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?