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Rolling On the Floor Geeking

A co-worker of mine and I had a meeting where a funny little exchange occurred, which I won't recount here, but when he was returning to the office, he sent me this text about the exchange:

screenshot of 3 text messages, where coworker uses "geeking" to mean "laughing"

In case the screenshot isn't clear, the text messages read:

[co-worker]: I'm geeking while walking down the street at the "and he's really good too though" and then you going "well he's 26"

[me]: Geeking?

[co-worker]: Laughing

When he sent back "laughing", I assumed he had originally typed "laughing" or something similar to it, and autocorrect had corrupted the word and inserted "geeking".

But then, when he was telling the story to another co-worker in front of me, he said "geeking" again, aloud (i.e. verbally), and it was clear from context he did indeed mean "laughing".

No Geeking Matter

I have never before encountered "geeking" used to mean "laughing". It struck me as unusual and very interesting. I checked a few dictionaries, and while I found all the senses I expected ("geeking out" == "obsessing over technical details"), nothing came even close to "laughing".

So I did an internet search for geeking + laughing. The search results included a few slang dictionaries and internet compendia, but most leads were red herrings, and I could only find once place with positive confirmation of this sense: Reddit.

Specifically, under r/OutOfTheLoop, we find this question and accompanying response:

What does "geeking" mean?

if you mean geeking out, I've always used it to express laughing a lot or uncontrollably.

But that's as far as my research has been able to uncover this sense.

Geeking All the Way to the Bank

I asked my co-worker for his background and where he picked up this word. In no particular order of importance:

  • American, native speaker, neutral accent (I'm a native of NYC and his accent sounds neutral/unremarkable to me)
  • Of Armenian descent, very close to the ex-pat Armenian community (but has never been to Armenia and doesn't speak Armenian)
  • Born in California, moved around the world during his childhood (his dad's job was very international).
  • After CA, moved to Japan (in infancy), then Oman, then the UK (London) for primary schooling, then the UAE and Qatar as an adolescent.
  • University in Washington, DC.
  • Was an active member of a fraternity, so he does have an inventory of "bro"-y vocabulary, used when applicable.
  • Working professional (which is the register he maintains at the office).
  • Millennial.

He says he's heard the word used by a variety of people, but he most closely associates it with a friend of his from Eastchester, NY. He also speculates "maybe it's a millennial thing".

Of all the places he could have picked up the word, the "millennial" and "fraternity speak" theories ring truest to me; I am not persuaded his cosmopolitan upbringing is material. The word feels like young men's speech¹.

Last Geek

Have any of the experts on EL&U encountered geeking to mean laughing before? Is there any evidence of a more widespread use?

  • If so, in what cultures or lects is the word deployed?
  • What is its etymology, or,
  • Failing a clear paper trail, what can we deduce about its likely origins?

¹ I am deliberately avoiding the characterization "locker-room talk".

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    Not getting the title of this question...whether geeks laugh isn't an English Language Usage question, really. – Kristina Lopez Dec 18 '17 at 22:10
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    Why is anybody close voting this? – user067531 Dec 18 '17 at 22:24
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    @user159691 The close reason the first person selected (and the 2nd person selected in his wake) was “show your research”. Of course, I did that, in great detail. – Dan Bron Dec 18 '17 at 22:27
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    @KristinaLopez I’m not worried about he downvotes. If you downvoted, don’t sweat it. It’s the close votes for a very topic, detailed, and researched question which seems inappropriate. I saw the top UD definition and I paraphrase it in the first para of the second section, and I explicitly mention reading slang dictionaries and internet compendia. I did my research, and I showed it. – Dan Bron Dec 18 '17 at 22:45
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+400

Geeking in the dictionaries

The most reputable definition I could find is definition 4 for geek v.1. in Green's Dictionary of Slang.

  1. (US campus, also geek out) to act stupidly, or in a way that counters the cultural norm.

More directly relevant than the definition provided in GDoS is one of the citations which references The Online Slang Dictionary.

to display an embarrassing amount of happiness; to act like a geek (nerd).

She geeked when he asked her out.

