The word ‘geek’ is an increasingly positive one in today’s society. From debates about what exactly separates a geek from a nerd to Best Buy literally naming their tech support department the “Geek Squad”, it’s obvious that geeks are having a moment.
But where did geeks even come from, and how did they evolve to this point? The word “geek” actually first appears in the 16th century, when it had quite a different connotation than it does today. It originally meant “fool”, and is thought to have related to circus performers who bit the heads off of live chickens.
Luckily, today’s geeks generally have tamer and less PETA-enraging hobbies. In the 1950s, people started referring to those with a particular interest in technology as ‘geeks’, and from there all sorts of geek types began to evolve. Soon we saw an appearance of “music geeks” who delve into unheard-of musical genres, “otaku geeks” who devote their time to Japanese comic books, or the even-more-specific geek types who focus on a particular piece of entertainment (like Star Wars or Star Trek).
Nowadays, ‘geek’ carries much less of a negative connotation than it did in the past, perhaps as areas of geeky interest expand past traditionally solo activities and into social spheres like food or theatre. There are even cool geeks who epitomized geek-chic such as fake, oversized glasses and scruffy hair. Clearly, the geeks shall inherit.834