Geek and nerd
yummy mummy
What is the origin of these words, and when did they come into existence? Did geek only emerge in relation to computers?
Lewis Joplin II
GEEKS AND NERDS - "...nerd, cited to 1951, goes back to the name of a creature in the Dr. Seuss book 'If I Ran the Zoo,' itself dated 1950," according to "Speaking Freely: A Guided Tour of American English from Plymouth Rock to Silicon Valley" by Stuart Berg Flexner and Anne H. Soukhanov" (Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 1997).

The same reference lists several terms under the chapter "Personalities of Cyberspace" including "hacker" (1950s, at first a complimentary term -- meaning an expert programmer -- that later came to have negative connotations), propeller heads, weenies, net potatoes (I've also heard "mouse potatoes"), newbies and lamers. Regarding "geek" the authors say: "A less complimentary term (compared to "hacker") was 'geek,' short for 'computer geek.' It is difficult to improve on the New Hacker's Dictionary's description: 'One who fulfills all the dreariest negative stereotypes about hackers: an asocial, malodorous, pasty-faced monomaniac with all the personality of a cheese grater.' In an early U.S. sense (1928), 'geek' referred to a carnival performer who bit the heads off live chickens and snakes."

I think "geek" has become a more complimentary term, meaning a smart, if narrowly focused, person. Someone who knows everything on a single subject.

Going back to the original meaning of "geek," a geek was "the carnival 'wild man,' usually an alcoholic who bit off the heads of chickens; any person who has sunk to the lowest depths of degradation, or who is odd and ridiculous. The word is a variation on the English word 'geck' for a fool, which dates back to the 16th century and was used by Shakespeare among other great writers," according to "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997)

yummy mummy
Thank you Lewis Joplin II. You have excelled your anonymous little self! I now know that that computer geek i went out with 18 months ago was well deserving of the title.

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