Nerd vs. Geek

Okay, I am confused, but I think I have my answer… just read this.

Am I a “Geek” or a “Nerd” I know I am fall under one of those two labels. Years ago, I would have been offended if I was called either, but now I realize that it’s actually more of a compliment, but still somewhat of an insult. Although, either of the labels refer to being a tad bit smart and I have been called worse.
I have even been called a technophile… hmm. Didn’t like that one so much and I don’t even think it’s a word.

So like any “Geek” or “Nerd” I went to wikipedia and here is what I found:

The word geek has recently come to be used to refer to a person who is fascinated by knowledge and imagination, usually electronic or virtual in nature. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word geek as “1: a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken, bat or snake 2: a person often of an intellectual bent who is disliked 3: an enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity”. The American Heritage Dictionary’s 1976 edition included only the first of those definitions.

And it goes on to say:

The definition of geek has changed considerably over time, and there is no definite meaning. The social and rather derogatory connotations of the word make it particularly difficult to define. The difference between the terms “geek” and “nerd” is widely disputed, as the latter might be identified as someone who is unusually intelligent, and the former as someone who has an eccentric interest towards a certain category or topic. Below are some definitions of the word; all are still in use to varying degrees.
A definition common among self-identified geeks is: “one who is primarily motivated by passion,” indicating somebody whose reasoning and decision making is always first and foremost based on her passions rather than things like financial reward or social acceptance. Geeks do not see the typical “geeky” interests as interesting, but as objects of passionate devotion. The idea that the pursuit of personal passions should be the fundamental driving force to all decisions could be considered the most basic shared tenet among geeks of all varieties. Geeks consider such pursuits to be their own defining characteristic.

A person who is interested in technology, especially computing and new media. Comparable with the classic definition of hacker.
A person who relates academic subjects to the real world outside of academic studies — for example, using multi-variable calculus to determine the volume of a cake at a party.
A person who has chosen concentration rather than conformity; one who pursues skill (especially technical skill) and imagination, not mainstream social acceptance. Geeks usually have a strong case of neophilia (a love of novelty and new things). Most geeks are adept with computers and treat “hacker” as a term of respect, but not all are hackers themselves — and some who actually are hackers normally call themselves geeks anyway, because they regard “hacker” as a label that should be bestowed by others rather than self-assumed.
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. This definition is very broad, and allows for mathematics geeks, engineering geeks, sci-fi geeks, computer geeks, various science geeks, movie and film geeks (cinephile), comics geeks, theatre geeks, history geeks, gamer geeks, music geeks, art geeks, SCA geeks, literature geeks, anime and manga geeks (otaku).
G.E.E.K., as an acronym, reputedly came from the United States Military; it stands for General Electrical Engineering Knowledge. It is likely a backronym.
A derogatory term for one with low social skills, regardless of intelligence.
A performer at a carnival who swallows various live animals and bugs.
A person who rejects society, yet is involved in it — unlike and in contrast to a hermit. (This is generally used to also mean someone with high intelligence.)
Natasha Chen Christensen quotes Julie Smith: “a bright young man turned inward, poorly socialized, who felt so little kinship with his own planet that he routinely traveled to the ones invented by his favorite authors, who thought of that secret, dreamy place his computer took him to as cyberspace — somewhere exciting, a place more real than his own life, a land he could conquer, not a drab teenager’s room in his parents’ house.”
Words such as nerd and dork are similar to the word “geek”, but carry different connotations. It could be said that the particular interests of nerds are of practical nature (like math, physics, astronomy), while those of geeks are often considered trivial but entertaining.

Now for the “Nerd” word:

Nerd as a stereotypical, archetypal and frequently used informally as a derogatory designation, refers to somebody who passionately pursues intellectual or esoteric knowledge or pastimes rather than engaging in social life, such as participating in organized sports or other mainstream social activities. The Merriam-Webster definition is an “unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person: especially: one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits.” While Nerd, Dork and Geek share in passionate pursuit of detailed knowledge, the Australian colloquialism dag shares the association with the unfashionable and socially inept with the added feature of being affable and amusing. A nerd is often excluded from physical activity, and is often considered a loner by peers.

The word “nerd” first appeared in Dr. Seuss’s book If I Ran the Zoo, published in 1950, where it simply names one of Seuss’s many comical imaginary animals. (The narrator Gerald McGrew claims that he would collect “a Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too” for his imaginary zoo.)
The use of the “nerd” as slang goes back at least to 1951, when it was reported as a relatively new usage in Detroit, Michigan first by Newsweek and then the St. Joseph, Michigan, Herald-Press[3]. By the early 1960s, usage of the term spread through the United States and as far as Scotland. Throughout this first decade, the definition was consistent—a dull person, a synonym of “square”, “drip” and “scurve”. During the next decade, it took on connotations of bookishness as well as social ineptitude, and the spelling “nurd” began to appear. The University of South Dakota’s journal, Current Slang, contains four entries for “nurd” and one for “nerd” in 1970 and 1971.
The first recorded use of the “nurd” spelling appeared in 1965, in the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Bachelor. Oral tradition at RPI holds that the word was coined there, spelled as “knurd” (“drunk” spelled backwards), to describe those who studied rather than partied. This usage predates a similar coinage of “knurd” by author Terry Pratchett, but has not been documented prior to the “nurd” spelling in 1965. A spelling variant “gnurd” was in wide use at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by 1971 and continued at least until the mid-70’s.
Other theories of the word’s origin include a variation on Mortimer Snerd, the name of Edgar Bergen’s ventriloquist dummy and the Northern Electric Research and Development labs in Ontario (an old name for modern-day Nortel), suggesting images of engineers wearing pocket protectors with the acronym N.E.R.D. printed on them, and a claim by Philip K. Dick to having coined “nurd”. The Online Etymology Dictionary speculates that the word is an alteration of a 1940s term nert meaning “stupid or crazy person,” itself an alteration of nut., but gives no evidence.
The term itself was used heavily in the American 1974 – 1984 television comedy Happy Days which was set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the mid-1950s, and in one episode, “They Call It Potsie Love”, introduced the reverse-spelled “dren” as meaning its opposite.[12] (This has no known or documented relationship to either instance of the drunk/knurd reversal.) In 1984, the film Revenge of the Nerds was released starring Robert Carradine, and Anthony Edwards. Carradine in particular worked very hard to embody the nerd stereotype and in so doing helped define it for many years to come. Additionally, the storyline presaged and may have helped inspire the “nerd pride” that emerged in the 1990s.

So you can call me a nerd or a geek, and I won’t be offended. I think I prefer geek though.

Nerd vs. Geek
Scroll to top

Pin It on Pinterest

The Real Dennis Stangl