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I am looking for a term which clearly defines somebody as a non-geek, without being derogatory. The best example I have seen is muggle, but it needs context to be understood, as in "You don't meet many muggles at a comic convention", or "even my muggle friends like my autologlyph fractal decal". But while "muggle" makes it clear that he is a part of the "majority which is different", it is often hard to guess who the minority is.

There are also more specific words, but they are mostly so derogatory that I would consider them rude even in a joke, like luser or n00b. I definitely don't want to use them in a normal conversation.

A search in antonym dictionaries didn't bring up anything. Is there really no such word?

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8  
"Users" perhaps? –  KitFox Dec 6 '11 at 15:08
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Civilian,maybe? It would only work if you gave it the right context though. –  JohnFx Dec 6 '11 at 15:27
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"Non-geek" might be your best bet, actually. I sometimes hear people talk about "geeks and regular folks", but the latter isn't a single word. –  Monica Cellio Dec 6 '11 at 15:58
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How about "Absolute complement of the geek set?" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complement_(set_theory). It'll help boost your geek cred at the same time. –  Phil Dec 6 '11 at 19:56
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What about !geek ? –  Rich Dec 7 '11 at 8:57

24 Answers 24

Layman could be used to describe someone who is "untrained or lacks knowledge of a subject".

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49  
see also: laid man. –  Vic Goldfeld Dec 6 '11 at 20:09
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It suffers the same ambiguity as muggle. Layman in general means someone without professional knowledge. I've heard it used in several different contexts as Clergy/Layman, Lawyer/Layman, Doctor/Layman. –  Mike Brown Dec 6 '11 at 20:28
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@Mike Brown: I see no real parallel between layman and muggle. The former is long-established, and suggests someone with average (sometimes, above-average) knowledge of a subject, but no consuming desire to become more committed to the formal study thereof. Educated layman is a common and approving term. Despite claims for it to have pre-existed, muggle is Rowling's derogatory neologism for (fictional) people who neither know nor care about (fictional) wizardry. –  FumbleFingers Dec 6 '11 at 21:22
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@FumbleFingers Completely incorrect. "Muggle" in its original context is "someone who can't use magic", and is not derogatory at all (you seem to have it confused with "mudblood", same as others in other comments). It is now used among many geeks of all types to refer to non-geeks in a non-derogatory way. –  Izkata Dec 6 '11 at 22:49
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@Izkata: I'm no Potter scholar, and I'm not familiar with muggle outside that context anyway. But looking at this discussion it seems clear to me that in Rowling's books muggle is usually somewhat less than neutral, even though mudblood is clearly more offensive. By contrast, a layman is usually someone being spoken well of, despite his not having formal qualifications or position. –  FumbleFingers Dec 6 '11 at 23:06

In terms of an antonym jock (as in high school sports hero, not someone from Scotland) is at the opposite pole of the social spectrum to geek.

If you're looking, instead, to indicate that the person simply lacks all the qualities of a geek then normal is one option, because that indicates they're in the middle of any spectrum.

I was at a geek gathering where we received a talk by a self-titled non-geek, so that seems likely to be understood by anyone.

The problem with categorising non-geeks with a single word is that geek signifies a group. Not being part of a group is not a remarkable thing, most people are not part of most groups, so you're looking for a word that describes people who don't have the properties of a geek. If someone has these properties, then they are tagged as a geek, otherwise they're not tagged.

It's not often there is a word for not having a complex set of properties.

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8  
"Jock" does not mean non-geek. Not all non-geeks are jocks, and, though it may be rare, there's no reason a jock can't also be a geek. –  Monica Cellio Dec 6 '11 at 16:44
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Sure, but I think the OP meant to include the many folks who aren't either. High school is a world unto itself. :-) –  Monica Cellio Dec 6 '11 at 17:48
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Jocks are sports geeks. –  aslum Dec 6 '11 at 18:54
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@aslum Exactly. Those sports uniforms that fans wear are just cosplaying. –  Izkata Dec 6 '11 at 18:58
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+1 for "normal" –  JustinY Dec 6 '11 at 19:27

Don't use "Muggle", it is kind of specific to one particular fictional work.

