The strange Origin of Gadget Terms

Posted by admin on Jul 6, 2011 in geekery, lists, technology

‘Names are an important key to what a society values.  Anthropologists recognize naming as one of the chief methods for imposing order on perception,’ said David  Slawson, and this holds true to most things in society. A name denotes place, culture, idea- and the likes of Gucci and Manolo Blahnik have profited by associating their name with an idea of luxury and quality. Many of us willingly use names without any idea of the origins of the words, and as many words have a rich cultural history, I wanted to examine the etymology of some of the most commonly used gadget terms. Technology is a rich landscape of strange beginnings- did you know that the term mouse was created as the peripheral chased an ‘on screen cat or that boondoggle can be used to refer to your gadgets?

Read on to discover the origins of Top Ten technology terms.

1. Geek

People use the term geek to denote many things nowadays, from people who wear glasses to those who have an uncanny knowledge about the ISO ratings on cameras. Add tech know how to that list, an in depth knowledge of sci-fi, and well, you see where I’m going here. The origin of the word is a little stranger though, with its roots in 1916 USA slang, where the term referred to a ‘sideshow freak’ who was well known for biting the heads of chickens. Yes, chickens.

The word also has roots back in 1510 where it was an imitative verb in Scandinavian which meant to ‘mock and cheat’. Quite how chicken biting sideshows artists and Scandinavian cheaters turned into the modern day geek I’m unsure- perhaps just a predilection for the unusual?

2. Gamer

The term gamer is synonymous nowadays with XBOX/Playstation/Warcraft addicts, but it has really only had this association since 1999. The word is a shortened version of Gamester, with the first recording of this term being in 1590. It didn’t mean someone who was particularly good at egg and spoon,  but rather a prostitute. You could read into this that prostitution was ‘the first game ever played’, or that they were ‘game’ for anything. It later was used to refer to gambling, and so we learn the seedy past of today’s mainstream term.

(It was also sometimes used to refer to a swan keeper which is a nicer way to look at it…). Read more…

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