Saturday, May 17, 2008

The geek code

Of late, the word ‘geek’ has taken the fancy of the world. Not a very ‘old’ word, it is related to the Dutch word ‘gek’ that meant ‘mad, silly’. In the late 19th century, ‘geek’ was first used as US slang for an unfashionable person. It was already in use in the European carnival world for the sideshow at a carnival. Also used as a derisive label for a studious person, today ‘geek’ is mainly used to refer to ‘a peculiar or otherwise odd person, especially one who is perceived to be overly obsessed with one or more field like technology, food or history. ‘Nerd’ and ‘dork’ are less common slangs used synonymously with ‘geek’. Since 2006, May 25 is observed as Nerd Pride Day in Spain. The holiday promotes the right to be nerdy or geeky, and to express it in public without shame.

The word ‘geek’ can be used for any field in which the person is very interested, as, for example, art geeks, film geeks or maths geeks. But, due to their devotion to computers and the global impact of the internet, geek has become a badge of honour for computer users. And these geeks take pride in the geekisms they create. A ‘geekism’ is any word, phrase, joke, or other part of language that is related to computers, or any computer terminology that is not understood by the general public, but is commonly known among geeks. Many abbreviations and acronyms can be considered geekisms because the geek community has created them and the general public would not understand them. For instance, for the geek, the motherboard is the MoBo, the optical disc drive is the ODD, the hard disc drive is the HDD, the laptop is the Lappy and the computer scientist is the Bit Twiddler.

The geek code is a series of letters and symbols used by self-described geeks to inform fellow geeks about their personality and opinions. Everything that makes a geek individual and different from all the other geeks in the world can be encoded in this very compact format, quite like an internet address.