Tech workers in San Francisco reportedly take exception to the name, but they may be in the minority. Perhaps, as we have all become more technologically proficient, it’s a redundant word anyway
Original article can be found on The Guardian website.
Calling all techies! Oops. I hope you don’t mind me calling you that. Some people who are technologically gifted consider the word “techie” an insult, according to the San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday. One interviewee, described as “a tech entrepreneur”, said he preferred “hackers”, “makers” or “coders”. Techie, he thought, designated “an outsider”. In San Francisco, the large numbers of tech immigrants has put pressure on housing, which may explain some of the discomfort with the term. But is “techie” really offensive?
Patrick Goss, editor in chief of the TechRadar website, thinks “it’s almost categorically not offensive”. Five years ago, he says, “techie” was “pejorative – used to describe someone who was geeky”. Perhaps Goss just has a high tolerance for insult though. Can he ask his five colleagues too? He calls out. None finds the word insulting. Ditto the team on T3 magazine next door.
So what has changed? Goss thinks we are all techies now. Techies can be “people who own a smartphone; someone who wants to buy a games console; who is able to deal with Wi-Fi in their household”. I am still waiting for a category that I fit into.
On Twitter, I found no one who dislikes the word “techie”, though people are queueing up to say it is not offensive at all. Addie at TechCityshrugs. Perhaps it has been rehabilitated like “geek”. Steven Ramage, head of Ordinance Survey International, says he’s “worked with techies for 20 years and they proudly call themselves techies”. Ben Rose, IT manager at a City bank, thinks that if you can do the things that Goss suggests you are not a techie, but simply normal.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first recorded use of “techy” was in 1969, in a publication called Current Slang. It referred to “a student in a school of technology or math”. By 1981 it was applied specifically to students of MIT. Last weekend it was used heartbreakingly by a number of publications in India: “Hyderabad techie commits suicide by jumping from building”. Perhaps it is the suffix “ie” that suggests a diminution at just the wrong moment; I don’t think “Hyderabad hairdresser” sounds as reductive.
I still have found no one in this small UK sample who feels upset by the word “techie”. So I call a company called Call-Tech in Bolton. They service laptops. They could have named themselves Call-Techie.
Nigel picks up the phone. “Call-Tech,” he says. He sounds cheerful.
“Hi. Are you techies?”
“Course we are,” he says. The business’s owner, Mick Warrington, comes on the phone. “Would you think a bricklayer would be offended being called a brickie?” he asks. “That’s the term that the tradespeople use. We wouldn’t be offended to be classed as techies because that’s what we do. Would we prefer to be called computer consultants? Not really.”
However, Mick does have a term for customers who display zero technological nous. “SSU,” he says straightaway. “Stupid silly user.”