And there are plenty of us who identify with "Geek" but not with that particular work. (Or in many cases with any fiction at all. Many geeks are pure tech geeks.)

This never really seems to work. Whether you try to call those outside of an in group "squares", "straights", "mundanes", "norms", "muggles" or what have you, it always ends up looking really dated, really quickly.

Non-Geek is probably the safest and most accurate.

(Heck, in its classic sense the opposite of "Geek" would be "Rube".)

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3  
"Muggle" is also meant to be a serious racial slur within the context of the fictional world in which the term was coined. Depending on your audience this may be seen as confusing, amusing, or offensive. –  Joel Brown Dec 6 '11 at 16:07
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@JoelBrown: Are you confusing the word "muggle" with "mudblood"? Muggle wasn't derogatory or a slur in the Harry Potter books. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 6 '11 at 16:23
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Except "straight" has changed meaning rather significantly in the past fifty years from "average everyday, kind of boring person" to "heterosexual". –  Skip Huffman Dec 6 '11 at 18:14
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+1 for mentioning "mundane". I do consider it derogatory and agree it's not a good choice for the poster. –  noa Dec 6 '11 at 18:28
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"Mundane" for me is inextricably linked with non-telepaths in the Babylon 5 universe. –  Erick Robertson Dec 7 '11 at 14:26

I often use "civilian" for this sort of thing.

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In some places, a civilian is someone who is not in the armed forces. –  Kris Dec 8 '11 at 3:31

From the jargon file -

Aunt Tillie

[linux-kernel mailing list] The archetypal non-technical user, one's elderly and scatterbrained maiden aunt. Invoked in discussions of usability for people who are not hackers and geeks; one sees references to the “Aunt Tillie test”.

This is about the closest I've seen. Most terms for non geeks are coined by geeks and tend towards derision.

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2  
The Jargon File is 7 years old and 'Aunt Tillie' is a pretty obscure example. –  Dancrumb Dec 6 '11 at 21:28
    
I totally agree - muggles are the Aunt Tillies of the 21st century –  mplungjan Dec 7 '11 at 5:17
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@Dancrumb, Jargon File is 1975-2003; 'Aunt Tillie' is in since 2002, so relatively new. Still I agree that it is obscure. –  Unreason Dec 7 '11 at 8:47
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The best non-derogatory definition for geek would be "one who passionately pursues skill (especially technical skill) and imagination, not mainstream social acceptance" -- therefore "non-technical", age or being "scatterbrained" are not useful classifications for defining a non-geek. –  Alexandru Nedelcu Dec 8 '11 at 11:29
    
You may want to either link to, and/or explain what Jargon File is, for muggles who may read this :) –  DVK Nov 11 '12 at 0:57

In normal conversation or normal writing I'd suggest:

  1. "a non-geek" or "non-geeks"
  2. "a normal person" or "normal people"
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3  
How about "ordinary person"? –  Gabe Dec 7 '11 at 0:37

Not by any regular convention I've heard. I think it is dependent on context. Professionally I use the term non-technical user. Generally I like user: it contrasts well with the technical term superuser.

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Though Layman if an excellent answer, you might also consider the term Luddite.

Ludd·ite noun \ˈlə-ˌdīt\ : one of a group of early 19th century English workmen destroying laborsaving machinery as a protest; broadly : one who is opposed to especially technological change

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+1 This is the right answer; a layman can refer to anyone unskilled; a luddite is specifically a non-geek. –  Dave Dec 7 '11 at 1:59
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Luddite is mildly derogatory and implies being obstinately or deliberately anti-progress. I don't think it's anywhere near being equivalent to "non-geek". You can be non-Geek and still favour or benefit from technological progress. –  mikera Dec 7 '11 at 3:01
    
