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The word "Geek"

DedwrekkaDedwrekka What Would Nyarlathotep Do?Registered User regular
edited March 2012 in Debate and/or Discourse
So, I started thinking about this a while ago, but after reading articles like this one from PA: Report's "The Cut" I wanted to share some of my thoughts and see how other people thought about the concept of the word "Geek", and also it's synonym "Nerd" (throughout this "geek" is going to be synonymous with "nerd").

I feel that the word "geek" has been changed dramatically in the past twenty years. After the advent of popular home gaming and, much later, social networking the concept of "geek" essentially lost all meaning. At first it distinguished the "geek and nerd subculture" of interests, literature, and hobbies. It was largely a term used to express and create a separation from "normal" life and pursuits, and used as both a pejorative by non-geeks and self-referentially by geeks. In a lot of cases "geek" was the term anyone of sufficiently high intelligence, or someone who pursued interests viewed as "smart" interests, received early in their life. This became the stereotype regardless of actual connection between disparate individuals or groups of "geeks", and despite claims to the contrary, it's a distinction that goes, and went, well into adulthood. Geek culture then became defined by such activities as literature, technology, and encyclopedic interest in a particular field. The biggest signifier at this time, however, was how outsiders viewed "geek culture".

As the culture expanded and became more and more influential, the pejorative description began to slip. No longer were "Geeks" simply synonymous with "freaks", they were now the masters of industry. Suddenly, without the pejorative description being the major driver, the culture began to be defined only by actions or interests that could be described as stereotypically "geek", usually using a definition that would only have applied decades ago. Thus, people who were not otherwise described as "geeks" or considered outsiders, were suddenly declaring themselves "geeks" because they spent a large amount of time on the internet or had an active role in video games.
However, geek culture moved past that conceptualization long ago. When video games became better and tuned for larger audiences, and then became a multimillion dollar industry, it moved beyond the outsider concept of "geek" and into the normalized concept of society. When the internet boomed and suddenly large numbers of people were using it for socializing, the portions of the internet that were geeky were still geeky and largely unchanged or untouched by this inrush, and society declared the internet to no longer be the territory of the geek.

Now, it's become almost easy for people to consider just about anything to be geeky. Memorize the stats to a football team, must be a football geek. Know too much about the military, must be a military geek. The word is quickly losing it's meaning. It's an odd idea because it uses a very small part of the stereotype, and then tries to apply it to not only all "geeks" but to subjects outside and even opposite of the geek concept. It's particularly appalling because this change seems to be happening from within geek culture. More and more people who are self-declared geeks are expanding the term to declare just about anything to be "geeky".



Maybe I'm just afraid of losing the cultural identity I cling to, as it's still foisted on me throughout adulthood. Maybe I just watch the people talking at PAX about the shared "outsider"ness of geekdom and still see that in a lot of cases declared geeks are still ostracized in modern society. Maybe I'm just not interested in including the same groups that continue to perpetuate the concept and image of "geek" as a pejorative. I'm not one of those "take back Geek" people, I just think the culture moved on, and yet people still use the old concepts to define it.

What do you think about it?

Posts

  • jothkijothki Registered User regular
    Unless you make a habit of biting the heads off of chickens, I don't particularly care.

  • darkmayodarkmayo Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    I've always seen geek to be more of a term for someone who knows a lot (obsesses) about a very specific topic, that or a person who eats anything. You are going to have regional differences on the defination of the term, much like how some people call any carbonated beverage a pop, or soda or coke. (I'm a pop person myself)

    I've had people say "Omg you are such a geek" and it happens usually if I am going a little too in depth on a topic that may be considered "nerdy" (like video games) also they have called me a nerd for the same thing as well. Not really sure what I am trying to say, words aren't static they will evolve and change meaning.

    darkmayo on
  • emnmnmeemnmnme Heard about this on conservative radio:Registered User regular
    GeekSmall.jpg

    Geeks are sideshow acts, biting the heads off of chickens or hammering nails into their nostrils to amaze audiences.

