Over-60s in London are entitled to a Freedom Pass, which gives free travel on all buses, underground, overground and trams, and on the Docklands Light Railway. It also gives free travel on National Rail services within London, but only after the morning rush hour is over. A “twirly” is supposedly an older person who tries to use their free travel pass on rail services before 09:30.
“Twirly” is a contraction of “too early”, because bearers of Freedom Passes are supposed to crowd around the ticket barrier just before half past nine, waiting to enter and asking “Am I too early?”
I have seen and heard several mentions of this term recently, though I don’t think I have ever heard it in use (as opposed to mention).
In any case there is something of a phonetic problem with it. The general rule in English phonetics is that WEAK u (ʊ) can be compressed to w before a following vowel, but that strong uː cannot. Furthermore, even weak u can undergo this compression only if the following vowel is itself weak. So (in my kind of English) there is nothing awkward about twəˈraɪv to arrive if suitably embedded in a sentence, or twɪkˈspləʊd to explode. However it would feel wrong to say twiːt instead of tuˈiːt to eat or twɑːsk instead of tu ˈɑːsk to ask, because in those cases the vowel following the compression site is strong. It would also feel wrong to say twɪɡˈzɔːstɪŋ instead of tuː ɪɡˈzɔːstɪŋ too exhausting, because too — unlike to — has no weak form and is therefore not a candidate for compression. It follows that ˈtwɜːli fails on two counts: (i) because the initial ɜː of early is a strong vowel, and (ii) because it involves too not to.
I would claim that nobody compresses too or two, because nobody has a weak form for them. And for people who shun the tu prevocalic weak form of to in favour of generalizing tə to all unstressed positions there will be no compression of to either.
[There is a complicating factor here. In some kinds of RP strong tense uː can undergo smoothing to a laxer ʊ even when stressed, as in ˈtuː əˈklɒk → ˈtʊ əˈklɒk two o’clock. But this does not entrain the possibility of compression. Compare two o’clock (no compression, always three syllables) with to a clock (can be compressed, potentially two syllables).]
The on-line Urban Dictionary, always entertaining, offers several definitions for twirly: not only the one we are discussing here but also a number of others, including indelicate ones supported (if that is the right word) by implausible fragments of dialogue illustrating their supposed use.
I hope this posting wasn’t twʌnɪkˈsaɪtɪŋ. (Actually, it can’t have been. Now you know why.)