Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What is a Geek?

No, I was not asking about a Greek. That is the guy with the funny alphabet that is not the Russian alphabet and still one of the alphabets of the West, those that read from left to right. It is the guy who drinks the same coffee as Turks and eats the same shish-kebab as Turks (except he sometimes uses porc, which Turks would not) and shoots with the same toufeki as Turks, but still calls it Greek coffee rather than Turkish coffee, Pita rather than Kebab, but, just to not be too harsh on Turks, calls his toufeki toufeki. Sometimes he has used it for shooting at Turks. Probably the chivalry between headstrong enemies has stopped him from renaming the toufeki. It is after all a memory of his sacred war against the Turks. It is in other words the guy who can be called Telly Savalas, because if he said "Aristotelis Savalas" everyone would know he was a Greek, and he would get no job in Hollywood. He did get that job and is generally known as Kojak. A Greek is the guy who ... is generally not a Geek. And this essay is about the Geek.

In Lithuanian the word does not exist. In schools you can be termed "moksliukas" and in life outside school "knygu grauzikas" (sorry for omitted diacritics above z and belown final u). But neither is Geek. A "moksliukas" enjoys studying or at least enjoys few things or things unknown to his comrades more than studying. A "moksliukas" will skip playing with comrades because he is still revising for the exam next hour or because he is still thrilled with the matter gone through during the history lesson last hour. A "moksliukas" may well be a geek, but a geek need not be moksliukas. And though moksliukai may well be geeks, they need not be that either.

A plain girl who reads a lot of love stories is of course as much a knygu grauzike as some geeks, but she is not a geek. And a geek who plays chess all day but cannot read is hardly a knygu grauzikas.

Geek and nerd are words occurring as descriptions possibly somewhat recently in history. They roughly mean something, they roughly mean the same thing, and geek is the lighter, nerd is the heavier version of that condition.

There is no such thing as a book geek, unless it means one could be librarian and knows all the famous books one has not yet read. Book is too general an interest for a geek. There is such a thing as a Tolkien Geek, lots of people read books and would yet not open Lord of the Rings even wearing rubber gloves. Wonder why? Well, it is typical for a Tolkien Geek to wonder why not every reading person has at least one book of JRRT among his ten favourite, and it is those others who brand him a Tolkien Geek.

Two things differentiate the interests of a geek: they involve fewer people (if the interest is quite as well or better handled on a stadium as around a table of four people or a table of two or alone, it is not a geeky interest), and they involve more technicalities, more things one should not mix up together if one is to get it (singing Christmas carols are not geeky, playing in a quartet is ... sorry, that was not nice to whoever is to play my string quartets, and of course composing without actually playing is even geekier).

If you are a manga geek, animé geek or cosplay geek, and if you are Japanese, you are called an otaku. If you are any or all of these and not Japanese, you are welcome news to Japanese otakus because that means one can be geek about those things without being an otaku ... even if that is only because you have to be Japanese to be called otaku - unless you have friends over here who are as much Japan minded and therefore resume "manga, animé and cosplay geek" as "otaku".

The original geek is actually the computer geek back from the eighties. And it is because the eighties were a rougher period than the decades before that geek is a harsher word than the older bookworm. And it is because books were already very commonplace that being a book reader with avidity is no longer in itself enough to stamp you as a geek, and that the kind of narrowness in interest we speak of is generally not referred to the general category of using books.

Did I mention I was a Grammar Geek? Not to be confounded with Grammar Fascist: that is a guy who corrects every attempt of using his own language which does not live up to his standards of correctness. Far different, the Grammar Geek actually enjoys finding out there is a German dialect where Dative is used for Accusative too, and the fact that Greek has alternative forms for some Comparatives. And a Grammar Geek loves the fact - to return to the Greek - that modern Greek uses Genitive for Dative. And of course he can read Latin Alphabet, pronounce fairly correctly most orthographic usages of it (Swedish and Lithuanian being for instance pretty different), as well as Russian and Greek Alphabets.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Bibl. Audoux, Paris

PS, with Corrections and Completing Info.

If a Hamburger Bread contains a Hamburger, if a Hot Dog Bread contains a Hot Dog, a Pita Bread often enough contains a Gyros. Feel free to pronounce it Yeeros, the Greeks do. It all falls into place if you consider that:
  • breads are not always named after whatever you put into them,
  • Gyros means it turns around, like kebab - or gyros - does close to the source of heat, whether a fire or, as often today, some glowing and thick electric conductors.

So much for the correction. Complementary info about moksliukas and knygų graužikas is that:
  • you pronounce them "mawks look us" and "kneegoo grou zhickus",
  • the one means someone who studies or learns a lot, the other means "rodent of books".

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