When I was a student a long, long time ago, being into history was not cool. Not at all. Being called a history nerd was an insult. No one called themselves a nerd on purpose. Revenge of the Nerds, which hit cinemas in 1984, may have sounded like a big ‘ol lovefest for nerds, but it wasn’t. Not really. Did you seriously see the clothes those ‘nerds’ wore and how ugly they made those poor actors look? Not feeling the love for nerds.
Notice I’m using the word nerd and not geek? That’s right. A long, long time ago (okay, I’ll stop shoving my age down your throats), geek was not a word used to define a person’s personality or generalized skill set. Nope. The 1975 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary defined a geek as: “…a carnival performer whose act usually consists of biting the head off a live chicken or snake…” in its 1975 edition.
The definition of geek has changed considerably over time. Although carnival performers are still included in the definition, the definition is generally considered as a source of pride for a person interested in a subject (mostly intellectual or complex in nature) for its own sake. Urban dictionary even has a definition for history geek (although how a history geek could fail grammar use that spectacularly is beyond me).
Thus, over the years, it’s become ‘cool’ to call yourself a geek or, in my case, a history geek. Since yesterday was a historical day (American Independence Day), I thought I’d make a case for my history geekdom. First and foremost, my undergraduate degree is actually in history. Contrary to popular practice, I didn’t study history because it was ‘easy’. Nope, I totally got into it, even if studying Hitler and Stalin caused me to have nightmares.
And what could be more history geek-like than taking a trip to a historical destination for an important event? I’ve got tons of examples of that! I went to Colonial Williamsburg for my honeymoon. Beat that you amateur history geeks! I’ve also spent numerous birthdays and wedding anniversaries visiting battlefields and historical museums. When I mentioned (all excited), I was spending my 40th birthday visit the Somme battlefields, friends looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. Someone even had the gall to ask if I knew that Paris was just as close? (Paris might not have been just as close, but it was definitely more accessible than the battlefields.)
Even when we do head off on ‘normal’ vacations, we always take time out to visit military cemeteries, architectural excavation sites, battlegrounds …. Well, the list goes on and on. From the bridge on the River Kwai to an ancient Vietnamese city where a battle was fought during the Vietnam War (not fun to visit with dysentery) to an American military cemetery outside Tunis. You get the picture.
So, decades after being bullied for being a (history) nerd in school, I can now proudly fly my geek fly. This one’s stamped ‘history’, but there are other geek flags in my closet.