Freak Dancing (1998)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Tue Jan 11 05:49:38 UTC 2005

On Mon, 10 Jan 2005 20:59:15 -0500, Grant Barrett
<gbarrett at WORLDNEWYORK.ORG> wrote:

>Usually it's just "freaking." Reads like the principal's not that with
>it. Here's a hit from 1993:
>"A woman here at work told me her 7th grade daughter came home from her
>first dance and said the school principal had chastised her for
>freaking while dancing with her partner. When asked what freaking
>meant, her daughter would not say. Does anybody know the meaning of
>freaking in this context?"

Earlier in '93, Patrick Atoon's Rap Dictionary (now at <>)
defined "freak" as "dance in a provocative way":

But this all goes back about 15 years earlier to the disco dance craze
called "the Freak", immortalized by Chic's 1978 hit "Le Freak".  From an
interview with Chic's Nile Rodgers:


"At that time, Studio 54 was real big in New York," recalled Nile. "A lot
of people tried to get into the club, but couldn't. It was real popular
with models and people who are not inhibited, more or less. They came out
late at night after working all day and were just having fun. Anyway, they
had this dance they called the Freak, and it was very, very unorthodox."

In order to Freak, two dancers bend at the knees, spread their legs, and
bump their pelvises together, in time to the music.

"The public began to pick up on it, and they made a more 'commercial'
Freak. That's what we saw in the discos and started to write about. We
thought it could be like the Twist. Everyone said, 'You're crazy. There'll
never be another dance craze in the U.S.' But we wrote the song anyway to
go along with the dance.

"At first, reaction was bad because of the word "freak." A lot of stations
just didn't want that word on the radio. But suddenly they just started
playing it, and within two or three weeks it had sold over a million

--Ben Zimmer

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