[ASC-list] insult or compliment

Phillip Arena P.Arena at murdoch.edu.au
Mon Aug 29 02:34:36 UTC 2011


I've been called a 'Greenie' (am proud of that), a 'Geek' (which I feel means I'm able to cope with technology that befuddles others), a Boffin (originally had to look that one up decades ago, but happy with it) and occasionally a 'Nerd' (I just laugh at that one). Yes, it's the context. When I was told that using 'blackboy' for Xanthorrhoea was offensive to Aboriginals - I asked a few Aboriginal colleagues and folk I'd meet while working 'out bush'; their response, "We call 'em blackboys, what do you call 'em?" It's the context. 


-----Original Message-----
From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au on behalf of Charles Willock
Sent: Mon 8/29/2011 10:18 AM
To: Abigail Thomas
Cc: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au; Charles Willock
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] insult or compliment

Hi Abbie/All

On Mon, Aug 29, 2011 at 11:02:52AM +1000, Abigail Thomas wrote:
> It has recently been suggested that the terms 'geek' and
> 'nerd' (to describe someone interested in or working in science)
> are offensive.  I tend to lean rather towards them being terms of
> affection.  What do you think?

Likely different 

  o.  wrt location - WA and SA might be different than Victoria 
      and NSW.   (eg the word 'ratbag' is used with considerable
      affection in WA, but seems to be used much less favourably
      in NSW).

  o.  wrt age demographic - Gen Y may differentiate between the 
      groups more than BBs.  

  o.  gender would appear to be a factor ... maybe girls use the 
      terms more often as a putdown while boys use them more with 
They might also be used interchangeably ... :)    

A more definitive answer would come from looking at what are
called "collocations" - words which tend to be juxtaposed
(eg "red wine" forms a collocation pair of 'red' and 'wine'
whereas "vermillion wine" does not).

Eg  'geek' may be more linked with 'computer geek' and 
'nerd' with 'science nerd' (or the other way around)  

All that isn't as difficult or nerdy/geeky as it might seem.  
There would be people who compile Macquarie dictionary (at 
Macquarie) or the Oxford (at ANU).  

ALTA (Australasian Language Technology Association) ... kinda
like ASC but for linguists should be able to point you to a 
number of experts on the subject


Since both those words are high profile additions to popular usage,
and those sort of questions can be readily answered by Corpus
Linguists using computers, those answers may be readily available.

A less formal sampling can be found at the Urban Dictionary:



> Abbie Thomas
> program maker
> www.abc.net.au/science
> ABC Adelaide
> 08 83434032
> _______________________________________________
> ASC-list mailing list
> list at asc.asn.au
> http://www.asc.asn.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=97&Itemid=115

      "Creativity and innovation are measured not by what is done, 
           but by what could have been done ... but wasn't"

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Charles Willock                                 charlesw at cse.unsw.edu.au
c/- School of Computer Science and Engineering       
University of New South Wales,                  
New South Wales  Australia  2052    http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~charlesw

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