Sunday, April 24, 2011 at 11:36 PM | Posted by Mariana
I mentioned in my first post that as I was creating this blog, I got myself involved in a heated argument over the definition of nerd. As someone who has identified with much—yet thankfully, not all—of nerd culture, this is a subject I have thought much about and discussed. The most common discussion I, and I expect many others, have come across is the distinction between nerd and geek.
A quick search on the internet reveals the following definitions:
A geek is any smart person with an obsessive interest.
A nerd is the same but also lacks social grace. (a dweeb is a mega-nerd)
I don’t completely agree with these definitions. Geek seems fairly accurate; I have always associated the term with someone who has an obsessive interest in very specific areas. Nerds I give a broader definition. Their interests may not be as specific, but they are obscure, esoteric and of little practical use.
The argument in question, however, is focused specifically on the definition of nerd. According to a friend of mine, I am using an awful generic definition of nerd. His definition goes as follows:
“People who are into RPG playing, sci-fi and fantasy, tabletop gaming, card gaming, can recite trivia from pop culture related to those things (LOTR, SW, ST, DW, BSG, DnD, Magic, etc.). And if you had to describe how a nerd looked and behaved, you’d say he (VERY rarely she) was short, had glasses, not well built, and can’t talk to girls. Sure, those are certainly generalizations, but you get the point.”
For some reason I am reminded of this character:
(hey, his friend IS the Dewey Decimal System!)
He continues to argue that these are socially built up standards to which the term must adhere. Any other kind of nerd, such as a music nerd, isn’t really a true nerd.
...this is coming from a guy whose facebook status earlier in the day was “is walking around his house wearing only his Thor helmet and boxer shorts.” You can imagine the kind of impasse we reached. And I’m going to be roommates with him in September. That’ll be quite an interesting time.
While I remain vehemently opposed to his definition of nerd, I cannot help recalling last summer with my friend over at Maple Glaze. I consider this guy to be one of my closest friends and, with all confidence, I can tell you that he embodies much of what it is to be a nerd...and is proud of it. Imagine my shock when he revealed that despite his extensive knowledge on the Star Wars series, he had never seen the movies! All his information came from Wikipedia! What a sacrilege. I immediately revoked his “nerd” status until he had seen at the very least, episodes IV, V, and VI.
So perhaps my Thor-helmeted friend is somewhat correct in saying that society has certain standards to which nerds must adhere in order to maintain their title. I still maintain, however, that just because society has expectations that it applies to titles, doesn’t mean that they define the title. That’s like saying that a gay man must be effeminate and artsy in order to be gay. When you’re talking about labels people use to identify themselves, they need to be broad in order to function. Otherwise you’re just talking about exclusive cliques to which people belong. And make no mistake about it, even if it’s online, those cliques are real, but they do not encompass a social label.
Can’t we just accept nerds as what they identify themselves to be?