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Twerking added to Oxford English Dictionary

August 28, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
They ought to put Miley Cyrus's picture beside "twerking" in the Oxford English Dictionary based on all the attention her performance is getting this week. On the other hand, I suppose that would be "cultural appropriation," given that twerking originated with hip-hop and has been around since the 1990s.

The OED has just added "twerk," meaning "to dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance." There are no pictures to illustrate this dance included in the dictionary entry.

It also doesn't say anything about a foam hand. Maybe that is Cyrus's special addition to the popular dance. Her risque performance with singer Robin Thicke during last week's VMA awards show sure has all my Facebook friends who are mothers of preteen Hannah Montana fans up in arms. I didn't watch this fiasco, but judging by the still photos – tongue flicking, teddy bears, the 20-year-old Cyrus's bump and grind moves in a nude-colored bikini – I think the outraged have a good point.

But then I never saw or heard Miley Cyrus in her more innocent phase on the Disney TV show either. To me, she's still the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus, the man responsible for the world's most annoying song, "Achy Breaky Heart."

Over at, guest contributor Jacqui Germain's main complaint about Cyrus's performance is that it "involved the appropriation of (her) blackness," presumably because twerking originated with hip-hop and Cyrus used it and is getting attention for it. The outrage might also have something to do with the black backup dancers, who critics claim Cyrus used as mere props. The Guardian, too, calls Cyrus's performance "the worst sort of cultural appropriation." Personally, I don't see why anyone of any race would want to appropriate twerking, but maybe I just can't properly appreciate it as an art form. The Racialicious blog can be found at

By the way, the OED also added "selfie," the self-portraits people take with their cell phones and upload to Facebook. Judging from some of the "selfies" my young relatives post on Facebook, these tend towards the provocative as well.

Both "twerking" and "selfies" give me the urge to shake my fist at those darn kids and tell them to get off my lawn, which probably says I'm just getting old.

The complete list of additions to the OED include apols, A/W, babymoon, balayage, bitcoin, blondie, buzzworthy, BYOD, cake pop, chandelier earring, click and collect, dappy, derp, digital detox, double denim, emoji, fauxhawk, FIL, flatform, FOMO, food baby, geek chic, girl crush, grats, guac, hackerspace, Internet of things, jorts, LDR, me time, MOOC, omnishambles, pear cider, phablet, pixie cut, selfie, space tourism, squee, srsly, street food, TL;DR, twerk and unlike.

For more on the new additions, check out the OED blog at


Article Comments



Aug-29-13 11:05 AM

"Me time" is to me the most irritating of the OED entries. Frankly, I'm with me all the time. When is it not "me time?"

I know, I know. I get it. It's supposed to be "time for myself." But really, the phrase itself just irks me.

I've been hearing about this Miley Cyrus "twerking" thing all week. I'm really not surprised. Isn't it just the next thing in an illustrious Hollywood career? One more step, with step up or step down to be determined by the public?


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