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Friday Afternoon Video: On What Is and Is NOT the Harlem Shake

People. What are you doing. People. Stahp.

Dear ODB/SBN/Internet/World/Universe,

It has come to my attention that there has recently been some confusion as to what the Harlem Shake actually is. In my innocence, I was very excited to find out that the Harlem Shake was making a big comeback at college campuses and other places around the country. It's not the easiest dance in the world, so I was a bit perplexed when video titles claimed hundreds of people doing the Harlem Shake at once. But, hey, the internet is a powerful thing and I'm an optimist.


Here is a music video featuring the actual Harlem Shake. To give you a frame of reference for the time period, PDiddy had changed his name from Sean Combs to Puffy to PDiddy at this point, but he's actually got a verse instead of randomly grunting and saying 'Come on, now, baby, come on' repeatedly on other people's songs.

Other examples of the actual Harlem Shake can be found here or here. In fact, there are even YouTube clips of people teaching you how you, too, can do the Harlem Shake like this one. It has it's own Wiki entry, which contains helpful historical tidbits like this:

The Harlem shake, originally called the albee, is a dance introduced in 1981 by a Harlem resident named "Al B". The dance was initially referred to as "albee" after his name, but later became known as the Harlem shake as its prominence grew beyond the neighborhood

Yet, despite this clear and recent history of the Harlem Shake, it appears that somebody/terrible people have decided that they were going to start a silly meme and call it the Harlem Shake. Please note, I am not opposed to silly memes.* But I am strongly opposed to suddenly deciding that a well defined, well recognized piece of culture from one of the more culturally influential places in the country should have it's name appropriated for this silliness. More generally, I'm opposed to suddenly changing the meaning of a word, especially if it's going to drastically effect my ability to find certain videos on YouTube and/or have to deal with acquaintances excitedly trying to show me (another) video of that which drives me crazy.

*I am currently hoping that the Dunking Otter video takes off to become our most popular meme to date. I mean, who doesn't love otters?

This is not the Harlem Shake.

Neither is this. Or this. Or this. Even when students from our beloved university jump in, it is still NOT the Harlem Shake. If I start flopping around on the ground like a fish, and then attempt to call it the Waltz, it is not, in fact the Waltz. Maybe if I called it the Deranged Waltz or something, it could work. But calling this flopping around an example of the Viennese Waltz or Argentine Tango is not only dumb, it's insulting to the cultures that actually developed those dances. And in case you were wondering, Harlem isn't a fan of this, as this BONUS FRIDAY AFTERNOON VIDEO shows (NSFW-Language )

I can't even pick a favorite comment out of this because there are so many good ones. It's probably a tie between "Is that the Sponge Bob?!?" and "That's just dry humping the air!" and a few others.

So what have we learned today, ladies and gentlemen?

Harlem Shake:


Very strange people doing something that is NOT the Harlem Shake: