I read this in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago, in Alexis Soloski’s review of a production of Peter Pan, with music by Leonard Bernstein:
Peter (Peter Smith, an impish nonbinary comedian) intuits that growing up means mommy-daddy stuff, which is awfuller than all the awful things that ever were. Since the play’s vision of marriage is the wonky relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Darling, who’s to say he’s wrong?
The NOOB in there, of course, is “wonky.” I hasten to say that there are two separate, unrelated “wonky”s, one American in origin and the other (Soloski’s) British. As Green’s Encyclopedia of Slang, the essential resource on these matters, says, the former derives from the noun “wonk” defined as: “(orig. US campus, also wonky) anyone who works harder than the rest of the students see fit; latterly used to describe an expert, e.g. policy wonk.” The first citation is from the Harvard Crimson in 1955: “The articles vary from a serious appraisal of the Ivy League education to a less high-minded account of the social life of Harvard ‘wonkies’ and their Princeton and Yale counterparts, ‘tools’ and ‘weenies.’” In the form of “policy wonk,” it crossed over to Britain by 1999, when it was used in The Guardian.
The adjective form is seen in a March 2017 headline in the Times: “How a Wonky National-Security Blog Hit the Big Time.”
Green’s defines the second “wonky” as “of a person or object, unsteady, unstable, out of kilter.” Here are the first citations; the Union Jack indicates they are from British sources:
The first appearance of the British “wonky” in the New York Times, as far as I can tell, appeared in a 1993 article about Ralph Lauren by Gerri Hirshey. She wrote
The Gap, Banana Republic and J. Crew, to name a few, have successfully marketed his look at a lower price. It’s a kind of piggyback populism, this rush to things basic and essentially conservative, worn, in Gap ad campaigns, by the unassailably edgy and hip. They are photographed in minimalist black and white: actors, painters, musicians. This is, in its way, a rebirth of the Whitmanesque longing that caused the jeaning of America in the late 60’s and went so wonky.
Nerd-“wonky” still is used more commonly than out-of-kilter “wonky” in the Times, but the latter has gained popularity, showing up at least seven times so far in 2018, including the Peter Pan review and this quote from the makeup artist Patrick Ta:
“I think eyebrows are super important. Eyebrows, in my opinion, are such a big part of the face, so if you have wonky, ugly eyebrows then people just like me are going to be judging you.”