"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Friday, 16 August 2013

Geek

A geek is a person with an eccentric devotion to a particular interest.  It is most popularly used in the term ‘computer geek’.


Nowadays the word geek is a slang term originally used to describe odd or non-mainstream people, with different connotations ranging from "an expert or enthusiast" to "a person heavily interested in a hobby", with a general pejorative meaning of "a peculiar or otherwise socially inept person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intellectual".

Although often considered as a pejorative, the term is also often used self-referentially without malice or as a source of pride. Its meaning has evolved to connote "someone who is interested in a subject (usually intellectual or complex) for its own sake."

But in the early 20th Century a geek was a circus freak and geekery meant bizarre physical acts performed by geeks.  Amongst these were carnival performers, often billed as wild men, whose act usually included biting the head off a live chicken or snake.  Gross!

The meaning changed to its more expert / eccentric one after Robert Heinlein used the term geek to mean a maths freak in 1952.

4 comments:

  1. How does geek differ from nerd, then? Forgive me if you've already explained the latter on here before - I have not checked.

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    1. Geeks are generally social. They have their fascination in what makes them unique, but you probably wouldn't know of their geekitude unless they told you about it.
      Nerds are generally anti-social and unattractive. They may be brilliant, but they focus on non-social pursuits.

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  2. Yes, i'd heard the original definition, and wondered how it changed. Thank you for informing me.

    If i call you a word geek, would you accept it as the compliment it is meant to be?

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    1. Yes, thank you. I'm happy to be a word geek.

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