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  • KalTorakKalTorak Registered User regular
    darkmayo wrote: »
    I've always seen geek to be more of a term for someone who knows a lot (obsesses) about a very specific topic, that or a person who eats anything. You are going to have regional differences on the defination of the term, much like how some people call any carbonated beverage a pop, or soda or coke. (I'm a pop person myself)

    That's my understanding of it too, or at least that's how it's come to be used. It's sortof a catchall term to describe "higher than usual interest in a particular topic," while still classifying the topic as a hobby - you usually wouldn't describe a history teacher as a history "geek." Or maybe you would, if his interest in a particular part of history goes beyond that of regular history teachers. Hard to say. One of my friends is a math teacher, but I'd still describe him as a math geek because he works out math theory for fun.

    Maybe it's taking the place of the word "buff."

  • darkmayodarkmayo Registered User regular
    emnmnme wrote: »
    GeekSmall.jpg

    Geeks are sideshow acts, biting the heads off of chickens or hammering nails into their nostrils to amaze audiences.

    Yup, still means that but the word is also used in other contexts.

    From Wikipedia

    The definition of geek has changed considerably over time, and there is no longer a definitive meaning. The terms nerd, gimp, dweeb, dork, spod and gump have similar meanings as geek, but many choose to identify different connotations among these terms, although the differences are disputed. In a 2007 interview on The Colbert Report, Richard Clarke said the difference between nerds and geeks is "geeks get it done."[2] Julie Smith defined a geek as "a bright young man turned inward, poorly socialized, who felt so little kinship with his own planet that he routinely traveled to the ones invented by his favorite authors, who thought of that secret, dreamy place his computer took him to as cyberspace—somewhere exciting, a place more real than his own life, a land he could conquer, not a drab teenager's room in his parents' house."[3]

    Other definitions include:

    A derogatory reference to a person obsessed with intellectual pursuits for their own sake, who is also deficient in most other human attributes so as to impair the person's smooth operation within society.
    A person who is interested in technology, especially computing and new media. Geeks are adept with computers, and use the term hacker in a positive way, though not all are hackers themselves.
    A person who relates academic subjects to the real world outside of academic studies; for example, using multivariate calculus to determine how they should correctly optimize the dimensions of a pan to bake a cake.
    A person who has chosen concentration rather than conformity; one who passionately pursues skill (especially technical skill) and imagination, not mainstream social acceptance.
    A person with a devotion to something in a way that places him or her outside the mainstream. This could be due to the intensity, depth, or subject of their interest. This definition is very broad but because many of these interests have mainstream endorsement and acceptance, the inclusion of some genres as "geeky" is heavily debated. Persons have been labeled as or chosen to identify as physics geeks, mathematics geeks, engineering geeks, sci-fi geeks, computer geeks, various science geeks, movie and film geeks (cinephile), comic book geeks, theater geeks, history geeks, music geeks,[citation needed] sport geeks,[citation needed] art geeks, philosophy geeks, literature geeks, historical reenactment geeks, video game geeks, and roleplay geeks.
    A more recent school of thought[who?] sees nerd as being a derogatory phrase, while geek is simply a description. It is taken to be someone who is an enthusiast, often in things outside of the mainstream spectrum. It may also describe immersion in a particular mainstream interest to an extreme that is beyond normalcy (e.g. sports geek)[citation needed]. Of note is that in this definition, there is no reference to being socially inept in the slightest.[citation needed]
    Reclamation and self-identification



    One of many many words that have new meanings.

    http://ask.metafilter.com/192809/Old-words-with-new-meanings

  • BloodySlothBloodySloth Registered User regular
    emnmnme wrote: »
    Geeks are sideshow acts, biting the heads off of chickens or hammering nails into their nostrils to amaze audiences.

    That's what the word used to mean. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who used the word geek in casual conversation and meant a carnival sideshow, though. That's a bit like saying gay means "light-hearted and carefree" at this point. Sure, it's still technically one of the definitions of the word, but hardly anyone uses it.

  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    From the article linked in the OP:
    Someone on Twitter said that the fact I Tweet about Game of Thrones makes me a nerd. Uh, it's on HBO. That's mainstream entertainment. Even Lana del Rey can figure out how to use Twitter. None of this stuff is exclusive anymore.

    Traditional ideas about geekiness are dying a slow death in the social media age. The socially-awkward computer nerd is not society's embarrassing chaff, but rather an admired hero driving connectivity and innovation. Steve Jobs has been practically canonized. Video games are, thank god, becoming something that anyone can enjoy and understand on whatever level they choose.

