Do You Speek Geek? The Great Geek/Muggle Language Barrier (Full Moon Special #11)

Geek language barrier

The other day, one of my geeky colleagues (currently I’ve got but three) dropped by at the children’s department and we undertook a few minutes long chit-chat about random stuff (such as, what’s that you’ve got printed on your shirt – oh, it’s that and that fandom because of this and that ship – etc.). Another colleague stood by, silently smiling, and afterwards noted that she had no idea what language we were speaking. Sure, it might’ve been a generation thing (there’s always “the generation thing”), but still – it got me wondering.

Brainstorming things in my head, compiling differences and similarities with conversations I have with other geeks – and, even more important, non-geeks – I got to the conclusion that, to be truly fluent in Geek, one must be aware of some of the following.

#1 Trendmakers are kings

This is the part which often beats me, since FB and a random choice of blogs is basically all the reading I do online (sure, there are the innumerable fanfics, but still – it’s different). Every time I run into some weird tag over at Ao3 (which got created organically somewhere in the depths of Tumblr or wherever the cool kids are hanging this very second), I get reminded, over and over again, that I have no idea about the current state of things in geeky fandoms. It only shows that even geeks speak a different dialect of Geek among themselves, and that the lingo keeps changing, always and ever, as organically as any other language. It’s not actually that strange that muggles regularly find themselves confused when listening in – even when you’re not trying to explain to them what steampunk or larping really is. The people most fluent in Geek are oftentimes those who not only have an abundance of geeky friends, but also know their way around the web’s current geeky locations. (Luckily, you don’t have to be one to be able to talk to them.)

#2 English words (and distorted versions of them) cover sometimes whole sentences in one’s mother tongue

In the olden days, people actually thought about translations and how to merge words of English origin into the current local languages (in print, the media and education) – nowadays it’s just a question of whether you’re going to put the word in italics or transcribe it (at least in Croatian, unfortunately). We use so much English that sometimes we just don’t bother trying to translate even that which is most translatable, using English terms instead. Non-geeks (that’s your official term for muggles, I suppose) are susceptible to this, too, but where I’m from, non-geeks tend to be at least a little bit less fluent with the language than, you know, us.

Geek terms and phrases

#3 Random characters and works count as real as what you had for lunch the other day

The discussion that left my muggle colleague confused included a few movie titles and character names, too, which sounded as weird to her as any regular term in Geek. Many geeks have at least a surface grasp of what’s currently being aired, what movies are coming out or have just come out, and the top x number of currently most popular books and/or video and board games. (Hell, even I know who Ezio is – it’s impossible to miss the top stuff over the years, even if you’re not interested in a particular fandom yourself.) All of the titles (and some of the characters) could probably be considered part of the Geek language as relevant as regular words and terms. Not to mention the innumerable ship names, Toast forbid…

#4 Digression upon digression (I call it IMDB love) is almost the norm when talking in Geek

It may be a personal quirk, I’ll give you that, but I’ve found that more often than not my geek discussion and coffee partners follow my weird train of thought easier than my muggle friends. It may be as simple as, say, understanding the transition from talking about Got to the Tudors to (allegedly non-geeky) Elementary to – maybe pushing it a bit, but November 20th is so frakkin close! – first Mockingjay movie in a manner of seconds. (If you’re a tv geek, you’ll know who the link is – and let me just say, Elementary was the first place I saw her as truly awesome as she really is.) On the other hand, it may be as obscure as going from Le Pacte des Loups to Xena to, let’s say, Legend of the Seeker (although the wonderful connection here should be a bit more popular, in my humble opinion). It’s not that uncommon to consult said IMDB and similar resources while having the discussion itself (or, dunno, watching Arrow), although I consider myself still perfectly capable of talking without said tools. It just… makes things easier. (Especially trivia bets!)

When geeks talk to each other...

#5 Not all geekery was created equal

We as geeks tend to be very sensitive as to which part of the current genre market we like, and which we don’t – it’s not uncommon to stay away from whole possible directions of a conversation beacuse of preciously realized differences in taste between friends. There are people who dabble in whole huge chunks of the market and stay the hell away from anything else – say, some of the hard-scifi-is-the-only-scifi people, and occasionally a manga/anime geek (although the kids in my library’s anime club seem to geek out literally everywhere, judging by fractions of their conversations). It is perfectly possible for two geeks to have a conversation in their mother tongue and never venture into Geek – it happens to me regularly with my family, who have read most of the stuff I’ve read, but seen only a fraction of what I’ve watched. It is also possible for two geeks to try talking ot each other and not understand each other at all… we’re all, luckily, humans first, geeks later. (At least we try to be.)

In the end, while talking about geeky stuff, I have a confession to make – posting “specials” under the golden hood of the Full Moon’s light is one of my favourite things about writing SnW. There’s posts that take hours to write (some even more – especially the five by five lists), and then there’s posts which I manage to sketch out in a matter of minutes. The one you’re just reading falls in the latter category, and although it took a while for it to get in the schedule (oh, yes, it’s been hanging around my cellphone notes for a little under two months now), I really had fun writing it. Geekery (and/or geekdom – your call) is, after all, a big part of my life – one of the reasons for the full moon appreciation thing I have going here in the first place – and it never tires me to enjoy all the geeky details hanging around, just waiting for someone to spot them and feel proud about them.

So, for this Full Moon, grab a geeky friend or two, ask them out for beer or coffee at your favourite place with swords or phasers hanging from the walls, and indulge yourself in a round of conversation no one around you will understand – that is, unless one of you feels merciful enough to translate for all the muggles out there. Happy Full Moon!

Photos from Rikon 2013 & Rikon 2014