A geek is a person who is fascinated, perhaps obsessively, by technology and imagination. Geek may not always have the same meaning as the term nerd (see nerd for a discussion of the disputed relation between the terms).
The definition of geek has changed considerably over the years. Below are some definitions of the word "geek", in order from newer to oldest. All but the last are still in use.
- 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 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 band geeks, computer geeks, politics geeks, geography geeks, geeks of the natural sciences, music geeks, history geeks, linguistics geeks, sports geeks, SCA geeks, gaming geeks, ham radio geeks, public transit geeks (metrophiles), anime and manga geeks (otaku), Star Trek geeks (trekkie), Tolkien or fantasy geeks (Tolkienite), geeks of many colours, genders, and styles. Late 20th Century and early 21st century
- Note: When geek is used in this way, nerd and dork may be used to denote subcatagories of geek. In this light, nerd typically refers to someone who has a devotion to modern-science-based subject matter (science fiction, computers, the internet, etc.), whereas a dork's knowledge would fall in the realm of the social sciences.
- A derogatory term for one with low social skills, often with average intelligence, as opposed to nerds, who are generally viewed as having low social skills but high intelligence. It is theorised that many of these people have Asperger's syndrome. Late 20th century
- A person who swallows live animals, bugs, etc., as a form of entertainment at fairs etc. This often included biting the heads off of chickens. The Geek would usually perform in a "geek pit." This probably comes from the Scottish geck, meaning 'fool', in turn from Low German. 19th century
What does it mean to be a geek? What would people think if you walked around with GEEK stamped on you in bold letters? In an exhibitionist social experiment, Dr. Simon Ronald, a computer geek from Adelaide, Australia set out to discover these answers. He arranged white teeshirts with GEEK printed on one and CODER1 printed on another. These are observations from lunchtime walks through the busy streets of Adelaide over a six month period. "CODER1 raises a few eyebrows, but GEEK is a reliable headturner. Pedestrians breaking out into smiles as well as spontaneous sniggering and finger pointing. Strongest reaction is pity from the blue collar demographic where perhaps the word geek is associated more with vulgar social connotations. When quizzed about geek, people quipped: 'awkward', 'nerdy', 'space cadet', 'dickhead', and 'socially incompetent'. Some have said, 'Hey I like your teeshirt', but those tend to be tech types as well.'"
Geek has always had negative connotations within society at large, where being described as a geek tends to be an insult. The term has recently become less condescending, or even a badge of honor, within particular fields and subcultures; this is particularly evident in the technical disciplines, where the term is now more of a compliment denoting extraordinary skill. This may have in part been caused by the popularity of the Dilbert comic strip, though in the larger society, the geek classification is still a negative one. Another common sign of geekiness is a fondness for classical music, shunning heavy metal or pop music.
A geek can be so absorbed in their imagination that they exhibit the geeky 'lost in space' gaze, and may appear to be unresponsive due to their absorption in other worlds. The level of concentration and focus may feature at the expense of cultural plumage. Geeks are technological monks - often too busy working within their intellectual domain to do menial chores like shopping for fashion.
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