    At my office, I am (as far as I know):

    1) the only person who owns a video game console (not counting parents whose kids play video games)
    2) the only person familiar with Internet memes
    3) the only person who has ever played a tabletop roleplaying game or a collectible card game
    4) the only person who has ever played a multiplayer video game online
    5) the only person who uses Twitter on a regular basis
    6) the only person who posts on a web-based forum on a regular basis

    It's possible that there are others, but out of the conversations I've had, they're hiding. :P

    I agree that social media and video games have become mainstream - as in, they are no longer marginalized. However, they are not representative of a numerical majority. There are probably only 100-150m active accounts on Twitter and 250m daily users on Facebook out of 500m total accounts. There are about 6b mobile phone subscribers worldwide, but less than half are smartphones, and about 1b are estimated to use the web on mobile devices. As for Game of Thrones, it looks like that has almost 4m viewers.

    Those are big numbers, but let's keep them in perspective. Out of a world population of 7b, even if we accepted that only the top 10% economically (700m) have access to these things, only Facebook and smartphones have come close to numerical majority status. The average person does not use Twitter, play video games as a hobby, play tabletop roleplaying or collectible card games, or watch Game of Thrones.

    However, I no longer feel that I have to be ashamed of these things. I can tell my boss, for instance, that I spent a weekend playing Mass Effect. He might need a little coaching to understand what the appeal was, but he's not going to give me a weird look (as opposed to a few years ago, when people did give me weird looks when I brought up video games). So I don't feel like I'm a minority in the cultural sense of 'a member of a repressed group.'

    Just because something is culturally mainstream, though, doesn't mean we don't need words to describe it. What do we call somebody who likes role-playing games, plays video games as a hobby, reads fantasy or sci-fi, and knows Internet memes? The word "geek" seems just fine to me.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • Steel AngelSteel Angel Registered User regular
    Dedwrekka wrote:
    Now, it's become almost easy for people to consider just about anything to be geeky. Memorize the stats to a football team, must be a football geek. Know too much about the military, must be a military geek. The word is quickly losing it's meaning. It's an odd idea because it uses a very small part of the stereotype, and then tries to apply it to not only all "geeks" but to subjects outside and even opposite of the geek concept. It's particularly appalling because this change seems to be happening from within geek culture. More and more people who are self-declared geeks are expanding the term to declare just about anything to be "geeky".



    Maybe I'm just afraid of losing the cultural identity I cling to, as it's still foisted on me throughout adulthood. Maybe I just watch the people talking at PAX about the shared "outsider"ness of geekdom and still see that in a lot of cases declared geeks are still ostracized in modern society. Maybe I'm just not interested in including the same groups that continue to perpetuate the concept and image of "geek" as a pejorative. I'm not one of those "take back Geek" people, I just think the culture moved on, and yet people still use the old concepts to define it.

    What do you think about it?

    Just because some of the old geek domains have become more mainstream does not mean geeks automatically become part of the mainstream. People generally like movies but that's a far cry from being a film buff. Some people will still call themselves as such even if they're dilettantes at best and it's hardly different with traditionally geeky hobbies.

    As for the term itself, it seems like it's somewhat similar to the term "otaku" now. While we usually associated the term with anime and manga fandom, some years back on another forum one of the Japanese members described how it more generally referred to being highly devoted to some hobby and hence you could find bird watching otaku or karoke otaku. At the same time, the right context can also make the term refer to the anime and manga geek we tend to associate it with. Likewise "geek" as a word has gained more applications, but older ones still remain.

    Big Dookie wrote: »
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  • Samir Duran DuranSamir Duran Duran Registered User regular
    Dedwrekka wrote:
    What do you think about it?

    ogre01.jpg

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  • CowSharkCowShark Registered User regular
    I don't know about geeks, but nerds are delicious.

    358_wide.jpg

    3DS Friend Code: 4398-9974-9558
  • Samir Duran DuranSamir Duran Duran Registered User regular
    Every time I get nerds they fucked up and put a purple on the pink side and vice versa.

    NEERRRRRDS!!

