We should coin a name for non-geeks

I’ve been thinking that we should come up with a name that would collectively describe non-geeks. The mainstream culture already has a label which they can use to refer to us and the things we like. They can say “geeks” or “geek culture” and everyone knows (or pretends to know) what they are referring too. I noticed that we don’t have a word like that to describe them – the people outside out circle of interests.

You know who I’m talking about, right? The simple folks who are easily confounded by technology and keep insisting that you fix them computer. People who think that software engineer, web developer and systems administrator are just fancy names for a “PC Technician”. People who actually enjoy watching all these horrid Reality TV shows. People who won’t watch a show or a movie if it is labeled as Science Fiction, but love shit like LOST (which is pure time traveling SF lately). People who have never actually even seen a RPG rulebook but who think it is stupid because they once saw a D&D game unfavorably depicted on some sitcom.

We could collectively refer to them as “the mainstream society” but that’s a bit unwieldy. It would be best to have a short word we could apply to them – just like geek applies to us. Of course it does not have to have a negative connotation either – cause we don’t want to be elitist or anything.

I mentioned this to a few people and we came up with a list of words that could apply here. Someone brought up the term Muggle as a primary candidate. My initial instinct is to reject it though, because it was popularized by J. K. Rowling. The term Muggle refers to a non-wizard in the Harry Potter universe. It is really a very close match to what we are looking for and some people have started to use this word to describe non-geeks. Sadly, I feel the term is a bit inappropriate. There is nothing more mainstream than Harry Potter books and movies. I mean that is all these people read. Well, that and Twilight.

J. K. Rowling books are so popular because they appeal to the lowest common denominator. I’d describe them as mediocre at best. I do see the irony of using a term found in such a book to the mainstream society as a whole. But I don’t like the fact that the word is so tightly associated with Harry Potter fandom.

Another suggestion was to call them Norms, normies or Normans. I don’t like it because it suggests that it is not normal to be a geek. That’s not the type of message I can really get behind.

A slightly better word in the same vein is Mundanes. Unlike “Norm” it actually casts a positive light at us geeks. It suggests that we are extraordinary and exceptional. Mainstream people are simply average, uninteresting and not special the way we are. It underlines the main difference between a geek and non-geek. A geek embraces technology, thrives on new ideas and dares to dream. A non-geek tends to be satisfied by the status quo and stays away from things that he/she does not understand.

Still, I’m not 100% happy with it. The slight negative connotation will probably prevent it from being widely adopted.

Here is my idea – and I’m just throwing it out there knowing full well that it won’t actually catch on – Streamers. Just think about it, it works on multiple levels:

  1. It’s actually a shortened version of “mainstreamer” (which is not actually a word, but who cares)
  2. Indicates a person who follows of flows with a stream (or direction) of thought
  3. Rhymes with “dreamers” which sort of suggests the nature of their condition – the mainstream people are captivated by their own fabricated dream filled by Hollywood gossip and biased, non-journalistic, ratings driven media reporting.

    The White Wolf Mage games used to label the non-mages as “sleepers”. In that world everyone was capable of magic, but only certain people would “awaken” and discover their magical potential. The same may be said about being a geek – anyone has a potential for it, but only certain people actually embrace that side of their personality.

  4. It sort of has a cool ring to it – so people might not even get offended by it

It also could allow us to create brand new phraseology to go with it. Let me give you some examples:

in-stream – a geek thing that became accepted or embraced by the mainstream culture. A good examples of stuff like that are Twitter or Rick Rolling. Both originated as geek-only past times, but crossed over to popular culture and are often discussed in mainstream media.

out-stream – any in-joke or technology so far removed from mainstream that it won’t be understood by an average “streamer” without an in-depth explanation. Examples would be obscure internet memes or stuff like emacs vs vi arguments.

What do you think? Do you like any of the terms above? Do you think we actually need a word to describe non-geeks? If you have an idea on how to name them, I’d love to hear it in the comments!

