Not A Geek?

I was amused to read that Marc doesn’t consider himself a geek.  Mainly because I have spent years trying to defend my own non-geek status and basically I think I’ve failed in that endeavour.  The meaning of the word geek has changed so much in recent years it’s hard to know exactly what a geek is.  I no longer consider it an insult and rather like this definition from Wikipedia:

a peculiar or otherwise odd person, especially one who is perceived to be overly obsessed with one or more things including those of intellectuality, electronics, gaming, etc.

But when I went and looked at the source material in it’s noticeable that the Wikipedia entry leaves out some of the more unpleasant connotations of the word:

a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, esp. one who is perceived to be overly intellectual

I don’t mind being peculiar – maybe I even cultivate it – but who wants to be described as dislikable?  I certainly know some geeks who are dislikable but some of the most likable people I know are also geeks.  To me the two things are not necessarily connected.

The other attribute of a geek that I don’t believe I have is social ineptness and I imagine this is one of the reasons that Marc doesn’t think that he is a geek.  It’s certainly one of the reasons I use.

A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.

If I was going to use a word that matched that particular definition I would probably use nerd and not geek.  I’m married to someone who has been described as an uber-geek and he is comfortable in any social setting.  I’m not sure that the dislikable or socially inept labels are necessary attributes of a geek.  Of course these things are subjective.   Although I would not be called socially inept there are certainly people who at times find me difficult to understand.  This happens to most geeks.  They have a tendency to use language that is specific to the domain they are interested in and forgot that other people don’t necessarily know what they are talking about.

I don’t use the word geek as an insult but there are still times when I don’t like to be called a geek.  Any word can be used as an insult if you say it in the right tone of voice.   I think that it’s O.K. to be called a geek by someone who is also a geek.  But sometimes when non-geeks use the word they are just calling me a weirdo.  And no, before you ask, being peculiar is not the same as being a weirdo.

4 Responses to “Not A Geek?”

  1. Chastity Says:

    I love when you write about words – all their connotations and usages. You may be the only person I know who cares about the underlying meanings of words as much as I do. You’re able to write coherently about the things I think of regarding words that only translate in my brain intuitively. (That seems very unclear.) I like that you can write clearly about the things I can only understand internally – on an intuitive level. Face it, we’re word-geeks. 🙂 Also, you’re right, geek is a much friendlier word than nerd.

  2. Jessica Marie Says:

    My understanding of these words is as follows:

    Nerd: socially inept, but intelligent; interested in a narrow range of subjects.

    Geek: socially accepted, intelligent; interested in a broader range of subjects.

    Dork: Wants to be a geek or a nerd, socially inept, unintelligent. Thinks his/her social ineptitude equals intelligence.

    A bit different from your understanding, and that’s the fun I suppose.

  3. karen Says:

    I’m amused by your definition of dork 🙂

    Isn’t is great that even though we speak the same words that we don’t mean the same things? I’m always worried about what people think I’m saying to them – but can’t really stop every conversation to analyse the words and ask “so what exactly do you mean when you use that word”.

    Actually I do spend quite a bit of time in conversations defining the words I’m using. Especially when people disagree with what I’m saying or just look completely baffled.

  4. Stray Taoist Says:

    Well, I think it is more the single-minded-ness that springs to my mind first when I consider the connotations of geekery. When applied round here, it generally means focused on one activity to the exclusion of others. Quite the opposite to the definitions given by Jessica. And ‘nerd’ seems to have fallen out of use, at least amongst the Cambridge-Town intelligensia.

    I too spend arguments/discussions/exasperated encounters trying to get people to define their terms. I no longer adhere to such cultural strangleholds. Linguistic terrorism is the way forward!

    But crikey, two recent posts from something I said. How honoured am I? Very, as it happens. And no mockery from it either! How times change! 😉

    I tried to make some joke about ‘peculiar’, ‘familiar’ and ‘witch’, but it didn’t work. So I bow out now.