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A freak (first attested in this sense in 1839, and still sometimes referred to, as the full phrase freak of nature)[better source needed] refers to a person who is physically deformed or transformed due to an extraordinary medical condition or body modification. The term's original neutral connotation became entirely negative during the 20th century; therefore, freak with this specific meaning remains only as a pejorative.
Freak saw usage as jargon by past promoters and performers in freak shows and its use in this sense has dwindled as the popularity of freak shows themselves have dwindled. One well known example of this use of the word was in reference to Joseph Merrick, the "Elephant Man." Side-show freaks would be classified into two groups: natural freaks and made freaks. A natural freak would usually have been born with a genetic abnormality, while a made freak was a person who had had an artificial alteration (such as surgical implants).
The term has a variety of much more recent meanings. One is someone with something strikingly unusual about their appearance or behaviour. This usage dates from the "freak scene" of the 1960s and 1970s, most famously championed by Frank Zappa, leader of the rock band The Mothers of Invention. Another recent usage is as an enthusiast, such as a health freak; or referring to obsessive behaviour, such as control freak.
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