Wednesday, August 30, 2006

What is a Geek?

The definition of geek has changed considerably over time, and there is no definite meaning. The social and rather derogatory connotations of the word makes it particularly difficult to define.

Below are some definitions of the word; all are still in use to varying degrees.

A person who is interested in technology, especially computing and new media. Comparable with the classic definition of hacker. (Late 20th century and early 21st century.)

A person who has chosen concentration rather than conformity; one who pursues skill (especially technical skill) and imagination, not mainstream social acceptance. Geeks usually have a strong case of neophilia. Most geeks are adept with computers and treat hacker as a term of respect, but not all are hackers themselves - and some who are in fact hackers normally call themselves geeks anyway, because they (quite properly) regard 'hacker' as a label that should be bestowed by others rather than self-assumed.

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, and allows for mathematics geeks, aviation geeks, band geeks, computer geeks, science geeks (including, among others, physics, chemistry, and biology geeks), music geeks, movie and film geeks (cinephile), theatre geeks, history geeks, gamer geeks, linguistics geeks, SCA geeks (SCAdians), Comics geeks, public transit geeks (metrophiles), literature geeks, anime and manga geeks (otaku), Star Wars geeks, Star Trek geeks (Trekkies and Trekkers, the latter noted for costuming), Tolkien or fantasy geeks, and even Wikipedia geeks. (Late 20th century and early 21st century.)

A Person who does a large amount of cocaine on a regular basis. Hence "Geeking Out"
G.E.E.K., as an acronym, reputedly came from the United States Military; it stands for General Electrical Engineering Knowledge. It is unclear if this was the origin of the current meaning for geek, or if the acronym was used as a humorous reference toward the pre-established meaning for geek (i.e., a backronym).

A derogatory term for one with low social skills, regardless of intelligence. Similar to common use of the word dork. (Late 20th century.)

A performer at a carnival (Colin Swanson) who swallows various live animals and bugs. Sometimes this extends to biting off the heads of chickens. The Geek would usually perform in a "geek pit". This sense of the word dates back to the 1920s, and possibly comes from the 16th century word geck, originally of Low German origin. In English the precursor word "geck" or "gecke" was used by Shakespeare: "Why have you suffer'd me to be imprison'd, kept in a dark house, visited by the priest, and made the most notorious geck and gull That e'er invention play'd on?"