Drunk Co-Blogging, Grokking and M-Dashes

Hey, everybody!  (It took 3+ attempts to find an intro which we found mutually agreeable.)

Still dealing with repetitive stress issues and had a friend over (that’s me!) to help me fill out some forms on the internet without having to type too much.  Afterward, we decided to do some wine-drinking and co-blogging.  (In this case, Mitchell is dictating all of the non-parenthetical parts of this. I, typist friend, am adding the parenthetical commentary.  I’m sure there are other ways to co-blog, but this is our (my) preferred strategy for this particular endeavor.)

To start, we’ve decided to rant about elements of geek culture that we find annoying.  (When phrased this way, I feel like I might be in over my head.  We said we were going to write about the term “grok” and now it’s all “rar, geek culture” and I’m all “Aww shit, all I know about geek culture is what my twitter feed tells me, and it’s mostly that geek culture is a bunch of dudes being jerks about ladies, and ladies being understandably irritated by this.  Oh well.  Here we go.)

I want to add a disclaimer to this that I generally really enjoy hanging out with geeks, but nevertheless there are certain aspects of it that are almost guaranteed to make me twitch.  (I’m actually pretty okay with most self-identified geeks that I know.  They’re fine with me being super belligerent when playing games.  Which is my favorite part of playing games.  Hippies?  No good for belligerent gaming.  They’re all, “Woo, let’s play the cooperative game where everybody wins!”  Pfft.)

Okay, so without further ado (I have to keep adding extended asides so that Mitchell has a chance to drink more), time for some mostly good-natured ranting!

So.  The word grok.  My memory here is going to be a little fuzzy because it’s been awhile since I read Stranger in a Strange Land, but my basic recollection of the explanation for grok is that it’s like the word understand, only it implies a certain becoming one with the thing you understand (we totally wikipedia’ed the term just now- here’s the link to that if you want to see what the entirety of the internet has to say about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grok).  (Also, Mitchell gets hilariously uncomfortable if I just leave an unclosed parenthetical aside hanging out there.)  So it’s when a thing that you understand becomes merged with your thoughts or personality (or the essence of your being- let’s be honest guys, this is a little woowoo here).  Something to that effect.

And people use it ALL THE TIME.  And it bothers me, because literally nothing distinguishes the word grok from the word understand (aside from all the woo that we just talked about in the prior paragraph).  I’ve never heard anyone use the word grok in a sentence that wouldn’t have meant exactly the same thing in exactly the same way if they’d replaced it with the word understand.  (Okay, no argument there.  Except you sound SO COOL when you say grok.  Assuming the person you’re talking to has read Stranger in a Strange Land.  Otherwise they just kind of look at you blankly.  Cause I’m not gonna lie guys, I totally use the word grok in conversation.)

Furthermore, all of the shit about the thing that you understand becoming a part of you— (I just learned what an “m-dash” is, which I’m pretty sure is every damn bit as pretentious as using the word grok.  Seriously?  A hyphen would be JUST FINE.)

No, a hyphen doesn’t specify a break in the conversational pattern.  No, you’re a jerk.  I want to keep ranting about the word grok.  Hey, hey!  (lulz)  (And now Mitchell has crabby feelings that I’m actually writing down everything that he says.  I’m not!  I left out the majority of the great hyphen debate.)

Oh yeah.  Furthermore, the shit about the thing that you understand becoming a part of you— (oh look, more m-dash bullshit) that’s what happens when you understand something.  Everything that you understand affects yours thoughts about everything else that you think about.  (Holy shit, I love neuroplasticity so much.  This isn’t exactly that, but I don’t even care, it’s close enough.)  There’s an old Chinese proverb that goes something like “From one thing, know ten thousand things.”  (In bed!)  Same idea.  As soon as you understand any one particular thing, that understanding colors the way that you think about everything else that you think about, even if only in very small ways.

(More m-dash debate occurred here.)

So basically, in both definition and in use, grok is a synonym for understand.  And will never add any new nuance or information to any sentence over the word understand.  The only possible exception to this rule being if your intent is bead-dropping (I’ve never heard that term, and now Mitchell thinks that we should look it up just to be sure it’s accurate.  Which is kind of ironic, given where I’m pretty sure this rant is going about elitist vocabulary.  Turns out it’s usually used in a sexual context, but generally means dropping hints without just out and saying it.  In this case, just out and saying that you’re a total geek.).

(And I do think that using grok to drop those hints is an acceptable thing to do, on the whole.  I only find it, or anything else in that vein, problematic if it’s being used to create an in-group/out-group dynamic.  When you start using niche language…) I feel like this is unacceptably thoughtful for our drunken co-blogging here (…in a group where some of the people- or worse, just one of the people- isn’t able to follow, you very successfully alienate that person from the conversation.  In subcultures which can already be cliquey or exclusionary, this is really just a douchey move.  I appreciate that it can be done unintentionally, but blah de blah, intention isn’t everything, blah blah blah).

I think that’s pretty much the end of my rant.  (I guess that’s really all I have to say on the matter without further prompting.)

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3 comments on “Drunk Co-Blogging, Grokking and M-Dashes

  1. The literal Martian meaning of “grok” is “to drink.” When Michael Valentine Smith is finally asked what this word means in Martian, this is a revelation to the questioner. She knew it meant to understand thoroughly. It also means to take in completely. And you will have to read the book to learn what *that* means, readers. This is as much spoiler as you get. 🙂

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