Notably, The Online Slang Dictionary allows user edits and submissions, but this sense of geek as a verb at least has Green's stamp of approval.

As for the etymology, GDoS's placement of this sense under the definition related to geeking out suggests to me that its formation pattern was abbreviation of that phrase, which originated in computing culture and U.S. campus culture.

Attestations range from Connie Eble's Campus Slang cited in 1989 to a 2002 citation that uses the full phrase "geeking out."

Merriam-Webster provides this definition of geeked which is also relevant:

filled with excitement or enthusiasm

GDoS, citing Eble, provides a similar definition of "geeked" that implies that someone is intoxicated by caffeine or stimulant medications.

  1. excited

  2. (US) intoxicated, specifically by caffeine or AHD medication.

‘Charlie was so geeked he alphabetized his book collection instead of doing his homework’.

Eble added the second definition to her collection of campus slang in 2014, making it a very recent sense.

The OED also defines geeked this way, but this sense still seems disparate from the verb meaning laughing or displaying an embarrassing amount of happiness. Perhaps GDoS's citation from the OSD is the most reputable recognition of this sense of geek as a verb that has yet been welcomed into the lexicon.

Geeking on Twitter and Reddit

Judging from online uses, geeking appears to have a vast range of cutting-edge senses that extend beyond those that are outlined in curated dictionaries like GDoS.

Drug senses - under the influence, often of stimulants like adderall, sometimes also marijuana or benzodiazepines.

This sense is included in the dictionaries, but I thought I would cite a couple of examples of use to help illustrate the broad range of meanings "geeking" can connote. This sense seems to be related to the sense meaning "excited," as in "I was so high I was geeking," and likely precedes the meaning referring to excitement (more on that in future edits).

I don't know why people hate smoking alone, I be GEEKING when I'm high by myself I love that shit

[I like smoking marijuana alone.]

Whoever said u cpudlnr ( drop xans in drank was wrong,, dropped 2 green hulks in my tropical sprite with a 4 of the wock and I'm geeking hard as a bitch.... boutta roll up this backwood and gp to sleep, don't thonk I'm waking back up today see yall tomorrow GEEKGEEKGEEK

[Whoever said you couldn't mix Xanax with cough syrup (drank) was wrong, I just took two 2mg Xanax pills (2 green hulks) in my tropical sprite with (cough syrup) and I'm geeking very hard...]

Craving or wanting badly, often as geeking for or geeking over.

A few examples:

i ain’t geeking for a relationship , it’s cool 2 have some1 tho

Wish somebody was geeking over me

Geeking for some lamb chops

Laughing. The sense in the question.

I'm actually geeking so hard at everyone dragging the Kylie cosmetics brushes😂😂 she is really out here trying to finesse $360... u thought sis

  • @LoveFromLiyax This user appears to be millenial, from Nashville, TN in the U.S.

I’m geeking 😂😂 he said “FUCK YOU REF! That was a bullshit call”

Here is an interesting variation where "geeking" is transitive. These sorts of variations seem common online.

It’s been like an hour 😂 it’s still geeking me

In some cases, "geeking" appears to mean joking or being ridiculous. This sense might be similar to the drug senses, as in "Oh, you must be high to say that."

Oh Naw You Geeking Now 👎

The uses in all of these senses cited appear to be predominantly stated by people who are African American or well-versed in African American slang, who are young, and frequent users of slang.


Feedback on this answer is welcome, but please note that it is a work in progress.

