Memory Lane: Is Geek a Bad Word?

[Editor’s Note: Occasionally, we will repost a previously published article on the blog. Our community is growing quickly and that means this might be new to a lot of folks. This was originally posted on January 7, 2009.  It was written by Will deBock.]

On December 21st 2009, I wrote an article that referenced a NYT article about how our economy needs more cool nerds.  The next day the Times wrote a follow-up piece which quoted a Bennington College Psychology Professor who thinks that:

merely mentioning terms like nerd or geek serves to perpetuate the stereotype. The words are damaging, much like racial epithets, he says, and should be avoided.

Further he says that,

“The best way to combat this … is put it to bed,” banishing “nerd” and “geek” to the linguistic dustbin.

I beg to differ. Geek in particular in many parts of our society is a sign, if not a little quirky, of social prestige.  My sons would agree.  And the hundreds of IT students that I have taught would also agree.  Part of each of my seminars is dedicated to what I call the “IT/Geek Review.”  There is not a shadow of doubt in my mind that it is positively received by my students.

In one part of contemporary musical culture, one could probably trace the reclaiming and inverting of the term Geek to the band The Talking Heads, through the post-grunge alt rock bands like Blink 182Bishop AllenVampire Weekend and others with their ironic intellectuality, smart lyrics and errrr, well, Nerdy Style.

In our movie culture, just watch Galaxy Quest again.  The geeks totally win — both the terrestrial version and the extraterrestrial version!

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2 responses to “Memory Lane: Is Geek a Bad Word?

  1. You’re right, Will. Geek is a badge to wear with pride! The new geek, not the original meaning, that had to do with biting heads off chickens.

    Kieran

  2. Hi, you might be interested in this post:
    http://johnager.co.uk/2011/01/21/are-you-a-geek/
    Best wishes, John.

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