Friday, November 16, 2012

The geeks shall inherit the earth

Sheldon Cooper - reclaiming 'nerd' and 'geek'?
In good news for nerds and geeks and those caught somewhere in the middle - neeks - Big Bang Theory has returned to E4's screens. But in even better news, the words themselves seem to have gone through a process of amelioration, gaining positive semantic associations from their initially rather negative origins.

In this piece for the BBC News Magazine, the history of the words is outlined and examined by lexo-boffins and neologo- nerds, who tell us that the words are subtly different in their meanings and even carry different connotations depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on:

It's easy to argue that "nerd" and "geek", with their very different roots, retain different meanings, arguably with the former still more derogatory than the latter. And some see a transatlantic divide, with "geek" used in US and UK, but "nerd" somehow feeling less British.

And as the writer of the article, Kathryn Westcott, goes on to say, the gradual shifts in meaning are not a new occurrence in language. Yesterday, we looked at the word yid and its changing meanings to Jews and non-Jews, and in other posts over the years, we've considered queer, nigger, slut and bitch. Are geeks and nerds now reclaiming these once-negative labels and marching proudly under their new banner out of the labs and libraries and into the mainstream?

No comments: