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Twerk, other online slang added to Oxford English Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), on Thursday, added twerk, carnap, FLOTUS and scores of other new entries, including many introduced from Asia and from online slang, to its latest edition. OED Editor, Danica Salazar, said in London that the word twerk, a dance popularised by music stars and Internet memes, actually dated back about 200 years as a combination of twist and jerk first spelled as “twirk.’’

RUMBA DANCE . . .  Dancers of  Seun Kuti’s band digging it out at the end of Eko 2012 National Sports Festival in Lagos. Photo by  Kehinde Gbadamos
RUMBA DANCE . . . Dancers of Seun Kuti’s band digging it out at the end of Eko 2012 National Sports Festival in Lagos. Photo by Kehinde Gbadamos

He said the use of twerk to describe a type of dance, which emphasises the performer’s posterior, has its roots in the early 1990s in the New Orleans ‘bounce’ music scene. Salazar said the word itself seems to originate from more than 170 years before that.

“Joining twerk in the updated online OED is the acronym FLOTUS, or First Lady of the U.S. “A term that the First Lady, Michelle Obama, felt obliged to explain to London schoolgirls last week when she mentioned her FLOTUS Twitter handle,’’ he said. The editor said Philippine word carnap, meaning to “kidnap,” or steal, a car, originated in the mid-20th century in the U.S. but was no longer used there.

He said another word from the Philippines was presidentiable, “a person who is a likely or confirmed candidate for president.” Salazar said throughout the years, Filipino English speakers have been adapting the vocabulary of this once foreign tongue, using it to express their own identity and way of life.

“Many additions refer to “specific elements of Philippine culture, such as greetings and terms of address. “The boundless optimism of Filipinos and their unshakeable belief that things will work out in their favour in the end is reflected in the phrase bahala na.”

Salazar said several other new entries are from South Asia and South-east Asia, where several hundred million people use

Dancers perform during a rehearsal at a dance school in Lagos AFP PHOTO
Dancers perform during a rehearsal at a dance school in Lagos AFP PHOTO

English as a first or second language. Katherine Martin, the OED’s Head of U.S. dictionaries said the term “Batchmate’’ a member of the same graduation class as another, was used in both Philippine and South Asian English.

She noted that among the latest words popularised via the internet are crowdfunding, Internaut, webisode and photobomb.

Martin said some words and phrases are so well-used that their inclusion in the list of new entries was perhaps surprising. She identified them as dartboard, tan line, young gun, South Korean, North Korean, Special Olympics, and self-immolate.


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