Geek

Everyone knows what a geek is. It’s someone who is maybe a little bit strange but smart and knows computers, computer programming and is a master of the internet. Geeks may not have much in the way of social skills, but they are terrific with technology. That’s the prevailing view and that has developed over the last decade or two. Geek history is a bit more complicated than that. A century ago when it was still acceptable for circuses to have sideshows that included “freak show” aspects, geeks were carny people. The freak shows exhibited people with deformities and appealed to people’s fascination for the odd and the peculiar. Geeks were people, usually men, who did outrageous acts, the most famous of which was biting the heads off live chickens. Whether any geek ever did that, or not, is unknown, but that’s the legend. For many years the word “geek” was rare but was sometimes used to describe people thought of as weird. “Geek” made the transition from describing a strange person behaving strangely to describing a somewhat strange person but in an admirable way. How that happened is one of the mysteries of language change.

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