I hope you get as good of a laugh from this as I did.
The Oxford Dictionary announced its latest update on Thursday. The dictionary has added almost 500 new words including, “twerk,” “hot mess,” “fo’shizzle,” and “FLOTUS.” But then they lost all of us when they tried to connect the origins of the word “twerk” to the dance that Miley Cyrus appropriated, and White people just discovered like, two years ago.
First of all, those who know, a.k.a. people who are actually familiar with Black culture across the diaspora, know that twerking as a form of movement has origins in West Africa and then it just changed form once people from the Motherland migrated. Look up Congolese dance, Ivory Coast Mapouka, any dancehall queen competition, and Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” (none of the above is safe for work). I’ll wait.
The origins of the Black American version of booty gyrations can’t exactly be traced. We know that the New Orleans bounce-scene and the booty isolations popularized in Atlanta strip clubs and Freaknik were probably referred to as “twerking” beginning in the 90s, but the style of dance–read with emphasis on the sacrum–has been around forever.
As far as the actual word, Oxford says it stems back to 200 years ago. OED released a statement explaining that the word, originally spelled, “twirk,” was used in the 1820s in English to refer to “a twisting or jerking movement.” It was then used as a verb in 1848, and the spelling became “twerk,” in 1901. The origin of the word is unknown.
“We are confident that it is the same origins as the dance,” said OED senior editor Fiona McPherson in an interview. “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.”
And this is where they tried it.
Perhaps someone at Freaknik decided to name the booty gyrations they saw “twerking” based on having some knowledge of what the word meant (hence the phrase, “twerk something”), but let’s be very clear. Twerking in the way Black culture is familiar with, as opposed to Miley Cyrus style, is not related to any dances that the folks at OED would know anything about.
Side note, they also explained that “fo’shizzle,” created by E-40, meant “for sure.” Um…but didn’t attribute the sizzle source. Side eyes all around.
Stop trying to erase Black culture.
Please, and thank you.