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38 Responses to We should coin a name for non-geeks

  1. mcai8sh4 UNITED KINGDOM Opera Linux Terminalist says:

    I quite like streamers, having not thought long about this subject, I’m yet to come up with a better idea – this should’ve been one of your Friday polls.
    How about ‘feeders’ as their way of live is built almost entirely on the product of geeks. Actually I prefer ‘streamers’ – but still not 100% sure about it.
    I’ve always looked at it like this :
    The reasonable man adapts himself to his surroundings. The unreasonable man adapts his surroundings to suit him – therefore all progress depends upon the unreasonable man. (I forget who I’m quoting there) So ‘Reasonables’ seems… well, reasonable! (but too long a word)
    ‘TIMOTS’ – Technologially Inept Members Of Todays Society.
    ‘Primitives’ – too derogatory.
    I don’t know. You’re right though, there should be a ‘label’ for them.
    (I’m liking streamers the more I think about it).

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  2. dronePrime UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    If you name something, you give it power.
    I prefer to leave the nomenclature out of it all together.

    You don’t ‘name’ cattle.

    Btw: Thanks for that RAMDISK post :D

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  3. Artied IRELAND PHP says:

    When did we stop calling them ‘dweebs’……..

    Rhyming with that – i suggest ‘tweeds’ – old fashioned stiff rough traditional non innovating……

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  4. Neil AUSTRALIA Opera Linux says:

    I like Sheeple.

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  5. César ARGENTINA Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    “Streamer” is OK. May I suggest you also consider: “Sleeper”, as opposed to “Awakened” (reserved for a Geek)?
    Sleeper is also reminiscent of Woody Allen’s film “Sleeper”, based on the H. G. Wells novel “The Sleeper Awakes”.

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  6. Zel FRANCE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Well, since we’re talking about putting labels on people, you mention that all “streamers” have different views on what is a geek, but I think the same is true within the “community” itself. What do you think defines you as a “geek” ?

    Assuming we’re talking about people within a circle of interest, where would you draw the line of “geekness” ? Does it include people with an small interest for computers ? Are only those with basic technical knowledge concerned ? Is it defined by time spent on a computer ? Do people who spend most on their free time on facebook/twitter count as well ?

    Only with a clear line defined, can we then start talking about the commonalities and differences for geeks and non-geeks and find an appropriate term for the latter.

    About “streamers”, some notes :
    1) someone who doesn’t use a computer regularly doesn’t have to be in front of TV 24/7, watch Lost and Survivor, read the latest J.K. Rowling and follow the mainstream. Just like not every ‘geek’ can code in assembly, build computer from spare parts and create a website in a few seconds (but then again, it depends on the definition). I think it would be good if we could somehow get rid of the clichés.
    2) streamer is too close to streaming in my opinion, which may be linked to youtube or other streaming video site users.
    3) about point 4, you suggest people should be offended by the name ? I thought you said it should not be pejorative.

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  7. jambarama UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Mundanes doesn’t really ring well with me, but that would permit us to call them mundies. It has some nice synergy with fundies.

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  8. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @dronePrime: Oh, you have a point there. :)

    @Zel: Excellent question Zel – and one that is difficult to answer. We could sit here all day and try to group people by interests, skill levels, etc and I think we would not reach an agreement on what does it mean to be a “geek”.

    I use a much easier method – self determination.

    Do you consider yourself a geek?
    Do people constantly tell you you are a geek?
    Do you usually hang out with geeky people?

    If you think you are a geek, then you are one. If you think you are not a geek, if people around you don’t consider you a geek and if you don’t have geek friends then you are probably not a geek.

    There – not an exact definition, but a workable one.

    To answer your questions about my personal definition: no, someone who spends all day on Facebook or Twitter doesn’t count. I know people who do this but would get offended if I called them geeks or associated them with “geek culture”. Also, if I asked other people about them, “geek” would be the last thing anyone would say to describe them.

    In similar vain, Shaq or Oprah are not geeks just because they have Twitter accounts.

    And yes, I think you can be a geek without being a hacker or even particularly good at computers.

    In #4 I’m not saying people should be offended by it. I said, streamers sounds sort of cool and relatively in-offensive as compared to some of the other alternatives. I mean, lets face it – some of the other terms I listed had some negative cannotation.

    Also, the term Geek itself was originally coined to be used as an insult. So I guess there is no getting away from this.

