Splitsider

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Tracing the Origin of the Word "Adorkable"

People are finally coming around to enjoying, rather than irrationally hating, Fox’s New Girl. Rightly so, though before I go any further, I feel a disclaimer is needed: I like Zooey Deschanel a lot, partially because I’m a 24-year-old glasses-wearing male who lives in Brooklyn and also enjoys NRBQ, but also because I think she’s a gifted comedic actress who isn’t putting on a persona; I believe her Zooey Wowee image is the real her.

But enough about me — let’s talk about “adorkable.”

“[Simply] Adorkable” first came to prominence last year, when Fox began promoting its upcoming Zooey-starring sitcom New Girl, created by Elizabeth Meriwether, with the term. Everyone who hated Zooey not because of anything she did, per se, but because of who she is (a walking, talking, ukulele-playing, cute skirt-wearing baby panda-kitten hybrid whose finances are in remarkable shape) were now given certifiable proof that she was all dumb style and no unique substance. As if, she, like the word “adorkable” itself, was shorthand for the worst of descriptions: “quirky,” with a heart dotting the “i” and a smiley face in the "q."

But the term “adorkable” has been around for awhile, Before Zooey (BZ), as it were. Google it and you’ll get nearly 2.3 million results. Jesus. The top three are the Urban Dictionary’s definition of the term (“Both dorky and adorable. A higher state of being all dorks strive towards”), an explanation of the “Adorkable” TV Trope, and the personal website of Nick Orsini, who enjoys “sending all the love in the world to everyone here.” I don’t know where “here” is, and I don’t want to.

Let’s trace its online history using our good friend, Google. (I also Ask.com'd the word, but when I saw that a related query was, "What Is Ear In Spanishadorkable?" I remembered why I haven't asked Jeeves anything since middle school. What does that question even mean?)

Square Hippies, "Adorkable of the Month"
Throughout 2006-2010

On the "worksafe shirtlessness" website Square Hippies, there was a monthly feature in 2009 and 2010 called Adorkable of the Month, in which writers would chose, well, the most adorkable person of the month. Such winners include Justin Bartha, Kris Allen, and then-Dollhouse star Fran Kranz. The "adorkable" tag itself extends back to 2006, when it was first used about Christopher Gorham from Jake 2.0.

Time, “Looking for Mr. Adorkable”
April 12, 2007

In a fawning profile about The O.C. star Adam Brody, Time writer Joel Stein (y'know the guy from I Love the '80s) spoke to the show’s creator, Josh Schwartz, who said, "Adam is the funniest guy you still want to see get the girl. He's able to attract neurotic Jewish writers to write for him, but he's definitely cooler in real life than the characters he's provided.” He added, “He can be really sweet and adorkable, but there's some anger there.” BZ, Adam Brody was the go-to “adorkable” celebrity. Sorry, Louie Anderson.

"Adorkable Constantine–Classic CONtage"
September 21, 2006

Over 2,700 YouTube videos show up when you search for "adorkable," with the results going back to 2006. The first video is actually for "Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros" by the Flight of Conchords, but I think that's because someone semi-recently commented on the six-year-old video under an "adorkable" username. The actual answer is, "An oldie, but goodie… classic Constantine," the Constantine in question being Constantine Maroulis, the former American Idol contestant-turned-Rock of Ages Broadway star. The video is five minutes of blurry images of Constantine doing "adorably dorky" things, set to the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive."

Urban Dictionary, "Adorkable"
January 19, 2003

There are eight pages worth of "adorkable" definitions on Urban Dictionary, and it was crowned "Urban Word of the Day," whatever that means, on April 19, 2006. But the term goes back much further than that; the first definition was typed in on January 19, 2003. User Miss AnGie wrote, "Simply adorable but in the utmost dorky way. Cute. Silly. Funny. Spiff," and used the word in a sentence: "Oh that AnGie is SO adorkable!" If she wasn't such a colloquial trailblazer, I'd make fun of her egotistical ways. (My favorite of the other definitions comes from KGMAN: "General examples from tv would be the character's Ross from Friends, Jim from The Office, and for obvious reasons Chuck. It is Steve Jobs, Conan O'Brien, Chuck Klosterman, Malcolm Gladwell, and Rachel Maddow." You can tell it's from 2008 because people still liked Jim then.)

Blogspot, "Adorkable: i dont know..im just bored"
February 27, 2001

The lucky person with the adorkable.blogspot.com address is "Hilary," and she wrote a single post on February 27, 2001 (I didn't think Blogspot existed then, but guess so?). It read, "josh is mad at me..he said he isnt anymore but i think he still is…why you ask? because..i WAS gunna break up with him..but i decided not to…my mom is sort of getting to me in ways…i dont know..my day was pretty fun..i got checked out to go to wal-mart and i saw one of my friend from in the 6th grade..and she is like a prep now..when she was like punky and umm..i dont know..shes just changed..thats terrible !" I'm not the Josh in question, though: good story.

Later, “Hilary” would change the web address to imaho.blogspot.com, while still keeping the “Adorkable” blog name. Further updates on her life include:

“we got food!!! i hope josh can come over tomorrow!”

“josh…said he isn't mad at me anymore..but im still not sure…his knuckles look soo terrible !”

“man! the rink was sort of fun..until the end…i got my first booty threatin..ohh my ashley hobbs…she got all upset..cuz i called her a ho..OoO wow ! who cares? ugh i hate her !”

I couldn’t find much on “adorkable” before February 2001, so, “Hilary,” take a bow wherever you are: you are a true pioneer. I hope things worked out between you and Josh. For realz.

Josh Kurp still hates the word "adorkable."

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  • Brian Boone

    Remember earlier in the week when Mr. Frucci asked the world what it wanted more of on Splitsider so as to make it even better and more singular? I'd guess that this is the kind of piece he had in mind. Well done.

  • Adorkablewordinventor

    I'll have you know that I invented that word when I was seven years old or so (back in 1992 that would've been). My mom put something (a hat maybe?) on my little sister and looking in the mirror declared "Doesn't she look adorable!" To which I responded "She looks aDORKable!", with a snarky grin. I know, I was pretty clever and witty even at that age! Anyway, my sister is still adorkable, not unlike Zoey.

  • adorKablefae

    As well as I can recall, I came up with 'adorkable' in 2005 of my own accord (it's possible I read it online somewhere, but I really dont think this is the case). I promptly registered my screen name, adorkablefae, and haven't looked back. I was so miffed, and very fourteen, when the word seems to have come into popular usage. Interesting timeline, thanks for doing the research so I didn't have to.

  • John

    Also…. in 2006 the host/actress, Andrea Trisdale, started using the word on the TV show "Subtext," which aired on the CW in Austin, Texas. In December of 2006, she created a YouTube account, AdorkableAndrea.

    • Susan

      Clay Aiken fans were using it since Jan 2003.