It's been a year of geeks bearing gifts

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The Independent Online

When 2012 ended and we had to look back and reflect, it was easy to label it the year of the Olympics. But 2013 will be harder to categorise. Will we remember it for all the twerking? As the year of the food bank? Finding out that domestic goddesses sometimes have feet of clay? I'm with the Collins Dictionary people and I hope that 2013 will be remembered as the year of the geek. They have announced that "geek" is its word of the year, redefining it in a more positive way and adding that "the idea of future generations inheriting a more positive definition of the word 'geek' is something that Collins believes is worth celebrating."

A bunch of lexicographers would say that, you might say. But in the same week that Collins promoted geekery, along with "geek chic" and "geekdom", Yahoo appointed the self-anointed geek, Marissa Meyer, as its new CEO, and HarperCollins signed up the Geek Girl author Holly Smale for a new, three-book deal. Coincidence? Fate? No, but the right kind of geek could probably draw you an equation to assess its statistical probability to the nearest decimal point.

This year also saw the first award for science journalism in the Editorial Intelligence awards. It was won by the freelance journalist Anjana Ahuja, a former comprehensive school girl with a PhD in space physics. As well as journalism, scientists are taking over television and comedy. Dara Ò Briain (mathematics with theoretical physics) presents School of Hard Sums and Science Club – both shows in which brain tends to triumph over brawn. He also hosted the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books last month. In the audience, Brainiac's Jon Tickle (voted fourth Best TV Geek of all time by Time Out in September) put up his hand to ask a question about a particularly classy equation used by Jim Al-Khalili on his TV mini-series Light and Dark. It was science geek heaven.

Just a few months earlier Brian Cox gave the Michael Faraday Prize Lecture, drawing a crowd who queued around the Royal Society for hours to fill the lecture theatre – and an overflow room with big screens. The Michael Faraday Lecture hasn't been that popular since … Michael Faraday.

Also over-subscribed was Robin Ince's Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People – a sort of atheist Christmas sketch show. Ince says it's "a night of enthusiasts, eccentrics" that "sometimes dabbles with the borders of sanity". But, despite its popularity, he announced that this year's will be its last run. He's still busy on Radio 4's The Infinite Monkey Cage, with Brian Cox.

The geeks mentioned here are mostly science geeks, but you don't need a PhD to be geeky. The Collins Dictionary describes it best, as "a person who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about a specific subject". As Ince has pointed out, wearing glasses doesn't make you a geek any more than wearing a bobble hat makes you a skier. But it's nice that fashionable people are finally trying to get in on it. Here's to a geeky New Year.