Twerking, explained by Dear Abby

Good advice is hard to find.


Miles Klee

Internet Culture

Published May 7, 2014   Updated May 31, 2021, 8:48 am CDT

Here in the post-Google age, it’s nice to know that some people still get their information the old-fashioned way: by writing a hilariously out-of-touch “Dear Abby” letter.

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Such appeared to be the case with “Troubled Mom in Connecticut,” who overheard her college-bound son use the unfamiliar verb “twerking” and feared the worst. Rather than speak to the kid—or literally any American under the age of 30—she shared her suspicions with the Internet:

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DEAR ABBY: I’m the happily married mother of two teenage boys. The other day I overheard my older son (age 17) talking with a friend about “twerking.” I have never heard of it and now I’m worried. Is twerking a drug term? Is it similar to “tripping,” “getting high” or “catfishing”?

My 17-year-old is supposed to go to Princeton next year on a sports scholarship, and I’m afraid “twerking” will derail him from his charted path. Thank you for any advice you may have.

Abby was reliably helpful, even throwing in a brief explanation of “catfishing,” since Mom seemed to be in the dark about that phenomenon as well:

DEAR MOM: Don’t panic. “Tripping” and “getting high,” as you already know, refer to altered states of consciousness as the result of using drugs. “Catfishing” is something else. It’s pretending to be someone you aren’t, creating a false identity on social media, usually to pursue a deceptive online romance.

The “twerking” your son was referring to is a dance move recently made famous by Miley Cyrus — in which the dancer (usually female) gyrates in a provocative, semi-squatting position that involves thrusting hip movements.

Commenters, of course, were not so kind: “sorry but you are too stupid to help your teens,” wrote one, with another adding that the advice-seeker “must have been living under a rock for the last year. I am a 62-year-old grandmother and know what twerking is.” Still, some took the concern rather seriously: “‘Twerking’ is not drug related, it is a social disease. Promoted by the liberal left it is nothing more than the degrading of women.” 

Most readers rightly suspected that a troll had gotten past Abby’s screeners, in part because Princeton doesn’t actually give athletic scholarships. At least one, however, came away from the column better informed: “Scarily enough I am one of the people who has too much to do in life to keep up with the so-called ‘news’ channels, etc, and had no idea what twerking was,” they confessed. “When did the gyrations of spoiled kids become NEWS?”

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Guess he or she wasn’t around for that whole Elvis thing.

Photo by thatguygil/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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*First Published: May 7, 2014, 12:31 pm CDT