Nerd, geek, boffin...there are many terms used to describe someone who is super intelligent, but a debate has been sparked about whether these are forms of hate speech and should be punishable as such.
The question was initially posed by psychotherapist, Dr Sonja Falck, who has explored the subject in her latest book.
While referring to someone as a swot, brainbox or a smartyy-pants may seem like harmless banter, Dr Falck believes it is the equivalent of a hate crime and should be recognised as such in British law with punishments including fines and imprisonment.
The psychotherapist appeared on ‘Good Morning Britain’ this morning to argue her case alongside teacher Bobby Seagull, a self-confessed “geek”, who believes people should wear the terms like a badge of honour.
Dr Falck began by saying that people with a very high IQ are among a minority group in society and are very much ignored, not understood and largely neglected.
“It’s the case that very high IQ people are bullied at school for example, they’re a target for being bullied quite viciously,” she said.
Seagull, who had been quizzing his Twitter followers about the subject said that the consensus of opinion was that though terms like boffin and geek have historically been seen as negative people have now embraced them and see them more as a positive.
“If you see it as a negative thing it can be negative but if you embrace it and say actually being a geek is a good thing,” he added.
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Presenter Ranvir Singh pointed out that it has become fashionable to be geeky and that “geek chic” was cool.
Co-host Ben Shephard went on to say that the terms are often seen as labels to aspire to.
Seagull suggested the danger of tagging the terms as hate speech is that it could trivialise “actual hate crimes.”
“We shouldn’t be bullying people because they are different, but the reality is If we’re classing it as a hate crime to call someone a nerd or a geek it trivialises actual hate crimes, based on disability, race, gender,” he explained.
When asked if her views were somewhat extreme Dr Falck responded: “If you look at the legislations relating to hate crime it is simply about someone being targetted in a negative way, for who they are, and a person with a high IQ is often targetted in that way and that should be respected.”
After the programme aired the debate continued online with the majority disagreeing with Dr Falck’s viewpoint that the terms should be outlawed.
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While they didn’t agree that using them should be made a hate crime, a few agreed that the terms could be used negatively.
What do you think? Should we ban using the word ‘boffin’?