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    Great research! From this plus the lower-ranking UD definitions, we might speculate “displaying obsession with nerdy stuff” -> “displaying happiness about socially unaccepted things” -> “displaying happiness to a socially unacceptable degree or in a socially unacceptable context or manner” -> [people do this while drunk or high so] “laughing when drunk or high” -> “laughing excessively because one is high [on marijuana]” -> “laughing excessively”. Maybe. Anyway super neat answer. – Dan Bron Dec 18 '17 at 22:59
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    @DanBron thank you, it's a great and well-researched question as well. :) – RaceYouAnytime Dec 18 '17 at 23:02
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    Yeah, I guess we both like to geek out on obscure etymologies ;) – Dan Bron Dec 18 '17 at 23:08
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    In re the bounty, your answer is grand, nothing wrong with it, but I'm hoping to (a) attract more eyeballs, and (b) establish as solid an etymology as the available data will allow. You have a head start, and I would love to see you expand this answer. – Dan Bron Dec 21 '17 at 20:36
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    @DanBron I completely support both objectives. I always love seeing multiple answers to a good question that warrants thorough investigation. I will enjoy working on expanding this answer as well, regardless of whether I get the bounty. – RaceYouAnytime Dec 21 '17 at 21:58
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Geek both as a noun and as a verb appears to be a very productive term. It entered the AmE vocabulary at the beginning of the 20th century and has since then been used in different and also extreme contexts:

A bit of history from Wordorigns.com

Geek:

*By the beginning of the 20th century, geek had crossed the Atlantic to America, where it took up residence in wider slang. From the comic strip A. Mutt (shortly afterward to become Mutt & Jeff) by H.C. Fisher appearing in the San Francisco Examiner of 28 April 1908:

  • A geek who spends his spare time making Czar removers was slammed into the city cooler.

In America, the word also acquired a very specialized sense, that of a circus or carnival performer who engaged in outrageous acts on stage, such as biting the heads off live animals. From Billboard (Cincinnati) 25 October 1919:

  • At Liberty—Snake charmer or geek man; would like to join show going south.

By the middle of the 20th century, the term had lost any specific meaning in general slang use, being used simply as a disparaging label. At this time, it began to be applied to overly diligent students. From a letter by Jack Kerouac, 1 October 1957:

  • Unbelievable number of events almost impossible to remember, including...Brooklyn College wanted me to lecture to eager students and big geek questions to answer.

The Kerouac quotation is something of an outlier, appearing much earlier than most of the other citations. Geek really came into its own in collegiate slang of the mid-1970s.

And by the 1980s was being used to refer to aficionados of computers and other high-tech gadgetry, and it started losing some of its negative associations. From the Usenet group net.jokes of 20 February 1984:

  • I was a lonely young computer geek With [sic] a program due ‘most every week.2Just one more source with relevant definitions.

From the ‘80s onwards the term acquires new meanings, apparently based on its previous usages, for instance:

Geek out:

Today, to “geek out” means to act like a geek, and the meaning has expanded to include anyone who gets really excited about their favorite subject—especially if they are extremely or overly excited, and the subject is specialized or unusual. The meaning has expanded outside computers and technology, and you can geek out without being socially deficient.

(Quora)

As the The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English suggests:

Geeked:

Jittery, childishly excited, 1984 US:

To geek:

To display severe anxiety when coming off cocaine intoxication, 1993 US.

To act foolishly, 1998 US

The meaning of laughing appears to be related to that of the effect drugs, and a number of informal online sources appear to suggest that relationship. This usage may have evolved in recent years and its place of origin is unclear. One source below refers to it as a slang typical of Maryland:

to geeked from (azdictionary.com):

Meaning: happy or excited or being high or "geeked up"

Example: "nigga,you to geeked!" "i am to geeked."

Geek can be used in 2 different ways: from (definedictionarymeaning.com)

1- Geek = the state of being amusing or humorous.

2- Geeking = When a person is really fucked up on any kind of drug.

The following site suggests that “geeking” is a Maryland slang: from (theodysseyonline.com)

Geeking :If you find something funny and start hysterically laughing or lol-ing, then you are geeking.

As for Twitter, there is the #geeking with a few funny messages for instance:

Petr Bulkhak @pbulkhak · 21 dic Religion on the block chain is an untapped market. #geeking

GallantSector @GallantSector Coworker said I look like a dude from #AssassinsCreed with my hood on while I was working. 😊 #Geeking

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    Awesome, definitely extending the etymology backwards to its earlier, pre-laughing/fucked-up-on-drugs glosses. Thank you for putting all the work in to develop this illuminating answer! – Dan Bron Dec 22 '17 at 18:14
  • @Mari-LouA - well, the static image doesn’t add much to the meaning described, so I’ll remove it. – user067531 Dec 31 '17 at 13:06

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