I woke up this week into a world where twerking is a real word. Twerking. I bet that plays havoc with the spell check.

I’d never heard of twerking before Tuesday. To begin with I assumed it might involve tweeting on Twitter while you’re at work. But no, apparently twerking is something Miley Cyrus did on stage this week at the MTV Video Music Awards.

As well as not having a clue what twerking is, I also didn’t know the Video Music Awards were on. They mostly feature bands that operate way out of my demographic, bands like One Direction and … well, I don’t know the names of the others. Exactly.

So now I suspect I’m getting older and a bit out of touch with what’s in and what’s out. I wouldn’t recognise a One Direction song if my life depended on it. Or a Miley Cyrus song. I only have a vague awareness of who Miley Cyrus is. I’m more aware that her dad was once famous for singing the most irritating country song in the world, the one about his Achy Breaky Heart, which presumably broke because he only knew how to play two chords.

And Miley is now famous for twerking. And I still don’t know what that means.

Am I supposed to know? When a word like twerk pops into the vernacular, are we all expected to instinctively tune in? Perhaps there is an expiry date, a certain age after which you can no longer seamlessly merge like a zip into the fast lane of popular culture.

The last time a word caused me such confusion was when planking became a thing.

Planking. It made no sense to me at all. I blanked at planking until I finally figured out that planking involves lying down like a, well, a plank. Thankfully the planking phase seems to have passed.

Then along came fracking. I assumed it was another silly stunt that the kids were pulling. To add to my confusion, I had been a big fan of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica series, which often used “frack” as a surrogate swear word.

When fracking hit the news I thought it was a joke until I realised it’s actually a genuine issue. Fracking is where companies in pursuit of oil and gas drill deep, deep into the earth, then pump fluid in at high pressure to fracture the surrounding rock, thereby releasing gas that can be flushed back up. I haven’t figured out if fracking is fine, evil or a bit of both, but I do know that it is far more serious than planking and twerking.

Fracking sounds like a word you shouldn’t say in front of the children, but it actually matters.

Twerking, I suspect, does not.

Thanks to the mighty power of Google it only took me a moment to uncover the truth about twerking. I can now inform you that twerking is a dance where you, ahem, jiggle your bottom.

Basically it’s just dirty dancing. People have been doing that for years.

The online Urban Dictionary has the most enjoyable definition I’ve found for twerking: “The rhythmic gyrating of the lower fleshy extremities in a lascivious manner with the intent to elicit sexual arousal or laughter in one’s intended audience.”

Twerking itself is nothing new, it’s simply a very specific jiggle which, some time in the 90s, someone decided to give a really stupid name. And now Miley Cyrus does it.

There. I have done my civic duty by explaining the twerk. Hopefully that’s the end of it and society can move on. With twerking behind us and with planking straightened out as well, maybe we’ll finally be able to focus on drilling in to the more serious fracking issues of the day.

First published in Bay of Plenty Times 30 August 2013. Retwerked with permission.