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  • Fallout2manFallout2man Registered User regular
    I always thought the separation was:

    Geek: Excessively knowledgeable hobbyist (I.E. Poetry Geek knows poetry, Horror Geek knows horror film, and Bo Knows Baseball...)
    Nerd: Intellectual interested in constantly learning and expanding into new arenas.
    Dork: Someone who's just socially awkward.

    Which would mean it's possible to be all three or just one.

    On Ignorance:
    Kana wrote:
    If the best you can come up with against someone who's patently ignorant is to yell back at him, "Yeah? Well there's BOOKS, and they say you're WRONG!"

    Then honestly you're not coming out of this looking great either.
  • DoctorArchDoctorArch Curmudgeon Registered User regular
    I personally self-identify as a geek. To me, the term "geek" has meant "nerd with social skills" using the 80s-era definition of nerd as a base. Nowadays it seems "neckbeard" has replaced "nerd" as a derivative, whereas "geek" has become quite popularized and socially acceptable.

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  • HyperAquaBlastHyperAquaBlast Registered User regular
    If you have to find a derogatory slang term to cling on to then you are streets behind and so not fetch.

    steam_sig.png
  • UnbreakableVowUnbreakableVow Klonoa of the Wind WAHOO!Registered User regular
    If you have to find a derogatory slang term to cling on to then you are streets behind and so not fetch.

    Stop trying to make streets behind happen

    BwQ9Ecd.jpg?1
    Magya! | Sometimes I stream PS4 games here | PSN: UnbreakableVow
  • ComradebotComradebot Lord of Dinosaurs Hunts Vegas, TXRegistered User regular
    It rhymes with meek.

  • ComradebotComradebot Lord of Dinosaurs Hunts Vegas, TXRegistered User regular
    If you have to find a derogatory slang term to cling on to then you are streets behind and so not fetch.

    Stop trying to make streets behind happen

    That goes doubly for "fetch".

  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    Comradebot wrote: »
    If you have to find a derogatory slang term to cling on to then you are streets behind and so not fetch.

    Stop trying to make streets behind happen

    That goes doubly for "fetch".

    You guys are being p negative.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • spacekungfumanspacekungfuman Poor and minority-filled Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    Comradebot wrote: »
    If you have to find a derogatory slang term to cling on to then you are streets behind and so not fetch.

    Stop trying to make streets behind happen

    That goes doubly for "fetch".

    Are "streets behind" or "fetch" actual terms? I have never heard either before.

  • emnmnmeemnmnme Heard about this on conservative radio:Registered User regular
    What is geek chic?

    easybossfight_zps4752c132.gif
  • UnbreakableVowUnbreakableVow Klonoa of the Wind WAHOO!Registered User regular
    Comradebot wrote: »
    If you have to find a derogatory slang term to cling on to then you are streets behind and so not fetch.

    Stop trying to make streets behind happen

    That goes doubly for "fetch".

    Are "streets behind" or "fetch" actual terms? I have never heard either before.

    That is because you are not streets ahead (you're streets behind)

    BwQ9Ecd.jpg?1
    Magya! | Sometimes I stream PS4 games here | PSN: UnbreakableVow
  • spacekungfumanspacekungfuman Poor and minority-filled Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    Comradebot wrote: »
    If you have to find a derogatory slang term to cling on to then you are streets behind and so not fetch.

    Stop trying to make streets behind happen

    That goes doubly for "fetch".

    Are "streets behind" or "fetch" actual terms? I have never heard either before.

    That is because you are not streets ahead (you're streets behind)

    If I have to ask, I'm streets behind.

  • UnbreakableVowUnbreakableVow Klonoa of the Wind WAHOO!Registered User regular
    Comradebot wrote: »
    If you have to find a derogatory slang term to cling on to then you are streets behind and so not fetch.

    Stop trying to make streets behind happen

    That goes doubly for "fetch".

    Are "streets behind" or "fetch" actual terms? I have never heard either before.

    That is because you are not streets ahead (you're streets behind)

    If I have to ask, I'm streets behind.

    I actually have heard "fetch" used outside of Mean Girls, and I find myself saying "streets ahead" sometimes, but neither of them are huge terms.

