Yesterday's post begged a peculiar question: what is the definition of a "nerd" or a "geek"?
Last night my bride informed me that I was more of a "nerd" then she was as I tended to be interested in and research topics outside my normal everyday life (like calculating the terminal velocity of a balrog or researching the definition of 'nerd').
To her, her greatest dream was to become a "computer geek" – ie. someone who knows computers, both programming and hardware. The root premise being that a "geek" was someone who enjoyed and collected wide ranges of gadgets (electronic and computers).
Not wanting to disappoint my glorious gal, I decided to embark on a journey to discover what is the correct definition of a "nerd" or a "geek". Let the quest begin.
The first stop on our journey is the Dictonary.com (online, of course)
- a stupid, irritating, ineffectual, or unattractive person.
- an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit: a computer nerd.
- a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, esp. one who is perceived to be overly intellectual.
- a computer expert or enthusiast (a term of pride as self-reference, but often considered offensive when used by outsiders.)
- a carnival performer who performs sensationally morbid or disgusting acts, as biting off the head of a live chicken.
Hmm… E bitting the heads of live chickens?
Onward to our next stop: UrbanDictionary.com [a wiki style dictionary for urban slang words and phrases.]
One whose IQ exceeds his weight
The people you pick on in high school and wind up working for as an adult
Well, that didn't help any…
To save this quest, we must go to the Mecca of all nerds and geeks – the great Wikipedia!!
Nerd is a term often bearing a derogatory connotation or stereotype, that refers to a person who passionately pursues intellectual activities, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests that are age inappropriate rather than engaging in more social or popular activities. Therefore, a nerd is often excluded from physical activity and considered a loner by peers.
Some nerds show a pronounced interest in subjects which others tend to find dull or complex and difficult to comprehend, or overly mature for their age, especially topics related to science, disambiguation, mathematics and technology. On the opposite end of the spectrum, nerds may show an interest in activities that are viewed by their peers as immature for their age, such as trading cards, comic books, or role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons and other things relating to fantasy and science fiction.
The word geek is a slang term, noting individuals as "a peculiar or otherwise odd person, especially one who is perceived to be overly obsessed with one or more things including those of intellectuality, electronics, gaming, etc.". Formerly, the term referred to a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken, bat, snake or bugs. The 1976 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary included only the definition regarding geek shows.
- A person who is interested in technology, especially computing and new media. Geeks are adept with computers, and treat the term hacker as a term of respect, but not all are hackers themselves.
- A person who relates academic subjects to the real world outside of academic studies; for example, using multivariate calculus to determine how they should correctly optimize the dimensions of a pan to bake a cake.
- A person who has chosen concentration rather than conformity; one who pursues skill (especially technical skill) and imagination, not mainstream social acceptance.
- A person with a devotion to something in a way that places him or her outside the mainstream. This could be due to the intensity, depth, or subject of their interest.
Our quest is now over. We can breath easier knowing that:
a nerd is someone who "passionately pursues intellectual activities, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests"
a geek is someone who is "interested in technology, especially computing and new media"
As such, I must admit that my wife was correct and I'm more of a nerd then she is. * sigh*
Have you ever wondered where the term "nerd" came from? Wonder no more!
The word itself appears to derive from the lines "And then, just to show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo / And Bring Back an It-Kutch, a Preep and a Proo, / A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker, too!" in the Dr. Seuss book "If I Ran the Zoo" (1950). (The spellings `nurd' and `gnurd' also used to be current at MIT.) How it developed its mainstream meaning is unclear, but sense 1 seems to have entered mass culture in the early 1970s (there are reports that in the mid-1960s it meant roughly "annoying misfit" without the connotation of intelligence).
An IEEE Spectrum article (4/95, page 16) once derived `nerd' in its variant form `knurd' from the word `drunk' backwards, but this bears all the hallmarks of a bogus folk etymology
American Psychological Association (APA):
nerd. (n.d.). Jargon File 4.2.0. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from Dictionary.com