Gaeilge (Atari)
Gaeilge (Atari)

I was recently asked if there is an Irish word that is the equivalent of the Anglo-American term Geek or its Japanese near-equivalent Otaku (おたく/オタクおたく/オタク). I couldn’t think of anything unless one went for something like a crude Gaelicisation of the originals in the form of Geic (?) or Odacú (?). Then I remembered the Irish and Scottish literary genre of aislingí (“dreams, visions”),  stories and narrative poems that began in the Medieval period with mythological or ecclesiastical tales and which later developed a more political edge in the turbulent 17th and 18th centuries. Though principally focused on interactions with or expressions of the Otherworldly it often bore a commentary on current events. In this context the Irish word aislingeach, which means “dreamer, day-dreamer; visionary”, seemed a suitable equivalent for geek. A bit clunky though, given the subject matter.

Could others come up with a better or more organic term?

[Update]: Thanks to Méabh in Nua Eabhrac who claims that Aislingeach is too long and established as a word. It needs to be something (and I quote) “…with vocal punch” and a neologism to boot. I agree.

[Update]: Pól offers up on Facebook the word teicnóg for geek or geek culture. You could gloss that as “young-tech” which I kinda like. A lot! Though should it be teicóg?

[Update]: Well it seems that “officially” the Irish language does have an equivalent for the word Geek. It is Geocach which is “geoc-” (geek) with the “-ach” ending to make it a thing (in this case a person). To my ears it sounds rather unappealing and judging by the reaction it seems I’m not the only one.

So far on Facebook the suggested term Teicóg (loosely “young-tech”) is gathering some favour. So that would give us:

Teicóg = geek culture
Teicógach = a geek
Teicógaigh = geeks

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17 comments on “An Irish Equivalent For Geek Or Otaku?

    • Interesting suggestions. I think the idea that it should be a “futuristic” or innovative word has some merit. Just rolling “teicnóg” around the tongue it somehow seems like a real word. One that already exists. I think it might have more appeal on a sort of manga/anime/geek/nerd spectrum. I would (tentatively) suggest this:

      Teicnóg = geek culture
      Teicnógach = a geek
      Teicnógaigh = geeks

    • Focal.ie gives “geocach” which is geoc with the -ach ending. A Gaelicisation but a somewhat unappealing one. I wouldn’t want to be called a “Geocach” 😦

      • an lorcánach

        a geoc sounds like a squealer – perhaps neutered or a confirmed bachelor :p

        http://breis.focloir.ie/en/fgb/geoc
        http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/77280

        • Yikes! I knew there was something wrong with that word. Someone in the Oireachtas translation section has a sense of humour?! 😉

        • an lorcánach

          oed subscription based – missed that! – here’s the entry 😉
          http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/77280

          geck, n.1

          Forms: 15 geke, 16 gecke, 15, 18 geck ( geek).
          Etymology: apparently < Low German geck, = Middle Dutch gec(k , ghec(k , Dutch gek adjective and noun; related (either as source or derivative) to gecken geck v. From Low German the word passed into the High German dialects, Middle High German geck(e, German geck, and into Scandinavian, Danish gjæk, Swedish gäck, Norwegian gjekk, ? Icelandic gikkr.

          A fool, simpleton; one who is befooled or derided, a dupe.

          c1530 A. Barclay Egloges i. sig. Ciijv, He is a fole, a sot and a geke also Which choseth..the worst [way], and moost of Jeopardy.
          a1616 Shakespeare Twelfth Night (1623) v. i. 340 Why haue you suffer'd me to be imprison'd..And made the most notorious gecke and gull That ere inuention plaid on?
          a1616 Shakespeare Cymbeline (1623) v. v. 161 To become the geeke [sic] and scorne o' th' others vilany.
          1859 ‘G. Eliot’ Adam Bede I. i. ix. 180 Where's the use of a woman having brains..if she's tackled to a geck as everybody's a-laughing at?
          1876 F. K. Robinson Gloss. Words Whitby, Gawk, Geek, Gowk or Gowky, a fool; a person uncultivated; a dupe

  1. Denis King, author of Nótaí Imill, has suggested the following:

    Gíc = Geek
    Gíceanna = Geeks

  2. Otaku is derived from a Japanese term for another person’s house or family, and apparently translates literally as a disrespectful “you” (or so the internet informs me; I don’t speak/read Japanese).
    This isn’t really applicable to Irish translation, as far as I can see.

    Geek was originally a term meaning fool (all translations are probably too pejorative) or freak (which Focal.ie Gaelicises as “fraeic”) though.

    Short of ‘gíc’ or ‘gaeic’ (Gaelicisations) or ‘geek’ (straight-up loanword, which I’d advise if it weren’t for the peculiar position of Irish in the state), these aren’t terms that translate properly anyway.

    Otaku has no common origin with geek or nerd (which Focal.ie considers synonymous with pedant, that is ‘saoithín’ or little wiseperson) because these are words that developed in a separate cultural context and were originally pejorative (personally, I don’t use these terms in English if I can avoid them, not simply because they are pejorative but more importantly because they are vague).

