Nerd Is The Word

Are you a geek or a nerd? Or neither, thankyouverymuch? Austin Grossman's pondering about whether or not it's time to drop the term "nerd" on Friday prompted much discussion, and not just about Answer 5.

(Yes, the poll should only have had three options, but accidentally ended up with two extras, called Answer 4 and Answer 5, to the amusement of many. Oops.)

At time of writing, more people were voting to keep the term "nerd" alive for future generations than wanted it gone, but the comments showed that many people were, perhaps, uncertain as to what the definition of nerd actually is:

geeky_cylon: "See, my understanding of nerd was that it was a point of no return, someone who pretty much doesn't do anything cool at all. Your definition of 'nerd' sounds more like a 'geek' to me - a self-aware lover of nerd-like things, but someone who has fun with it and may do a few cool things here and there. Maybe my stance comes from where I grew up, who I grew up with, or what I watched over the years. Not sure."

sweetchuck: "I always thought of nerd as the smarter than average but socially comfortable end of the spectrum. Geek was a little more awkward, and more specialized (video games, trek, etc). Dork was where you didn't want to be - not necessarily smarter, definitely not social, and entrenched in his interests."

QuenbyKoliha: "A Nerd to me, has always been the pinnacle of Geek. A Geek isn't smart enough to be a Nerd, but they all share the same social paradigm (Gaming, Sci-Fi, Etc...) Nerds have a true genius, combined with drive... where as Geeks may or may not be "intelligent" - they just don't fit with 'pop culture' But, I'd have to say the description is way off. Nerds were, and always will be the most pretensous people of all! Not too sure it should be retired at all... Anyone famous was at least a Geek growing up. Band Geek, Theater Geek, Computer Geek they all be came our rock/movie stars and CEOs. They still do! There's still a lot of 'Stan Gables' out there! (And if you have to google that, you're a Geek, not a Nerd)"

Aristeia: "For me, nerd does imply greater than average intelligence (particularly in specific fields, like physics, math, computer science, etc.), but more importantly it means social awkwardness. A lack of affect, an inability to connect with people in a normal way. Nerds tend to speak and think literally, have little use for humor that isn't 'at their level,' and tend to assume they're the smartest person in the room. Such nerds often correct everyone else, even when the person was being facetious or ironic.

"Geeks also tend to be of greater than average intelligence, but their focus isn't necessarily on academics or being 'superior' - it's about a love of technology, music, games, w/e... it's about having passion for something(s) to such an extent that it borders on obsessive. But being a geek doesn't mean you have to be socially awkward. It's quite possible to be geeky but have lots of so-called 'normal' friends. Of course, some geeks are also nerds.

"Dork is usually an affectionate term (or insulting one, depending on who made the statement and against whom) which implies a sort of goofiness, off-kilter humor or awkwardness. Dork has nothing to do w/ intelligence or interests - it's about being that guy who's singing on the street just for fun. It's about making reaaallly corny jokes for the ironic laugh. Most people have dorky moments; pure dorks are rare, as far as i've seen.

"For me, i'm a geek who hangs w/ both hardcore geeks and fairly normal people, and i have my occasional dorky moments. But i am not a nerd. :P"

AsherCadmium: "You have it pretty much on the nose, here. Everyone seems to know the correct definition of nerd; it's someone who is very intelligent, but usually not so good in social situations. You may find a lot of people in this category land somewhere on the autistic spectrum. This is definitely not a bad thing, even Einstein is suspected to have been mildly autistic and everyone loves Einstein. It's just that considering the behaviors of mild autism it's easier to understand nerds. Their brains are very capable of storage and use of complex ideas and formulas, but when it comes to social interaction that seems normal for the rest of us they can be a bit flustered and awkward. They can definitely like that same things as geeks, but they approach it from a different and more methodical angle. Geek is what most of the io9 crowd falls into. We are usually a bit above the average intelligence range and more socially adept than our nerd friends (though this is DEFINITELY not always the case). Geeks love vintage video games because they are awesome and not because they are currently hip to say that you like. We debate things like Superman vs. Jean Grey or how the zombie apocalypse would pan out because we actually have sat and thought about this for hours and have a well-planned argument on hand. We have interests like techie gadgets, sci-fi novels or making steampunk accessories. We start working on Halloween costumes months in advance. We learn to play the Mario theme song on some random instrument. We just do this stuff because it's fun and it's what we like. The modern geek is comfortable in their own skin (for the most part) because it's not worth the trouble to fake that we love 'normal people' pursuits just so that we fit in. There are enough proud geeks in the world now that we fit in just fine. Dorks often mistake themselves for geeks, but any geek can spot the difference a mile away. Dorks are usually perfectly nice people, maybe a little more socially adept, definitely have the same capacity for intelligence as geeks, but they just don't have 'it'. They are funky artist-types, Halo or other mainstream X-Box playing frat boys and their 'let you take pictures of me flubbing my way through Guitar Hero in my underwear to post online' girlfriends, the store-bought Batman costume, the hipsters, the Hot Topic punks and so on. Dwight Schrute is their favorite character on 'The Office', but that's is as far as they go. When some hot actress is quoted in FHM saying that she likes video games then she is usually just a dork, or lying to boost her fanbase (unless she is the lovely Mila Kunis who we somehow managed to have on our team.) I don't want to say any group is better or worse. I don't think any of these words are insults anymore. If we took them away from the trash-talkers and made it our own then we don't have to worry about losing it to the marketing machine because it has no soul. If you invent a new word to call ourselves then we just have to hammer out all of these little details again, anyways. We aren't and never were rebels. Share the wealth and treat every class of people the same otherwise we become what had once tried to keep us down."

EaterofFood may have it most correctly:

In a lot of cases geek and nerd are interchangeable, at least as far as the general public is concerned. That said, what are we going to replace it with?

Wait, replace it? Not necessary, according to OW-Holmes:

We need to take back control of the "N-Word". Sure its been co-opted and nicely packaged by Hollywood. But just because bits and pieces have been monetized doesn't mean we the word has lost meaning. Saying you spent all night playing video games or that you were first in line for watchmen still has a negative connotation. I still cant talk about my team work experience playing TF2 during a job interview without being laughed at.

To paraphrase Paul Mooney, "Everyone wants to be a nerd, but no one wants to be a nerd."

HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak is pretty much over the whole idea of this conversation:

Hate to be the party pooper here, but this is pretty much "Trekkie/Trekker" on a larger scale. Nobody cares but us, and everybody else is going to keep using the terms interchangeably, and probably is going to use whichever term you dislike most to describe you.

NotArthurPDragon is similarly unimpressed:

Actually, this is a typical nerd response to having something considered "theirs" become successful so of course you have to turn on it...nerd.

It's best, in cases like these, to leave the last word to Lassus:

If I hear one more hot girl saying that she loves nerdy boys, I'm going to throw my 12-sided die at my plastic glasses sitting on my Atari 5200 case mod.

NO, YOU DON'T, ACTUALLY.

(That being said, I have none of those things. Call me.)