Generalisations about beer culture

The language we use

beergeek.jpgThere’s some debate abroad about the language we use to describe ourselves, first at Lew Bryson’s blog, and then at A Good Beer Blog.

This reminded me of Stonch’s comment a few months back that he wouldn’t trust anyone who was inordinately proud of being called a beer geek.

We use beer geek all the time — we really don’t mind being called geeks (in this or any other field of obsession…) and don’t really regard it as a pejorative term. Beer nerd, on the other hand, probably is an insult.

Here’s the distinction, according to American comic Patton Oswalt:

A lot of nerds aren’t aware they’re nerds. A geek has thrown his hands up to the universe and gone, “I speak Klingon — who am I fooling? You win! I’m just gonna openly like what I like.” Geeks tend to be a little happier with themselves.

I think most of “us” — by which I mean, anyone who can be bothered to go out of their way to taste a particular beer, or update a blog every day or two with their reflections on this one narrow subject — have gone beyond a mainstream interest in beer.

Whatever we would like to be called, people who don’t share our interest are going to think our interests are a bit odd. It’s just beer, right?

We can try to convince ourselves and others that there’s nothing unusual about it by inventing what we think is a ‘cooler’ term:

GEEK: Actually, we prefer to be called ‘beer experts’.

OTHER: Yeah, whatever. Nerd. Oh, look — you’re slapping yourself. Why are you slapping yourself? Give me your pocket money.

We can try to conceal the level of our obsession, which is fine until you find yourself admitting the truth in tears the night before your wedding when a stack of Michael Jackson books falls out of the wardrobe.

Or we can show some self-awareness, shrug, and be happy with who we are and what we like.

22 replies on “The language we use”

Patton and I have had that exact conversation. I didn’t know it was in his act. And “Beer Expert” is the most pompous and annoying term I think I’ve ever heard this month. Experts sneer at everyone and look down at people who don’t share the same amount of knowledge they think they have, while geeks are just so excited about the object of their geekery, they can’t help but try and share that enthusiasm and knowledge with anyone who will listen. Who would you rather have a beer with?

You know how I know you’re talking about geeks? Because geeks are experts (see what I did there?) at taking something we all love, and turning it into something to argue about.

At this point, I don’t think “Beer Geek” is anything to run away from. It’s descriptive, well understood and less pompous that most alternatives.

I don’t think it’s a pejorative term these days either. Certainly if you take into account the reaction my wife gets when she wears her “I geeky boys” button. Although she does work at MIT, so…

I think there’s a difference between accepting something as a fair label of description of oneself and being “inordinately proud” of it. The latter is more aggressive, and probably fair grounds for suspicion.

Every geekdom has a minority that takes things too far…

Maieb – are you inordinately proud though?

Wil, Twarin – cheers for dropping by, chaps. Always nice to see new faces! Wil’s book looks like a good read.

I don’t think geek is particularly perjorative, certainly not in the UK anyway. I like Wil’s use of words like “excited” and “enthusiastic” in the context of a discussion about geeks. That’s what it should be about

I like people with interests; I may not want to hear everything about that particular interest, but I’d rather hear people being enthusiastic about something than being cynical or negative.

I think geek is a fair description of most of us (including Stonch). It’s sometimes hard to keep track of what Stonch/Jeff really thinks and what he is just blogging to cause arguement, all of which is good?

Oops no arguement in there!

Sometimes I’ve heard people referring to themselves as a “connosieur”, what do you think about it? Rather pompous as well, isn’t it?

I like the Spanish word aficionado, and in fact is what I use, but if a I had to choose one word implying all what we feel as a beer geeks definitely it would be enthusiast.

Haya salud!!!

As this post is somewhat (!) angled at me I was hesitant to comment but someone’s got to say it: “beer geek” is a completely unknown term in Britain. It’s a pure Americanism that just hasn’t gained any kind of common currency here. Yes, we have a concept of beardy weirdy real ale lover but I really don’t think “beer geek” is terribly meaningful here. Whether it will gradually become known is another discussion, albeit a very dull one.

