'Geek' was an insult, became praise and is now a reason for Best Buy to sue you

Threatening priest shows Best Buy is a little too aggressive defending 'Geek Squad' trademark

During most of human history being a geek was not a good thing. Galileo was almost burned at the stake for it.

Leonardo had to distract patrons with elaborate graffiti on the walls of their dining rooms and science-fictiony weapons that could never work but impressed his patrons, whose judgment was undoubtedly impaired, judging by the way they pimped up wearing codpieces and giant lace ruffles.

[Also see: 15 Fictional Heroes of Geek]

Even Einstein (who should have had plenty of badass cred for figuring out how to blow up the world) had to look like a goofball in photos and pretend to take an interest in baseball to keep members of the Idiocracy from beating him up in the hall between meetings with the president.

Sometime in the late '90s, when lots of people seemed to be getting rich building web sites offering to sell – for a discount and delay of a week in shipping – things you could buy for 10 cents more and a walk to the corner store, geekery became cool.

Then Best Buy added it to the name of their on-site idiot-support service – the Geek Squad, which drives around in specially painted VW Beetles doing housecalls to explain to the Titans of Suburbia why their computers and flat-screen TVs both go off when you kick out the power cord. (Plugging the cord back in costs extra due to insurance requirements and the decision to leave complex repairs like that out of the otherwise worth-every-wasted-penny service plans BB tries to sell for every TV, laptop and AA battery it sells.)

Now 'geek' is so widely accepted and, apparently, valuable, that Best Buy is suing other companies for daring to use the word geek in names like Rent a Geek, Geek Rescue and Speak With A Geek.

It even went after a Wisconsin priest who decided to market either his services or God's (it wasn't real clear who would be handling the service-fulfillment end of the SLA) by painting "God Squad" on his VW Beetle.

"They're using their size to bully people around," according to a WSJ story quoting Dan Bates, a 28-year-old networking professional and veteran World of Warcraft computer gamer. "It makes them look a bit desperate."

Next thing you know, BB will be sending crews of their greeters (trained to stand at the door and say "Hello, Welcome to Best Buy" with their mouths and "I know you're here to steal something" with their eyes) to hang around school playgrounds listening for kids to call each other names.

It was probably legitimate to go after Newegg, which ran a commercial showing a clueless salesteen at a big-box electronics store trying to explain the difference between two laptops, before flashing the slogan "Take it from a Geek" to show you can learn more reading about a product on Newegg (or anywhere) than from asking even pertinent questions at Best Buy.

BB sent a Cease and Desist. Newegg posted it on Facebook, then opened a discussion on what a bunch of wussies BB is. Then started selling Geek On! T-shirts.

BB specifically objects to the un-logoed, un-identified store workers as being "slovenly."

Whch Newegg lawyer Lee Cheng thinks is funny. "That is not a word anyone should use—unless they want a wedgie," he told the Journal, perpetuating yet another unfortunate stereotype about geek-on-geek violence.

Anonymous and LulzSec issues joint fatwahs threatening both the badly behaving BB and wedgie-threatening Cheng with "swirlies."

Best Buy is unbowed, however, defending its right to defend the word "geek" used in the context of its own service (and, apparently, those of that priest, which you'd have to think are more religious in nature than Best Buy's services).

So be careful in the future who you call "geek," even if it's yourself.

Geek is a proud designation, one that identifies you as having the interest, intelligence and determination to assemble IT systems and make them work, despite the best efforts of the technology to prevent this.

The last thing honest geeks need is to have to defend their professional designation against a company that charges $30 for an HDMI cord, packs its stores with Associates who can never be found when customers do have a question (usually about the location of the bathroom or the absence in the store of the product advertised at a great price just that morning). Worst, send its most skilled technicians into the field to discipline and educate new systems, driving cutesy Third-Reichish cars that make Smart Cars look sharp and make Hello Kitty less saccharine by comparison.

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