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Twerking, badassery

These two words from American slang came together by coincidence in the Oxford Dictionary Online’s 2013 list of additions to its databaseNeither is exactly new, but they have both suddenly become more prominent in the world of English for rather different reasons. Twerking is a sensual type of dance performed in a squatting position. It combines twisting and jerking movements of the hips and buttocks, hence its name. It was popularised in hip-hop culture, in songs that encouraged listeners to Twerk it and, more challengingly, Whistle while you twurk! The word hit the headlines in August this year after US pop star Miley Cyrus’s performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. In Australia, Clive Palmer’s twerk also made news, when he was filmed doing the dance as part of a pre-election interview, in a putative appeal to younger voters. Badassery has also been around a while, if you count the use of its stem badass (literally “bad arse”) – on record in the Oxford Dictionary since the 1950s. It’s defined as a “tough, aggressive, intimidating, uncompromising person”, with bad or good vibes according to your point of view. For example, badassery could be applied to a commando-like strike overseas or it could be a term of admiration for sheer audacity.  So could Palmer’s antics be called badassery?

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