syncopated ballroom dance, 1913 (the year it became a rage in Britain and America), from Argentine Spanish tango, originally the name of an African-South American drum dance, probably from a Niger-Congo language (compare Ibibio tamgu "to dance"). Phrase it takes two to tango was a song title from 1952. As a verb from 1913. Related: Tangoed.
ON DANCING (NOTE.—Dancing is pronounced two ways,—Tahn-go, or Tan-go. depending on your social status.) [The Gargoyle, University of Michigan, November 1913]
It is hardly a year ago since the Tango reached this country from South America by way of Paris. It was at first no more than a music-hall freak. But some of those mysterious people who inspire new social fashions were attracted by its sinuous movements and the strange backward kick, and this year it made its way into private houses as well as public ball rooms. [The Living Age, Dec. 13, 1913]
"I need not describe the various horrors of American and South American negroid origin. I would only ask hostesses to let one know what houses to avoid by indicating in some way on their invitation cards whether the 'turkey-trot,' the 'Boston' (the beginner of the evil), and the 'tango' will be permitted." [quoted in Current Opinion, October 1913, as from a letter to the London Times]
updated on August 19, 2020