Gaming ‘Geeks’ and Other Choice Insults – What Do They Really Mean?

Back in the 1980s, the computer nerd or gaming geek was a phrase everyone was familiar with. It conjured up a certain image: Male, bespectacled, poor social skills, worse complexion. And most of all, someone who spent hours of every day staring at a computer screen.

How does that translate into the 21st century smartphone age? And what exactly is a nerd or a geek? Perhaps you always thought of yourself as more of a dork anyway? Let’s try to find out more.


A generation of online gaming geeks?


If staring at a screen is a sign of geekiness, it could be argued that in the modern digital era, we must all be guilty, and to a far greater extent than any 1980s teenager. Today, we are likely to go into a cold sweat if we are separated from our smartphones for more than a few minutes. And it is not all about communicating with friends or checking the stock market, either. A look at the TV ads or the list of sites on shows the sheer scale of online gaming and casino sites that have become one of our favorite pastimes.

Of course, if we want to find out whether that really makes us all geeks and nerds, or even dorks, we had better see if we can work out what the terms really mean.



The word came into common parlance in the travelling fairs that toured Europe in the mid 1700s. It is essentially derived from the German word geck meaning “fool,” and is also related to the English word “freak.” It was used to describe the bizarre human attractions that people would queue up to see – these were the guys who used to bite the heads off live chickens long before Alice Cooper prompted one of the classic fake news stories of the 1960s.



This is actually a somewhat bizarre one. The first known usage of the word was in the Dr Seuss book If I Ran the Zoo and described an irritable-looking human-like creature with messy hair. What makes it strange is that it was so quickly adopted as a common phrase for – well, for a nerd, as we think of one today. One thing is for sure, though: on reflection, it definitely seems better to be a nerd than a geek.



Another insult that will strike a chord with those who remember the 80s, Dork was the word of choice among teenagers in films and TV shows of the era and became no less common in the playground. The first and last letter give a clue to the derivation, and the consensus in etymological circles is that it definitely started out as yet another term for the male member. That was certainly the context when it was used in Jere Peacock’s 1961 novel Valhalla, although he gave it a grandiose nature with the spelling “dorque.” Somehow, it definitely sounds more sophisticated to be a dorque than a dork.

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