November 19, 2003

More Geek Talk

Posted by shonk at 02:19 AM in Geek Talk | TrackBack

Petya says "geeks rock! more geeks!", so I'm obliging (and using the opportunity to dredge my Geek Talk post up from the archives).

First off, I'm somewhat amused by the etymology of the term:

Geek is actually a very old word. It is a variant of geck, a term of Low German/Dutch origin that dates in English to 1511. It means a fool, simpleton, or dupe.
Later, in 19th century American usage, the connotation of offensive and undesirable is added and then, in 1928, it starts being used to describe "a sideshow performer who bites the heads off chickens or snakes." How "geek" came to mean what it does today, I have no idea (man I miss having free access to the OED).

If you're looking to broadcast your geekdom to the world, you definitely need to start adding Geek Code to your e-mail signature. Of course, if you ever e-mail non-geeks, you might want to only use that sig selectively. The first time I saw a geek code block on someone's message board signature, I was mightily confused. And then immediately started trying to decrypt it instead of just googling. Which probably says something about me.

If your decryption skills aren't up to snuff, you can, of course, cheat.

As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't get much geekier than this: Today, a friend of mine referred to this Strong Bad song as a "canonical techno song". Without planning to.

Right now, I just know you're saying "huh?" You have to understand, "canonical" is a word very near and dear to the mathematician's heart. It is simultaneously very specific and very general and, as one professor said in lecture earlier this year: "There's no good definition for 'canonical'. You can't be taught how to use the term. But does have a very concrete meaning and once you've been around mathematics enough, it's easy to tell what is canonical and what isn't." Somehow, I don't think he was talking about techno songs.

Of course, it gets really scary when you start using terms like "isomorphic" in everyday speech. And yes, I've heard it done.