'Twerk': Oxford Online Dictionary Adds a Miley Cyrus Gyration

Wednesday, 28 Aug 2013 12:47 PM

By Ken Mandel

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Miley Cyrus just twerked her way into the online Oxford Dictionary. Srsly. The term was just added along with other new words that have penetrated popular culture.

Can it be a coincidence that "twerk," the suggestive rump-grinding dance move performed by Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, already is among the new words included on Wednesday in the online Oxford Dictionary's latest quarterly update?

"Selfie" a self-portrait taken with a phone, "digital detox," "femo," and "unlike" were  some of the other new words added to the online version.

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One of the world's most well-respected dictionaries, the online version of Oxford Dictionary adds about 1,000 new online entries each year, spokeswoman Katherine Connor-Martin told The Associated Press in explaining how twerk was added to the online Oxford Dictionary. The update brings in words that the publication's editors feel have penetrated popular culture.

"Twerk," a verb dating back two decades, Martin said, is well-known on America's hip-hop circuit. It really garnered notoriety earlier this week when Cyrus "twerked" in a nude colored bikini at the annual music awards show.

The dictionary defines it as "a dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance."

"The current public reaction to twerking is reminiscent in some ways of how the twisting craze was regarded in the early 1960s, when it was first popularized by Chubby Checker's song, 'The Twist'," Connor-Martin said. "Only time will tell if twerking will similarly be embraced by the general public."

"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," Martin said. "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."

"Unlike" is known as disapproval on social media sites like Facebook, "digital detox" occurs when a person stops using gadgets like a smartphone, tablet or computer for a specified period, and "fomo" is one's fear of missing out on something, according to CNN.

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Other additions include "omnishambles," for a severely botched situation, "phablet," a combination phone/tablet and shortened words such as "grats" (congrats), "apols" (apologies), "vom" (vomit), and "srsly" (seriously).

The online edition focuses on modern uses of words. The new words aren't likely to be added to the more historically-focused Oxford English Dictionary, according to Fox News.

Related stories:

'Literally' Definition Changes in Google, Merriam-Webster, Oxford

Oxford Dictionary Definition of Marriage Will Now Include Gay Marriage

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