In descriptions of grinding and the Harlem Shake, twerk occurs with great regularity. The verb means “to move one’s buttocks in a suggestive way.” It has not yet made its way into OED and perhaps never will (let us hope so), but its origin hardly poses a problem: twerk must be a blend of twist (or twitch) and work (or jerk), a close relative of such verbs as squirm (possibly a blend of dialectal squir “to throw with a jerk” and worm) and twirl (? twist + whirl). When blends are coined “in plain sight” — as happened to brunch, motel, and Eurasia — no one has questions about their descent. Nowadays, blending has become a tiresome custom, and the stodgy products of grafting one word on another are usually as transparent as Texaco or Amtrak and equally inspiring. But no one can prove that twirl is indeed a sum of twist and whirl. Its origin will forever remain “unknown.” Be that as it may, twerk does look like a blend, even though we don’t know who, where, and when launched it into the linguistic space of North America.
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SOURCE / Oxford University Press