I learned a new word from my daughter thanks to Miley Cyrus: twerk.
By now, probably most of the uncool older adult world has learned the word, thanks to the spectacle Cyrus made of herself at the MTV Video Music Awards Sunday and the mainstream media attention it attracted.
But, for the sake of the three or four of you who don't know by now, twerking is that rapid convulsive shaky movement strippers make with their rear ends.
My daughter, who explained "twerk" to me, turned 17 less than two weeks ago. And five days earlier, I turned 56, which is official confirmation that I wasn't born yesterday. I knew what twerking was. I just didn't know there was a word for it.
I don't blame Cyrus for that, or my daughter. Or society, though I'm a bit peeved at society for having allowed twerking to become enough of a thing that it earned a name. Not even those guys who go to strip clubs without a bachelor party as their cover story should need a name for it. Not even the directors of rap videos should need a word for it. They should just shout through their megaphone: OK, now turn around, bend over and do that shaky thing.
But no, it had to become a word that evidently my sheltered daughter knew before she turned 17. "I'm surprised you didn't know it, Dad," she told me. "It's been a thing in pop culture a while."
The occasion for my discovering this not-new word was when I picked my daughter up from school Monday and she asked if I'd seen the Cyrus video that had everyone talking. I hadn't.
I returned to the office with my expanded vocabulary and YouTubed the video -- I'm not so out of touch that I don't use YouTube as a verb. Watching the video was work-related, which is a good thing because otherwise I might have violated company policy against viewing stuff like that at work.
What I saw was Miley Cyrus, the former "tween" Disney television star, now 20, looking severely Grace Slick-ish and acting whorish while performing her whorish new song, "We Can't Stop." The song is about how she and her posse and her generation can't and won't stop acting whorish and indeed are proud of it, so take that, Disney. And Dad.
In the video. she does a lot of sticking out of her long tongue, kind of like Gene Simmons of Kiss used to do except without the shock value, because Simmons didn't used to be a girl on a children's TV series. I don't think that counts as a double standard, especially considering the pains Cyrus took to reference Disney. She used a stuffed-animals motif with images that suggested Disney without violating any trademarks.
All-growed-up former Hannah Montana does a lot of twerking. And she simulates other unmentionable stuff, the words for which I already knew.
Most, if not all, that she did on stage, by whatever name, can be found in Cro-Magnon cave paintings somewhere in Europe. Someone should have warned her that she wouldn't be able to show us anything we and all previous generations hadn't done before, and that the only stricture she'd be violating was the one against doing it in public. If her intent was to shock, all she accomplished was to embarrass.
I could have ignored all of this were it not for my daughter. She and millions of other girls grew up watching "Hannah Montana." I could take the position that Cyrus has a responsibility to them and that she should set an example.
But to hold Cyrus accountable for how my daughter behaves is a stretch. I'm kind of hoping she has a mind and a compass of her own.
She does, it turns out. A few days before the video awards show, "We Can't Stop" came on the radio. With no prompting from me, my daughter said of Cyrus: "I really don't like the way she turned out."
Recognizing that this girl of mine has made mistakes and will make more -- some I know about and others I don't and won't -- I really like the way she is turning out. I don't know whom to credit: her mother, her teachers, lucky circumstance, certainly not me.
Not for having learned a new word, I ended the week feeling wiser.
Tom Whitehurst Jr. is the opinion editor and interim editor of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Email email@example.com.