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Saturday, December 4, 2021


Oxford adds twerk to dictionary in move to focus on ‘current English’

David Delgado// The Daily Cougar

David Delgado// The Daily Cougar

The Oxford Dictionary defines twerk as “to dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.”

This announcement shocked media outlets the world over last week when it announced its newest inductee would be the pseudo-word “twerk.” But hold on to your monocles, gentlepeople; this isn’t the prestigious and historical Oxford English Dictionary we’re talking about.

Oxford Dictionaries Online, though also run by Oxford University Press, distinguishes itself as focused “on current English,” with other recent additions including srsly, jorts and selfie. While the OED generally includes archaic definitions of words that are never removed, ODO follows the ebb and flow of our still-evolving language. It also offers in-sentence context for how a word is commonly used at present.

At first glance, it might seem that Oxford has succeeded in creating an only slightly more coherent version of Urban Dictionary, but in truth, there is a noble purpose at play. Urban Dictionary is notoriously and grievously unreliable owing to the fact that it is user-edited. Oxford is single-handedly filling the valuable niche of enabling readers to check that they’re using slang terms correctly, or even to check the spelling.

So why are people reacting to the news of the additions as if it is a personal affront to Shakespeare himself? Once a term is coined, it is pointless to argue whether or not to acknowledge it. Slang will continue to exist whether sanctioned or not. Having these words collected and defined is doing nothing to propagate them; it can only enhance language by assigning concrete barriers to something formerly nebulous.

When so much of our existence is defined by pop culture, it’s unfair and difficult to draw arbitrary lines over what words are and aren’t worthy of being officially recognized. In May 2012, the ODO saw the addition of the term “green technology,” which caused no great uproar. Likely then, it is the perception of dictionaries themselves that remains stuck, stubbornly in the past. Unable to shake the association with schoolwork and other formal endeavors, the public is failing to connect the traditional idea of a dictionary with Miley Cyrus gyrating.

Those who are unwilling to accept the new direction of contemporary media will have a long row to hoe. Society is rapidly becoming more focused on speed and ease over tradition, and while it may feel like fighting the good fight to stand against the oncoming progress, you’re a lot more likely to get run over by change.

Opinion columnist Katie Wian is an English junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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