PS. I say beer lover when I want to talk about someone who loves beer.

I think “geek” is a pretty well-known and international expression in the blogosphere, although we may quibble as to what it means.

As for its relation with beer, I like the fact that “beer geek” is not a particularly well-known term here. It therefore comes free of the beardy weirdy overtones that are automatically conjured up when you say you like ale.

Chela – I also like “aficionado”. Probably too difficult to say after a couple of pints though.

I now only call myself what Knut says is the traditional term in Norway – beer dog.

I have been biting my tongue while reading Lew’s page but I have to say that I was a nerd before I started drinking beer and I am still a nerd in spite of the cool beer I drink.
(As a note of reference I looked up to see if I should use “in spite of” or “despite” and as I suspected they are synonymous.)

Twelve Hail Marys for taking the Irish literary canon in vain, Stonch.

It’s a very interesting point about “beer geek” not being applicable to the UK because there’s already a culture of beardy beer neepery particularly associated with CAMRA sterotypes.

Whereas here in Ireland there is no such culture and, despite using basically the same vocabulary as the UK, we have readily adopted “beer geek” because we have no words of our own for it. Though it may also have something to do with the fact that a lot of Irish beer geeks work in the IT business.

I would make the point, however, that it’s impossible to be a beer geek and a real ale purist. Proper geekery is all-encompassing and doesn’t depend on sources of carbon dioxide. Discusses it, at length, but doesn’t depend on it.

After reading Stonch’s posts, I’m in love with “Beardy Weirdy” as the new term of choice for beer folk. Even for those of us without beards.

Random thoughts:

I wrote that post because people kept giving me hell for using “beer geek” in my writing. They want me to come up with something else.

I agree with Stonch: “beer geek” doesn’t seem to have the baggage in the UK that it does in the US.

Pattinson’s a pisshead. I might be too.

I am at a loss to see why connoisseur is pompous and aficionado isn’t.

I like “beer dog.” I could call myself a beer dog.

It bothers me a little that being a whisky geek is somehow considered classier than being a beer geek. And let’s not even get into the wine aficionoisseurs.

And if anyone’s a nerd…I was a librarian, a Novell network technician, and I played Dungeons & Dragons before I took up my new career. Beer geek is a step up.

Boak, try to say “Grimbergen” after 5 pints, that’s “language juggling”, in comparison “aficionado” it’s a piece of cake!!!!

Lew, Random answer to one of your random thoughts:

Connoisseur is more pompous than aficionado because is a French word hehehehe.
Maybe you are right, aficionado, as a foreign term in English is quite pompous but I was talking about the sense it has in Spanish when used applied to, for instance, this matter.

Definitely Beer Enthusiast, beer lover and beer dog are the best and I’m a “much” of the three…
Haya Salud

********* people! Beerist is an easy thing to remember. Purist, artist, beer … put it altogether. Beerist.

Another great topic– I think in America the word “geek” as an embracing term came about after the dot-com boom where a lot of former-dorks, the victims of playground torment as children, were suddenly rich and powerful.

While “geek” annoys me from a purely bitter-grapes point of view (being untouched by the prosperous tech fairy) I still use it to describe behavior in myself or another beer lover– where we are fixating on some specific aspect of a beer that other people who weren’t so into it would just be bored by the details.

I was really surprised to find that in the UK, loving real ale meant you were a fusty, bearded freak. In cosmopolitan parts of America it’s hip to love real beer (albeit with the aforementioned geek set) so the use of “geek” there is really ironic and slightly self deprecating.

[…] “beer nerd” (and then more spirited comments). I tried to stay out of it, but then Boak (or was it Bailey?) weighed in as well, suggesting they don’t mind the term and don&#8217…, in spite of what Stonch says (and then later embraces…sort […]

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