The OED Reminds White People That Twerking's Been Around Forever


On Thursday, the Oxford English Dictionary announced its latest update, which added almost 500 new words to the compendium, including “twerk,” “hot mess,” “fo’ shizzle,” and “FLOTUS.”

The OED also noted that, although these words are all experiencing a resurgence in popularity, a few of them are far from new. As we now know it, twerking is booty-shaking associated with the 1990s New Orleans bounce scene—and unfortunately, now, with one famous white girl—but the word’s long and noble history extends back almost 200 years.

From a press release sent out by the OED:

It was in use in English as a noun by 1820 (originally spelled ‘twirk’) referring to “a twisting or jerking movement; a twitch.” Its use as a verb emerged a couple of decades later, in 1848, and the ‘twerk’ spelling had come about by 1901. The precise origin of the word is uncertain, but it may be a blend of twist or twitch and jerk, with influence from the noun quirk and from work (v.) in reference to the dance.

“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.”

Even more amazing is the history of the term “hot mess,” which has been used to refer to “a warm meal, especially one served to a group” since 1818, but now means, essentially “that which is kind of funny and also wack as hell.”

The earliest example of the term being used with its modern meaning is in an 1899 edition of the Monthly Journal of the International Association of Machinists which read: “Verily, I say unto you, the public is a hot mess.”

Other words immortalized by the newest OED update include “fratty,” “meh,” “twitterati,” and “webisode.”

Image via Getty

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