Our nightmare, and Miley Cyrus’s dream, is coming true: “Twerking” is now in the Oxford Dictionary. Following her…interesting… performance at the VMA’s, it’s no wonder “twerking” has become an almost widespread household term. We confess we’re guilty of saying it lately around the Integrate office. People are confused, appalled, mesmerized, and/or generally curious about the dance phenomenon, as best evidenced by the reactions of the entire Smith family.
Moving beyond Miley Cyrus, as the rest of the world should, what exactly does it take to get a word in the dictionary? Southerners have been fighting for “y’all,” a perfectly logical contraction, for decades, yet “twerking” happens seemingly overnight? Something is off here.
According to Merriam-Webster.com, a word is entered into the dictionary based on its usage. Once a word has enough citations to determine that it is in fact widely used, it is up for dictionary consideration. In some cases, a word enters the English language suddenly, and with a bang, and is determined to be both instantly prevalent and likely to last.
Oxford Dictionaries.com goes so far as to say, “new terms can achieve enormous currency with a wide audience in a much shorter space of time, and people expect to find these new ‘high-profile’ words in their dictionaries”.
Dictionaries are constantly changing their contents and definitions. For example, the definition of “literally” has recently been appended to mean that it is used for emphasis, or to express strong feeling. Simply because the American public uses “literally” incorrectly so frequently, the English language caved in to include this variation.
Under these specifications, maybe “twerking” is a word, although we’re not happy about admitting it. When you think about the prevalence of the word, it has been used enough times in the last few days alone to warrant quite a lengthy citation list.
Urban Dictionary would have been a better fit, if you ask our opinion. After all, spell check still tries its hardest to correct the word.
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