I was thinking the same thing, however it implies an anti-technology bent beyond mere ignorance. –  Paul Jackson Dec 7 '11 at 13:03
    
Geeks are much more likely to be of an opinion like "there's been no good computers since VAX" or "no good OS since Multics", which could be labelled Luddite also. Besides, strictly the Luddites weren't opposed to technology, but to the effect it had on their livelihood. Granted, that's not how the word is used and only a geek would point that out, but doesn't that last point make it a poor choice for non-geek? :) –  Jon Hanna Dec 7 '11 at 19:13

The common man has an out dated feel but common person can be used easily both formally and informally. If you are able to use the reasonable person in speech it aught to be as easy to use. It also has no technical connotation unlike user and unlike layman does not have the connotation there is a technical skill level (or lack there of, perhaps as the author is talking down).

You don't meet many common people at a comic convention.

In the above I take the use of common people to suggest the people are exceptional and interesting and the the effect is positive.

Even common people like my autologlyph fractal decal.  

Here 'friends' was dropped as common people suggests the average or normal, and I don't think it was good to write "normal friends". We can see the effect is again positive, as it suggest there is universal artistic merit which can be understood by most anyone without saying anything about the audience, there is the feeling that the speaker is self aware but not absorbed. Now consider:

Even laymen like my autologlyph fractal decal.  

This in some way suggest that a general audience (although not as universal as the last example since layman and amateur have some relation) who is not as skilled as the speaker but can still manage to appreciate the work.

One fault is that common man is similar to the use of "they" without qualification.

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3  
try commoner for an extra punch. –  Vic Goldfeld Dec 7 '11 at 4:00
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Haha I didn't think of that... if you say "common" with a royal drone it could be quite snide too. –  Quaternion Dec 7 '11 at 23:51
    
There is a YouTube video from 2008 with 'Common man' in the title. ;) –  muntoo Dec 9 '11 at 5:40

It doesn't exactly mean "non-geek," but the word neophyte is a really nice way to say "beginner" or recently initiated, and I think it fits your context well.

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5  
"Neophyte" would be a good word for a beginner geek but not for someone who is not, and does not want to be, a geek. –  Monica Cellio Dec 6 '11 at 16:44
  • Outsider, "one who is not part of a community or organization" might work, particularly if the geeks in reference are a cohesive group.
  • The unwashed, as in unwashed masses, refers to "people ... somehow uneducated, uninformed, or in some other way unqualified for inclusion in the speaker's elite circles"; i.e. non-geeks. In this phrase, wash in fact means "cleaned with water", but could be taken figuratively to mean not yet baptized as a geek.
  • The hoi polloi, "the common people; the masses", is a less-pejorative way (than unwashed) to refer to masses.
  • Ordinary, "normal, customary, routine" or "everyday, common, mundane", does not specifically mean non-geek, but still is ok in sentences like "You don't meet many ordinaries at a comic convention".
  • Mundane works too, but is a touch negative, and some similarly regard average.
  • Graceful is seen by some as an antithesis of geeky and could be used in a joking way for non-geek.
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Geeks are not necessarily extraordinary or non-ordinary. –  Kris Dec 8 '11 at 3:29

A "regular" guy, or a "regular" person, is a description of someone who ISN'T a geek.

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Would work well if one also wanted to deride geeks- for a non-US audience I think "normal" person/guy would be better. –  Philip yesterday
    
@Philip: The British word that I was taught as the equivalent of "regular guy" is "sound fellow" (not normal). –  Tom Au yesterday

I prefer to use 'the average user'.
For example, "For the average user, Linux and all its flavors are a mystery."

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Adding to the idea that "Muggle" is not appropriate, it has already been used by the geocaching crowd for many years to refer to those who might not be familiar with the activity. Such as, "be aware of muggles when finding this geocache" in a high traffic location. As many geocachers also tend to be geeks, this would cause further confusion.

