Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Twerking - my part in its history

This is the first record I ever bought with my own money. It's Dave and Ansell ("Ansil") Collins' Double Barrel.

Notice that vocal interjection of "twerk it" (starting at 27 seconds)?  That's what "work it, work it" sounds like on vinyl.

I was browsing Language Log and they gave "work it" as a fairly plausible etymology of "twerk".
When considered lexicographically, a word like twerk can tell an interesting story. As mentioned, it started out in New Orleans c. 1993, when bounce-music anthems like DJ Jubilee's "Do the Jubilee All" exhorted listeners to twerk. The ODO entry sensibly suggests that twerk is an alteration of work, as in "work it," and Oxford etymologist Anatoly Liberman has further suggested that the tw- form is influenced by twitch or twist. That seems more likely than a straight-up blend of twist and jerk, as some have conjectured, and certainly more plausible than the theory that it is a clipped form of footwork.
I still love Double Barrel, which has the grace to be a sub-2:30 record and is pretty funking funky as well. Also I win for being into twerking in 1971, after a fashion.

As some in the YouTube comments also say, this was more heard on the Waltzer at the traveling Fairground than pretty much anywhere else. It's inextricably linked with the smell of candy floss and the deep, exhilarating rumble of Fairground rides. I always wanted to run off with someone from the Feast, as fairs were called in Yorkshire, maybe to the delight of the workers who I'm sure were happier to be Feasties than Fairies. As it happened my dad knew some of them in real life, and it turned out that Feasties were not as magical as I'd thought, and not nearly as awful as society occasionally claimed.

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