The preferred terms, according to one techie interviewed by the Chronicle while working at a Four Barrel Coffee in the Mission, are: "hackers," "makers," or "coders." The dreaded t-word is not only insulting, says one tech venture fund partner, but it might as well be a racial slur.
Like the derogatory "hipster," the term "techie" is apparently only useful until someone turns it on you. For today's Gold Rush column, which is the local paper of record's occasional feature on how tech affects city life, the Chronicle used a highly scientific survey of people on laptops in popular coffee shops to gauge people's temperature on the term. They even tracked someone down to explain the linguistics behind this whole thing:
San Francisco State linguistics lecturer Jenny Lederer said the word "techie" may have started to pick up a set of inferences, which can make a benign, neutral word sound negative - so "techie," like how it's used in the song, may now conjure up ideas of gentrification and entitlement more than, for example, the terms "software engineer" or "tech worker" do.
Adding further insult, Lederer said: "The 'ie' suffix can sound belittling, like 'groupie' or 'yuppie.' The 'er' suffix in English is agentive, as in 'hacker,' thus sounds stronger."
Regarding the cool factor of the word "hacker," we direct your attention back to 1995, a time when even Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie weren't cool:
But what's more insidious says Enrique Landa, identified by the Chronicle as co-founder of Mission-based nerdwear company Cordarounds, is when the term is used to describe not only an industry, but newcomers to the city: "Whenever you get a mass migration of a new wave of people," Landa explained, "you get a negative connotation from the people who were there before - like Mexicans in the Mission. The new wave always gets a bad rap."
Update: An earlier version of this story named Enrique Landa as co-founder of Betabrand, as he was identified in the Chronicle. Betabrand CEO Chris Lindland follows up to say Enrique is not the co-founder of Betabrand, but that the two worked together to create a clothing brand four years earlier. Landa's LinkedIn profile lists Cordarounds — a company which later became Betabrand — among his experience. For his part, Lindland tells us via email: "I (and by extension, Betabrand) have zero interest in whether Techie is a pejorative term. Ranks a zero on the slur scale as I see it."