Today was the first day of school, and as I was hearing my new student’s presentations, one of them confessed that she ran away form her former high school because she was surrounded by freaks, and geeks. Being a proud and out geek myself, I started a wee argument on the issue… Apparently, being a geek is seen as a bad thing nowadays.
So, just for clarity’s sake, I visited reference. com, and looked up all those terms that are used to refer to the intellectually inclined. Since that first search did not conform to my hypothesis, I tried wikipedia. Here, the definition was broader, and though it did mention the word’s negative connotation, it included the more mainstream, popular definition of the term.
It’s funny how meanings evolve. I’m ill equipped to talk about epistemiology (I’ll channel Tolkien whenever i want to talk about that), but I want to think I can at least deal with evolution. The term geeks, as the term gay , or queer has had it’s original meaning changed by the same community it describes.FYI, I’m not equating being geek oto being gay. This is just an excercise on the evolution of language. You can stop ranting now.
The term gay, meaning “happy, carefree, festive”, once so inoffensive as to be used in a disney cartoon, has been used by the homosexual community to define themselves since at least the 1920’s, but it only became mainstream a few years ago. Now it’s used as some sort of badge of honor, cause of pride, and is also the P.C. way to refer to those who love members of the same gender.
The term geek has followed the same path, I think, from being used as a reference to circus workers, and later a way to design those who are socially inept, generally disheveled and technophiles.
Today, the term geek is used inside the community as a badge of honor. It means that you have accumulated enough arcane knowledge in an obscure field, and that you have the nerve to apply this arcane knowledge to everyday life. It no longer means “socially inept”, since geeks are highly functional among their kind.
We are actually a very interesting and fun crowd to be around of. The trick is to be in on the joke.