Thursday, July 12, 2012

What's a "geek"

Theres a computer repair company that runs around town with "Geek Squad" in big letters all over over it. Its become acceptable to refer to anyone who knows computers well as "geeks."
The term makes me cringe because I know the original meaning for a "geek" and it wasn't about computers.

Anyone unfamiliar with the term “geek” should seek out and read William Lindsay Gresham’s now-classic 1946 novel, NIGHTMARE ALLEY, for the most chillingly accurate description ever set in type. A geek is usually a wetbrain; that is, a young or old man so far gone into alcoholism that his brain has turned to prune-whip yogurt. When he sweats, he sweats sour mash. A gilly locates a skid in whatever town it’s in, and carries him to the next stop, and as many stops as it can get out of him before he dies or wanders off. For the splendid honorarium of a bottle of gin or two a day, the skid will dress in an animal skin, go without shaving, sleep in a cage, and on cue wallow in his own filth, eat dead snakes, bit the head off live chickens. No reputable carny will carry a geek. It is a terrible thing. It plays to the basest hungers and most primal fears in the human repertory. Anyone who could derive enjoyment from watching a debased creature, seemingly only half human, scuttling across the floor of a foul, stinking pit or pen, smearing itself with feces, rubbing its privates on the gnawed skin of a dead rattlesnake, moaning and rolling its eyes as it devolved before one’s eyes, reverting to a stage of subhuman existence not even Cro-Magnons knew… such a person is beneath contempt, lower even that the poor bastard in that cage.

Harlan Ellison, STALKING THE NIGHTMARE; Berkeley Books, New York; 1982 page 300.

I'm not so sure if that company really knew what the word  "geek" meanst they'd advertise it on their trucks.


Mysterious man from the Shadows said...

Wow, never knew that. Wonder how it got to mean someone who uses computers too much.

P M Prescott said...

I guess they got tired of calling them nerds and looked for another derogatory word.