This is a short and odd-looking word. Why odd-looking? Only because unfamiliar. After all, there are many words in English that closely resemble it in form or sound: frog, frig, frag, drug, shrug, fridge, fog, fug, rug, frock, frugal, fruit, and of course that champagne I hope someday to drink in quantity, Krug.
When you look at this word, your natural expectation is almost certainly that it rhymes with drug. Actually, it doesn’t; it sounds like the first syllable of frugal, which puts it in that rather tidy little set of English words that are spelled exactly the same as in their IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) rendering. Is frugal where it comes from? Maybe – or maybe it’s a modified form of frig, or perhaps it comes from the family name Frug. Or some combination of multiple factors. The usual etymological sources ain’t givin’ me no lovin’ on this one.
So what is a frug? Is it a fugly rug? Nope, nor any other item of fugxury. It is a style of dance. I first saw the word frug in a comic book I was reading in the 1970s; it referred to a dance style, but I got no idea from the reference what dance style it might have been. It sort of seemed like the sort of thing shaggy space monsters might do. It went together with other popular dances of the era, such as (to quote “Revolution 9” by The Beatles) “the Watusi… the twist…” It was only very recently that I finally looked it up. And thought, “Oh, that.”
I’m sure you’ve seen it if you’ve ever watched any movies or TV shows from the ’60s wherein girls in mini-skirts dance. In fact, the odds are not so bad you’ve actually done it sometime.
The first thing to know about the frug is that, as dance steps go, it doesn’t have any. Steps, that is. Your feet stay bolted to the spot, at least in the original version. It’s your hips that move, side to side. Those and your hands, which can do swimming-type movements such as the crawl, the backstroke, and the dog paddle. Seeing teeny-boppers do these is classical and endearing and emblematic. Seeing middle-aged dudes in supposedly funny TV ads do it is enough to motivate me to leave the room.
Here, here are some instructions from the time on how to do it: www.sixtiescity.com/Culture/dance.shtm#frug (on the left side of the page, the newspaper clipping).
But I think it would serve you well to see some examples of it in action. Here’s a nice version from the 1972 Bollywood movie Yaar Mera: www.youtube.com/watch?v=paH6QDIHZsM. And then there’s the bit from Sweet Charity – the “Rich Man’s Frug” sequence, “The Aloof,” choreographed by Bob Fosse: www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZnFQvlb2OA.
So now you know. And next time you’re in a dance bar, you can walk up to someone attractive and say, “You wanna frug?” But I take no responsibility for the results.