Monday, July 16, 2012

I'm a Word Geek by Karen Michelle Nutt


Words hold such magic. You say a word and immediately a vision appears in your mind of what that word means. However, words we use today may have had another meaning centuries ago.

Recently, I watched a 1947 film, Nightmare Alley, starring the talented Tyrone Powers. Tyrone is a carnie in this film and they mention the ‘Geek’ show. Of course, I’m sure it’s not a nerdy fellow in thick black-rimmed glasses in front of a computer. So, what is this show and why are the other carnies saying ‘the geek’ like this guy is a real nutcase?

Well so it seems ‘geek’ has had bit of makeover in the last few decades, but let’s go back to the beginning where the word showed up in the languages. In the 18th century, Austria-Hungary used the word ‘gecken’. They were freaks shown by circuses. In the 19th century, in North-America, the term geek was a circus freak, one of the side shows. The show might even include the ‘geek’ biting a head off a chicken. (yuck!)

It wasn’t until 1952 in the short story, ‘The Year of the Jackpot' by Robert Heinlein that the word was used for a science, math or a tech enthusiast. I grew up thinking a ‘geek’ was a nerd. The definition has changed so much there isn’t a real definitive meaning anymore. 
Now it is used as a source of pride like the ‘Geek Squad’. Heck there’s even ‘geek chic’, which includes black-rimmed glasses, T-shirts with geek in-jokes. Some of the celebrities have gone ‘geek chic’ like Justine Timberlake or David Tennant’s character (the Tenth Doctor of Doctor Who).


What did ‘geek’ conjure up for you?

11 comments:

Maddy said... Best Blogger Tips

Too many to list here, but I'm the number one fan of geekdom worldwide.

Karen Michelle Nutt said... Best Blogger Tips

Maddy,

Me, too. :)

Cathy said... Best Blogger Tips

Interesting article. Its funny how words start out with one meaning and then take on another in later years.

Nancy Jardine said... Best Blogger Tips

When I was growing up, (Yes, I know it was ages ago) if someone was described as a geek it meant they were a bit out of the norm. It often did mean sort of 'nerdy', but more often it was even more derogatory and meant a 'childish, silly and stupid-with-it' person.

Debra St. John said... Best Blogger Tips

Great post!

I usually use 'geek' in the contexts of, "I'm a total nerd geek when it comes to reading books...I can't get enough!"

DebraStJohn

Jenny said... Best Blogger Tips

Wonder what 'geek' will mean in the far future? So many words have lost or changed meaning--I don't dare wear my adorable Christmas sweatshirt with the reindeer and notes and 'ho-ho-ho'. And what about 'gay' and 'fairy'? 'Coke' is holding its own pretty well, though. So far!

Dana Delamar said... Best Blogger Tips

Fun post! I love words too. You should read "Geek Love" by Katherine Dunn. It's about a bizarre circus family, so definitely not about "geeks" as we think about them today!

Karen Michelle Nutt said... Best Blogger Tips

Cathy,
Yeah, word changes---I remember when flip-flops were called thongs. Now, there underwear. lol My girls would laugh at me when I'd forget and call them that.

Nancy,
Now geek is a compliment. Go figure.

Karen Michelle Nutt said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Debra,

I'm with you. Love books.

Karen Michelle Nutt said... Best Blogger Tips

Dana,

Thanks for the heads up on the book. I'll have to check it out.

Thanks so much for coming by. :)

Karen Michelle Nutt said... Best Blogger Tips

Jenny,

Hopefully we'll be around to find out. lol Thanks for popping in to say hi.