” for Middle America and apparently Great Britain as well. The British Oxford Dictionaries Online has added the term to its database after the word has become more visible on major media outlets and social media over the last 12 months.
The ODO “twerk” entry reads:
twerk (v.): to dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.
“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,” said Oxford Dictionary’s Katherine Connor Martin. “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.”
Twerk will be joined by other new entries like “selfie,” “digital detox,” and “badassery.” While under the same umbrella, Oxford Dictionaries Online is not the same as the more traditional Oxford English Dictionary. The OED is historically based as opposed to modern-day usage.