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I’ll never kiss my geek again if that is the definition of geek…

January 28th, 2005 · 3 Comments

Dinnertime with Ted/Daddy can be funny and delightful. I haven’t blogged details of many of these adventures over the dining table, keeping them a secret aspect of our family culture :-) . But last night’s was a good one.

Ted was heading out the door to go to his local group which has named themselves “Geeks”. Our daughters like this four letter word and started chanting their mantra they created last year: Geeks! Geeks! Geeks! Out and About!” Even Elisabeth chimed into the chorus.

Then somehow it started…I think Ted asked Abigail if she knew what geek meant. She was stumped. You shouldn’t use words if you don’t know their meaning, Ted admonished her.

So we headed for the dictionary. And I was shocked.

Between gee and geepound, Ted’s college dictionary, American Heritage Dictionary Second College Edition, 1982, revealed that a geek is

a carnival performer whose act usually consists of biting the head off a live chicken or snake. [ Per. < dial. geek fool < MLG geek. ]

“You’re kidding! ” I yelled. “I had no idea Alice Cooper was a geek!” Call me ignorant: I didn’t know the root of the four letter word, and would never have associated biting animal heads off with hacking computer code.

Ted said my education was sorely lacking. Indeed.

My old dictionary (copyright 1983) didn’t include an entry for geek.

So of course we turned to the computer for confirmation…

Next Ted looked up answers.com

geek (gēk) pronunciation
n. Slang.

1.
1. A person regarded as foolish, inept, or clumsy.
2. A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.
2. A carnival performer whose show consists of bizarre acts, such as biting the head off a live chicken.

[Perhaps alteration of dialectal geck, fool, from Low German gek, from Middle Low German.]

Wikipedia’s entry on “geek” didn’t answer my etymology questions but offered extensive background on the social implications of the label. Hey, I didn’t know there was a different between “dork” and “nerd” and “geek”.

I started to tease Ted: How do you know you’re a geek? You have to be both technically skilled and socially inept. This was a backhanded compliment: I don’t think Ted is socially inept.

Then the girls wanted to know if I was a geek. I don’t think of myself as one. Geeks were the guys in my high school class who wanted to get into MIT and lived in the computer lab. In high school, I wasn’t into anything enough to deserve the title “geek” in the Wikipedia sense.

Ted thinks I’m a “blogging geek”. Perhaps.

But not a geek circa 1982 definition. I’ve written about geek boyfriends. I’ve had one, and now he’s a geek husband. But who would want to kiss one? Ick! It would taste like raw chicken and feathers…or actually, Ted said they were going to practice on snakes last night…so I didn’t kiss him when he came home…;-)

Tags: geek

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 jenny // Jan 28, 2005 at 11:50 pm

    That’s cute:)

  • 2 Bob V // Jan 29, 2005 at 1:47 pm

    Julie,
    http://www.etymonline.com/ is a nice place to spend one’s time. Their listing for geek is:

    “sideshow freak,” 1916, U.S. carnival and circus slang, perhaps a variant of geck “a fool, dupe, simpleton” (1515), apparently from Low Ger. geck, from an imitative verb found in North Sea Gmc. and Scand. meaning “to croak, cackle,” and also “to mock, cheat.” The modern form and the popular use with ref. to circus sideshow “wild men” is from 1946, in William Lindsay Gresham’s novel “Nightmare Alley” (made into a film in 1947 starring Tyrone Power).

    (By the way, sorry about my multi-month hiatus from here. I was undergoing a radical career change.)
    Bob V

  • 3 Jim Thomsen // Jan 29, 2005 at 4:12 pm

    I once had business cards printed up: “Jim Thomsen, News Geek.” People I didn’t even know would ask me for them … they were THAT popular. Which is definitely NOt a geek trait. Now I’m more confused about my identity than ever.

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