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  9. Square UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    Myself? I tend to refer to them as idiots.
    Obviously, I say it in a way that doesn’t imply contempt but more as a pet name. Nowadays, people are used to it and, when hearing it from me, treat it as such.

    Side note: Idiot can roughly mean ‘zombie’ in German.

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  10. Max ITALY Mozilla Firefox Debian GNU/Linux says:

    Each country may have its definition of non-geek people.
    In my country, Italy, we use to call these people utonti, which stands for users (utenti) and stupid (tonti), it is straight to the point.
    Maybe the word lusers is what resemble the most this joke.

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  11. mark BRAZIL Opera Linux says:

    dude, your article is somewhat amusing, but off-centered. i am not a geek, but if i can add an idea. i used to call my brother-in-law spongy ( before spongebob existed ) because he always abosrbed from all others without making any contributions.

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  12. Jaded Judas UNITED STATES Konqueror Debian GNU/Linux says:

    Square:

    I agree with the “idiots” idea.
    Actually, I was intending to suggest “idiots”, but I noted that you had beat me to it.
    It seems to me that when non-geeks use the term “geek” it is meant in a derogatory manner, so why be hesitant to participate in the arena that the idiots have chosen?

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  13. Malachite UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Im with the BOFH on this one; the really inept get the “Luser” tag.

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  14. Streamers sounds excellent, although I’d give the very inept individuals the title of TIMOTS, like mcai8sh4 suggests.

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  15. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    There’s just something very wrong with this. Why can’t we all just get along? :P

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  16. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Max: Interesting. Polish equivalent of luser is a bit more awkward: urzyszkodnik – a combination of urzytkownik (user) and szkodnik (pest).

    Btw, luser is actually kinda specific describing a very particular subgroup of people: techno-idiots. I think that you can be semi-competent at using your computer (ie. not a luser) without actually being a geek. So in my mind non-geek != luser.

    @Mart: Human nature? The “us against them” mentality seems to be hard wired. It is only natural for people to gather in groups that share common interest for mutual support.

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  17. Tino UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    First thing I thought when I read your title was ‘strag’ (from Hitchhikers’, google strag+towel…); but according to urban dictionary it has a much worse meaning. Is this something people recognize, or is it just UD vandalism?

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  18. Hey I don’t want to put a kink in your party, but…
    Streamers.com is already taken so we can’t use it :P

    If we really wanted to band together to create a new word for them, we would have to use the power of the Internet to spread that word.

    We create a website lusers.com (already taken as well mind you), then go on a massive DIGG, TWITTER, and FACEBOOK canvassing tour. Making “our people” know that the tides have changed.

    So, close, but no cigar!

    why not use a cool web 2.0y name:

    miiple (me people, people who are concerned with themselfs)
    Lerds (new nerds?)
    MUNDOOs (Mundanes?)

    just some suggestions.

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  19. Wikke BELGIUM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    What about Ord? (Ordinary Hordes) or Orde?

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  20. eet GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    If you use a term that is oblivious to those non-geeks then you are perceived all the more as geeky. No, non-geeks should understand that the term is coined for them and that you are not taking yourself too serously.

    That is why I immensely like ‘muggles’; that was my first idea, too. Other than that, there’s immense potential for striking up a conversation by using the term ‘humans’.

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  21. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Debian GNU/Linux Terminalist says:

    My definition of a geek was always of someone who was much interested in computer technology; Somewhat like those star trek or WoW nerds (who know everything about that universe because they spend much free time learning about it) but related to computer technologies like programming, hardware, SO admin, etc.
    Most of my colleagues from CS course can program, but they’re not geeks, ’cause they’re not really interested in that stuff, they just want to have a degree on something that pays.
    I think it’s kind of sad, really.

    As for a name for non-geeks, Streamer recalls much more streaming than stream of people – ’cause I’m a geek, I suppose :P
    Besides, there are many people who thinks the blue E is Internet but on the same time they’re not “sleepers” or “self-absorved” people – just have interest in other stuff.

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  22. Mahfaan UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Why not use ‘human beings’? That term would make the distinction quite clear.

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  23. Morghan UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Debian GNU/Linux says:

    ID-Ten-T variant maybe? tintees?

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  24. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Travis McCrea: Btw, streamers.com is a mighty ugly website.

