Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Duff: To geek or not to geek

So, what is a geek? Not many years ago, geek was a pejorative term, roughly synonymous with nerd. The ’90s took the sting out of it as the Internet turned mainstream and started sucking up big chunks of venture capital. Suddenly, geek was cool and nerds were the next big thing.

Urban Dictionary defines geek as “The people you pick on in high school and wind up working for as an adult.”

As best I can figure, the age of the geek lasted six years. Experts may dispute me, but I think the wave of Geek Chic lasted from 1992-1998; then the venture money dried up and the stock bubble burst. Geeks are still on top in many ways, but the cultural shift never quite finished.

Most geeks know who they are and are comfortable with that identity. The word has been reclaimed, at least in the workplace, to the point where geek is almost a compliment. In most offices, geek refers to a person with a high degree of technical skill, usually with computers.

In the larger culture, geek is still a bit tainted, as the mainstream isn’t quite ready to embrace people who play computer games and spout “Star Wars” trivia.

But I haven’t quite answered the question. What is a geek? Most geeks are good with computers, but there are exceptions. There are golf geeks and tennis geeks and baseball geeks. A person who simply plays baseball is not a geek, but a person who obsesses over baseball stats certainly is.

I am best described as a geek in denial. I love all the stereotypical geek things, but part of me rebels against it. I want to break out of the geek box and enjoy art, music and literature, but the little nerd inside me still loves computers, sci-fi and comic books.

So how do you know if you’re a geek or not? To get a rough idea, I offer this one-question geek test: If the Starship Enterprise had to fight it out with the Death Star, who would win? If you have any kind of opinion about this question, you are a geek. If you’re so baffled by it that you don’t even know what I’m talking about, you’re a normal person. And if simply reading this question makes you want to track me down and beat me up, you’re a jock.

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Written by Michael B. Duff

June 8, 2007 at 15:17

Posted in Best Of, Columns

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