    BwQ9Ecd.jpg?1
    Magya! | Sometimes I stream PS4 games here | PSN: UnbreakableVow
  • Dark WhiteDark White Registered User regular
    I've noticed that geek/nerd is being used increasingly by the traditional popular crowds as sort of a way to bring themselves down to earth in an effort to appear less frat-tastic or sorolicious.

    On more than one occasion recently I've heard something along the lines of "Oh my god, I just spent like an hour on twitter. I'm such a geek!" With the primary inention being to brag about that fact.

    In a way, at least at high school and college ages, it's become uncool NOT to be cultured or invested in technology and niche hobbies and interests.

    How is my not buying games this year going?

    Board Games Purchased in 2014: Sigh, 7 / 2 ....This was a poor goal.

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  • spacekungfumanspacekungfuman Poor and minority-filled Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    Dark White wrote: »
    I've noticed that geek/nerd is being used increasingly by the traditional popular crowds as sort of a way to bring themselves down to earth in an effort to appear less frat-tastic or sorolicious.

    On more than one occasion recently I've heard something along the lines of "Oh my god, I just spent like an hour on twitter. I'm such a geek!" With the primary inention being to brag about that fact.

    In a way, at least at high school and college ages, it's become uncool NOT to be cultured or invested in technology and niche hobbies and interests.

    Why would someone brag about wasting their life on something as useless as twitter? I don't think I will ever understand web 2.0 or social networking.

  • CogliostroCogliostro Marginal Opinions Spring, TXRegistered User regular
    edited March 2012
    How my circle and others have always defined the two terms is thusly;

    Geeks: Social skills, with or without questionable hygiene. Usually participates in some form of paper-n-pencil role playing game, video games (however intense their interest) and a passing interest in some MMO's. Typically geeks will enjoy some form of outdoor activity; camping, hiking, light sports and either participating as a vendor or dressing up for Renaissance festivals. Your typical geek will wear t-shirts like "Han Shot First" or some kind of pop culture considered geeky/nerdy. Employment for geeks usually runs the gamut and there is no pre-defined roles.

    Nerd:
    Type 1: Pocket protector, math whiz, usually into particle physics or some kind of advanced mathematics and/or theoretical science. The Type 2 Nerd in general doesn't have very good social skills and they can be incredibly awkward around women (or men if they happen to be of the gay variety). Usually fair to moderate hygiene. Employment for nerds are generally technical positions in IT or education.

    Type 2: Living in their parent's basement, little to no social skills and pretty much only think about their WoW character or Katy Sackhoff in a fur suit. Typically the Type 2 Nerd is not going to enjoy any outdoor activities or anything where the tan they receive is not from the glow of their monitors. They sometimes will have multiple accounts on their MMO of choice. Completely silent around women; indeed almost terrified into a catatonic state if one even looks at him - they will do everything they can to avoid females that aren't their moms. Type 2 Nerds prefer not to interact with other humans outside of a chat room and/or fur suit. The Type 2 Nerd usually will be employed at some kind of service position where they don't have to interact much with other people. Generally Type 2 Nerds don't come out of their dark caves long enough to shower more than once or twice a week.


    Of course, not everyone falls into these defined categories. These are just general guidelines. :)

    Cogliostro on
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    Since the 80s, I've understood "Geek" to mean "Enthusiast" and "Nerd" to mean "Expert."

    All the little visual and behavior cues are just stereotypes of these two concepts.

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  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    Dark White wrote: »
    I've noticed that geek/nerd is being used increasingly by the traditional popular crowds as sort of a way to bring themselves down to earth in an effort to appear less frat-tastic or sorolicious.

    On more than one occasion recently I've heard something along the lines of "Oh my god, I just spent like an hour on twitter. I'm such a geek!" With the primary inention being to brag about that fact.

    In a way, at least at high school and college ages, it's become uncool NOT to be cultured or invested in technology and niche hobbies and interests.

    Why would someone brag about wasting their life on something as useless as twitter? I don't think I will ever understand web 2.0 or social networking.

    My company uses social networking for recruiting purposes. Many companies use it to stay in touch with their customers. It was integral to the Iranian Revolution and, well, the entire Arab Spring.

    Twitter, Facebook, and other social media services allow individuals to communicate instantly and in real-time with other individuals, corporations, government institutions, and the general public, all around the world. That is huge. Gutenberg Bible huge.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
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