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Some things are not so new, including twerking

The Victorian derivation of the word “twerk” has been detected by researchers compiling the latest updates for the the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The dictionary has become so large and so complex, that its main updates now exist in online form only.

The Oxford English Dictionary is published by the Oxford University Press. Like many dictionaries, it describes English usage in its many variations throughout the world; however, it also sets out to find the origin of words and to describe how their historical meaning and usage has altered. The first edition appeared in 1884. Although it was republished and updated, the second edition did not appear until 1989. Here it came to 21,728 pages across 20 volumes. A third edition is being worked upon, although the final version will most likely be available electronically only.

With “twerk,” researchers found that the term was first used in 1820, although it was spelled “twirk.” The word was used to refer to a twisting or jerking movement or twitch, which provides remarkable continuity with the antics of Miley Cyrus.

The spelling of “twirk” as “twerk” first appeared in print 1901. According to the BBC, the definition of twerk that will appear in the dictionary will be: dancing “in a sexually provocative manner, using thrusting movements of the bottom and hips while in a low, squatting stance”.

In terms of the formation of the world, it is considered to be an amalgam of twist or twitch and jerk.

Other new words have been added to the dictionary, as the The Guardian reports (the OED also aims to capture new words that are established in everyday use). These include:

Cisgender – designating a person whose sense of personal identity matches their gender at birth
Guerrilla – describing activities carried out in an irregular and spontaneous way
Gimmick – to mean “a night out with friends”.
Meh – “expressing lack of enthusiasm.”
Twitterati – describing users of the social media service Twitter
Fo’ shizzle – meaning “for sure”.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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