Somewhere along the line it became cool to be a geek about something. At least I hope it has, as I’ve kinda staked my “personal brand” on it, obviously. I’ve always preferred the term geek, I find it less pejorative than nerd, dork, dweeb and a few choice others.
That doesn’t mean, though, that all geek habits are socially acceptable. There is still such a thing (in my opinion), as “bad geek”.
A while back while out at a restaurant with the family, we ran into another family we know. During whatever in the conversation the father makes a movie reference, I make what I think is the next line of the movie reference, and his maybe 10yr old son, complete with eye roll, loudly re-quotes my line with one word changed because obviously I’m a frickin idiot.
Many things make this a bad geek moment. Thinking, for example, that it is at all important who gets a movie quote right, and that it’s your job to correct somebody? Wrong. Nobody cares. It’s not important. Teaching your child that this is an important skill to have? Even more incorrect. Lacking the social skills that enable you to understand how not to be rude to someone? Strike three.
I asked on Twitter recently what to call this idea - “if quoting Monty Python makes you a geek, what does correcting other people’s quotes make you?” I was surprised at the number of responses I got back: “It’s called awesome!” “How about soulmate?” “Ubergeek?” and other, entirely positive, suggestions. I don’t know if I just phrased the question wrong, or if I’m the only one to point this out, but it’s not cool, and nobody cares.
Don’t get me wrong, there are of course times when your superior knowledge of the subject is useful. Such as, when the other person actually invites it. Somebody starts out a quote by saying, “Oh, how’s that expression go, that one from Shakespeare about not being a borrower…” then of course you get to show off. But when somebody in conversation says, “Remember what Shakespeare said, neither a borrower or a lender be.” and you feel a moral obligation to pipe in “NOR, it’s NOR a lender be,” then you kinda sorta need to go back to courtesy school, my fellow geeks.
Am I guilty of this? I think I probably am, at times, but I try to be conscious of the problem and not do it. My crime is more often in talking too much, not shutting up, stealing other people’s stories. But I don’t find myself correcting people without invitation, for exactly these reasons.
Dale Carnegie, in the classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, tells a story on this subject. While at a dinner party, a fellow guest quotes the Bible (“There’s a divinity that shapes our ends…”) and Carnegie calls him out on it, knowing for a fact that it is from Shakespeare. After the argument becomes heated they agree to ask a third party, who turns out to be a friend of Carnegie. “You’re wrong, Dale,” says the friend, “It is from the Bible.” Later, Carnegie corners him and says “You know perfectly well that’s from Shakespeare.”
“Yes of course,” he replied, “But we were guests at a festive occasion. Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make the man like you? Why not let him save face? He didn’t ask for your opinion. He didn’t want it. Why argue with him?”
Had to be said. Something to think about the next time you’re about to open your mouth and show off just how much of an awesome ubergeek you are, regardless of subject.