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 Dictionary.com 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.