You can find it referred to in the glossary of terms here: http://www.geocaching.com/about/glossary.aspx

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First of all the word geek means

A geek is a slang word for a computer expert, someone who loves computers or someone who is socially or physically awkward. (noun)

  • An example of a geek is a person who has fun spending his entire day figuring out how computers work.
  • An example of a geek is a person who has a genius IQ but is very uncomfortable in social settings.

Slang, multiple meanings and polarity of antonym

So, there are two meanings that you can use to look for antonyms and also the word geek is marked as slang, although I would rather call it informal, since it got accepted by geeks and non-geeks, so it is not really limited to any group (though the connotations of a meaning do vary depending on, primarily technological level of the one who uses the word; example - a geek for a stereotypical full-time beach surfer and for a stereotypical computer graphic designer refer to different people). I believe that you should also take that into account when looking for an antonym.

Also, if you say that you disqualify n00b, which I think is a quite fitting antonym for geek (both geek and noob might or might not be considered derogatory!) it means that you are not interested in an antonym of a completely different polarity, but something along the meaning of: regular user, average user, normal user, everyday user rather than amateur, inexpert, unknowledgeable, unskilled, untrained (which are antonyms of expert, the first meaning).

Maybe you would want to clarify if you mean average user or you are looking for a synonym of noob, but with no derogatory connotations?

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Certainly I’ve heard them referred to as muggles before.

From the supercited Wikipedia page:

In the fictional world of J. K. Rowling's book series Harry Potter, a muggle is a person who lacks any sort of magical ability and was not born into the magical world.

And also, with emphasis mine:

In the Harry Potter books, non-magical people are often portrayed as foolish, sometimes befuddled characters who are completely ignorant of the Wizarding world that exists in their midst. If, by unfortunate means, non-magical people do happen to observe the working of magic, the Ministry of Magic sends Obliviators to cast Memory Charms upon them—causing them to forget the event.

So you can see why the term has now come to apply to techno-wizardry as well. In support of the use of muggles in other domains, they further write:

The word muggle, or muggles, is now used in various contexts in which its meaning is similar to the sense in which it appears in the Harry Potter book series. Generally speaking, it is used by members of a group to describe those outside the group, comparable to civilian as used by military personnel. Whereas, in the books, muggle is consistently capitalised, in other uses it is often all lower case.

And they further note that:

  • Muggle was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2003, where it is said to refer to a person who is lacking a skill.
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I've never heard it used of non-geeks before, but it certainly works well with the culture of elitism in the geek crowd. I disagree with the wiki quote that that is how muggles are portrayed in the HP books. Rather it is the magically enabled that are more likely to be presented as befuddled by muggle technology. –  Mitch Sep 9 '13 at 12:44

How about "normies", or "straights" (as in "Guys, you're scaring the straights!")

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4  
and I'm queer how? –  Vic Goldfeld Dec 6 '11 at 20:04
    
    
"freak the norms" was a pretty common activity among punks in the 1980s. –  Skip Huffman Dec 7 '11 at 4:00

Just drop the hyphen. If that makes a neologism, so be it, I suppose. Nongeeks are the new Aunt Tillies or whatever. If you like, camelcase it: NonGeeks.

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Technophobe might work depending on the context.

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I look at questions like this and debate whether you're really serious about this question. Why do you think the word muggle exists - Rowling had to make a word up!

I'd also like to point out that antonyms for labeling people is just wrong.

What's an antonym for Christian? Jewish? Muslim?
What's an antonym for White? Black? Brown?

So to specifically answer your question, there is no acceptable antonym.

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All nonsubjective terms to describe your average person or group of people who are not geeks.

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Try non-believer or uninitiated. Heretic.

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Atheist is another alternative. –  muntoo Dec 9 '11 at 5:42
    
This is really a comment, not an answer to the question. Please use "add comment" to leave feedback for the author. –  kiamlaluno Aug 14 '12 at 23:14

I think "Bro" is apt here.

(See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nqg01Nk3SYI)

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Eh... What's up, Bro? –  muntoo Dec 9 '11 at 5:43

How about using the once-geek word novice?

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