Here we were, thinking that "twerk"—as a dance and as a word—had already fully emerged from black culture to enjoy a moment in the national spotlight, contributed to a healthy debate about appropriation and taken its place solidly in the mainstream lexicon (and, probably, multiple people's lists of "Words We Never Want to Hear Again").
After all, Paula Patton did it to Al Roker on the Today show eight months ago. These women did it everywhere. Reality stars twerked. People of all ethnic backgrounds twerked. Children twerked. At least according to YouTube, animals twerked, for God's sake.
But if you believe that this letter is real, apparently "we" does not include the portion of the population that writes into old-school newspaper advice columns.
Apparently a concerned mother turned, in a mild panic, to syndicated advice column Dear Abby (now written by Jeanne Phillips under the pen name Abigail Van Buren) for the definition of the new and mysterious—and somewhat terrifying—term she'd heard her son using. The question (which some are calling "clearly fake" because it seems to absurd) was published today:
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. — TROUBLED MOM IN CONNECTICUT.
Pretty sure that "getting high" hasn't been in quotes since the early 1970s. But anyway. Twitter users, including @MonicaReports, tweeted images of the exchange (during which the columnist put Troubled Mom's mind at ease and provided a definition of "catfishing" as a bonus insight). At the encouragement of @BrokeyMcPoverty and her #DearAbby hashtag, users who saw it speculated about what other new and confusing phrases readers Troubled Mom might need to sort out with the help of a seasoned slang translator like 72-year-old Phillips.
Now, if the advice columnist answers all of these, her "black card" is in the mail. And if she can explain to Troubled Mom what, exactly, "black Twitter" is and why people are talking about any of this there, she deserves a Pulitzer.
Jenée Desmond-Harris is The Root’s senior staff writer. Follow her on Twitter.
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