    If we want to go with a web 2.0 theme we can just drop some vowels:

    For example strmrs.com is not taken yet. ;)

    Heh, I’m pretty sure Nintendo trademarked the word miiple at some point – and if they didn’t, it still makes me think about the Wii.

    @IceBrain: It seems that everyon has a different definition of what exactly is a geek. Hence my self-determination classification.

    @Mahfaan: Interesting thing here is to consider what exactly makes one human. You could say that humanity can be determined at biological level. Test the DNA and you know you got a human being or not. But the more I think about it, the more this definition of humanity seems flawed and incomplete.

    I could go on, but I think this is a topic that warrants it’s own blog post. Thank you sir, your trollin’ was quite thought provoking!

    @Morghan: Hehe, I sort of like this 10T designation. We could call them ten-tees. But it is still a bit too derogatory – and also rather specific just like luser.

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  25. Steve CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Why not just call them “muggles” and have done with it? :) I mean “geeks = wizards” as far as they know. Hell, it all seems like magic to the muggles out there.

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  26. David Gerard UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Linux says:

    “People who will reproduce.”

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  27. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @David Gerard: Yeah, I know – I watched Idiocracy too and the scary part is that while silly, it is an eerily prophetic movie.

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  28. @Luke Maciak

    I think that we could also just go old school and call them “Poppies” or the “pops”, the popular people.

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  29. @Travis McCrea: Or those who follow pop culture, etc.

    I hate the unchecked followup button btw :)

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  30. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @eet: True, at least they will understand “Muggle”. Well, either that, or they will consider us Harry Potter fanatic. I rather be a regular geek, than be mistaken for a Harry Potter geek. :)

    @Travis McCrea: LOL. The first time around I read it as “poopies” :P

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  31. @Luke Maciak:
    :) Terminally Incoherent – Letting out your “other” maturity levels since 2003!

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  32. Todd UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    We have always called them technotards. In fact, one of our technotards actually came up with the name.

    Todd

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  33. Ian Clifton UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    They’re just passive luddites… or maybe lazy luddites… el-els ;) They’ll probably think you’re calling them LL Cool J or something and be happy about it.

    So far I like tentees the most.

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  34. sam UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    IMO Streamers, although appropriate, sounds like something positive, and we shouldn’t reward technical ignorance with a positive name. It should be slightly derogatory – or it’s no fun to call anyone one.

    Norm
    Mundo
    Gumby
    Gonk
    Bogon
    Spod
    Peon
    Droid
    Trog
    Tourist
    Weeble
    Zombie
    Waldo

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  35. Mack UNITED KINGDOM Safari Mac OS says:

    It appears you’ve written this article under the misconception that if you’re not a geek, you’re mainstream, and vice versa, without really giving any consideration to any other cultural groups built around a shared skill or idea (Although, admittedly they are few and far between nowdays) that reject or are distinctive from mainstream culture.

    I think the old cop abbeviation NORP is plausible as a phrase only it doesn’t quite work because NORPs don’t necessarily buy into mainstream culture.

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  36. Aspiring Geek UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows says:

    I think that if the term originally started using for us was meant to be derogatory the term we use should be derogatory, but not to the degree where it is offensive. Someone referred to the term “Dweeb;” I have to side with him because it is a term that already exists that has slight negative connotations, so the only thing to do would be to make the use of it common enough that we can narrow the definition down (similar to what happened with the term “geek” which used to be a more generic insult rather than just referring to a sub-cultural similar interest group). Streamers sounds like a compliment to me, so I am slightly opposed just on principal (no offence Luke as you probably put quit a bit of thought into it; I have quite enjoyed reading your posts, and decided to comment on this one because it seemed relevant to my life).

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  37. sheezheer UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    dweeb… my kids would say it dates me. muggle… my kids know they’re ordinary. how about using what we do best and use “NAG”… Nnot Aa Ggeek. Don’t they do a lot of complaining (nagging)? After all, why do we use those pesky little nag screens that annoy the enlightened and inform the user illiterates? LOL

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  38. Natrinicle UNITED STATES Google Chrome Linux says:

    I tend to refer to them as luddites simply due to the fact that they seem not to want to learn as far as they can get away with it.

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