    Teicóg is a good word to describe a subculture tied to technology but what of other things traditionally tied to the (infuriatingly vague) “geek”?

    • Yep, all true. Unfortunately the term Geek (and to a lesser extent Otaku) are so flexible in terms of application that it is hard to arrive at a suitable Irish equivalent. What I was seeking was something “in-culture”, a neologism or adaption of a pre-existing word in the Irish language that could represent an Irish sense of Geek culture. Our own particular form or expression of it and with just as wide an application for both Irish-speakers and English-speakers in Ireland.

      Denis King suggests “gíc” (pl. gíceanna) as well and I think he has used it fairly widely in the past. I’m not too happy with it. Not least it reminds me of Hiberno-English gick and I suspect English-speakers in Ireland would read it as such.

      I like Teicóg because it seems a natural development in Irish, something Irish-speaking fans would devise themselves, and suggests “young-tech”. Otaku was originally very much anime/manga specific but now has wider application so Teicóg (Teicógach / Teicógaigh) might have the same degree of flexibility. I’m not sure. I certainly dislike Geacach though! 😉

    • Ildánach “Skilled in various arts, versatile, accomplished”. Interesting.

      • there’s also “samildánach” but perhaps Lugh would get annoyed at us stealing his titles 😉

        • I like the idea of being called “many-skilled”. And I’m sure Lú (Lúgh?) would forgive us! 😉

          Couple of people have focused on variations of Saor “free”. I suggested Saorthach but there is nothing about that really speaks to me. I’ve received several emails from people who love Teicóg and the variations thereof. It’s short, punchy, sounds nice for Irish or non-Irish speakers, and would look nice in futuristic, cló-style or Ogham scripts.

          At least it gets the idea out there that Irish people have every right to invent or play around with words and terms within their own language. Just as their ancestors did. Innovate or die! 🙂

  3. Quite a gowk hunt 🙂

    Can anyone explain why you have ‘geoc’ rather than ‘*gíc’? Or does anglo-irish have the equivalent of Scots (Inglis) ‘gowk’ a fool or cuckoo, and that’s what’s being gaelicised rather than ‘geek’ as such?

    Also I’m thinking there must be several semi-obsolete Irish words for scholarly, unsocial, unworldly types, one of which might be resurrected for ‘geek’?

    • I’ve never heard of “gowk”. Great word. My favourite Scots word of the moment is “afeart” 🙂

      I know that some are using saoithín for “nerd” (originally “prig, pedant”), as in saoithín ríomhaire “computer nerd”. Personally I detest this. It is simply transferring English idioms into Irish with all their negative associations.

      That is why I was trying to find an Irish equivalent of “geek” but one free of the stereotypical “Big Bang Theory” image. Sort of taking a cue from Japanese neologisms some of which have a neutral or positive sense. Hence “teicógach” a word that one could use for a “fanboy / fangirl” but without the negative vibe. And “teicóg” for fan culture in general. The fact that it was a new word gave it a nice sense of Sci-Fi to it 😉

      An older or obsolete word would of course be just as good if one could be found that had that same punchy sense of fandom. Anyone with any ideas please suggest away! 😉

      • To tell the truth I’ve never really though about the semantic distinction between ‘geek’ and ‘nerd’. Off the top of my head, ‘geek’ implies technical competence (but probably in a very narrow field), while ‘nerd’ suggest more a lack of social skills with a suggestion of mild autism. It’s probably impossible to prescribe Irish equivalents, ideally they should just grow up from popular usage and creativity using the language’s native resources. But that would assume that there is a critical mass of fluent Irish speakers who regularly discuss such things. Maybe there is?

        “Hunting the gowk” is the process whereby an apprentice is sent on a wild goose chase for some improbable object. Each person he goes to recognises the code words and sends him on to someone else, until either he realises what’s up, or else he’s been to every single person/department. Naturally once you’ve been fooled you’re more than ready to recover your dignity by taking in the next newcomer.

  4. an lorcánach

    Le Geek, C’est Chic [ref. blog.oxforddictionaries.com]

    So who are the modern-day geeks, exactly? Well, synonyms include words such as dork, freak, guru, misfit, nerd, techie, and weirdo – a mixed bag that seems to celebrate the technical skill of geeks whilst simultaneously suspecting them of lacking social ability, of not ‘fitting in’. As used by what we may, for simplicity, call “non-geeks”, the term is often something of an insult. Like dork, it is used to disparage people who are seen to be socially awkward; but dork doesn’t have the extra connotations of cleverness and skill. Nerd (which, like dork, has an uncertain etymology) is a better synonym in this respect. Indeed, a quick search online for the keywords geek and nerd will quickly show that there is a lot of debate about the differences between the two. Perhaps geeks are more technically-minded than nerds? Perhaps nerds are more socially awkward? Perhaps geeks have better dress sense? It seems that nerd is more likely to be associated with solitary, unfashionable people – anoraks, in a word – while geek has rather more cachet. But it’s generally a close-run race between the two, and there are plenty of characteristics that both geeks and nerds are generally acknowledged to share. Chief amongst these is the ability to become utterly fixated on a favourite interest.

    http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2013/05/le-geek-cest-chic/

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