What is 'nerd'?

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What is 'nerd'?

Post by readertorider on Sun Sep 20, 2015 9:30 am

Google has two definitions of nerd, "a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious" (which seems ridiculously harsh and I don't think I'd call just anyone who lacks social skills a nerd) or "a single-minded expert in a particular technical field" (which also seems odd for the situations where I've seen the term used).

Urban dictionary starts with "One whose IQ exceeds his weight" (which implies that the vast majority of nerds are women) and gets exponentially more ...interesting... from there "[...]Unfortunately, nerds seem to have problems breeding, to the detriment of mankind as a whole".

A long time ago, I read that a 'nerd' was someone who had a very intense interest in an uncommon topic--basket weaving, didgeridoo concerts, the Qin Dynasty, Tolkien's Middle Earth-- while a 'geek' was someone who had a much broader interest in some combination of sci-fi/fantasy TV/movies/books, board/role-playing/video games, and math/science/tech. I like these definitions, but I'm not sure if they actually match reality or not.

How do people here define 'nerd'?
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Re: What is 'nerd'?

Post by bomaye on Sun Sep 20, 2015 9:40 am

Edit: Noooothin to see here
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Re: What is 'nerd'?

Post by Enail on Sun Sep 20, 2015 4:07 pm

I came up with some definitions of "nerd" vs. "geek" a while ago that I was pretty happy with.

A nerd is someone who has an intense and rather academic interest in one or more things to a degree that's generally considered weird.

So, for an unusual or socially stigmatized interest, say tabletop RPGs, a person doesn't have to be that deeply interested in it or be that academic about it to read as a nerd. But for a more mainstream interest, say, sports, it is still possible to come across as a nerd, but because it's much more common to be interested and even to do things like imaginative games (fantasy football is totally the D&D of sports), they would need to be the sort of person who quotes lengthy statistics all over the place for it to seem nerdy.

While nerd to me is about an unusual interest in knowledge about a topic, geek I think is about a desire to immerse in a topic. To live vicariously in a world, to imagine or to make things that let you be part of it, to want one's life to revolve around a thing they love. That's why fantasy and sci fi are so associated with geekiness, because they lend themselves to deep immersion.

Both words are used in so many ways that I don't think it's possible to pin down one meaning or the difference between them, but I think these work pretty well as a balance between how they are used and how I think it makes sense to use them.
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Re: What is 'nerd'?

Post by BasedBuzzed on Sun Sep 20, 2015 6:20 pm

A miserable pile of pop culture references.

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Re: What is 'nerd'?

Post by Enail on Sun Sep 20, 2015 9:31 pm

That is a meme reference, not an insult to pretty much everyone here, right? Uh-oh
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Re: What is 'nerd'?

Post by BasedBuzzed on Sun Sep 20, 2015 10:52 pm

"Leave, troll, you don't belong on this forum!"
"It was not by my hand that I am once again cast as villain. I was called so by posters who misunderstood my references."
"References? You butcher memes and make them fly over heads!"
"Perhaps the same could be said of all my jokes."
"Your words are as nonsensical as your worldview. This forum ill needs a joker such as you."
"What is a joker? A miserable little pile of puns! But enough talk, back to the topic."

I feel the difference between a nerd and a geek is the connotation of solitude with the first one and sociability with the second. A nerd would look up the definition when asked the question, a geek would throw it into a group discussion. Of course, this is a 'feel' of the word, so it may be completely different for others.

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Re: What is 'nerd'?

Post by Wondering on Mon Sep 21, 2015 1:01 am

For me, the feel of the words were different. Nerd was always more academic and arts/humanities based, while geek felt computery and sciencey.

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Re: What is 'nerd'?

Post by Hirundo Bos on Wed Sep 23, 2015 4:07 pm

In my language (Norwegian), I don't think the distinction is very clear... it might be because I'm not that good with distinctions, but it also feels like the word "nerd" is better integrated in the language, complete with Norwegified pronouncation, and covers both of the meanings to some extent...

And when I use the word, it can mean a couple of different things – sometimes, a particular cluster of interests (things like sf and fantasy, computer stuff, history stuff, simulation games in various forms, a tendency to make fandoms around these things); at other times, someone with a strong interest in and above average knowledge about a certain subjects. The two frequently overlap.

When I was in a feelgood reality show about "Nerds learning to play soccer as a team", they used the latter definition, and so, besides me with my sf-fantasy-rpg-thing, there were among others an autograph hunter, a couple of musicians (who were passionate about it) and a car enthusiast. I think we all fitted quite well together.
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Re: What is 'nerd'?

Post by Enail on Wed Sep 23, 2015 4:10 pm

Huh. In English, I'd tend to call that grouping "geeks," not "nerds," because enthusiasm, not learning, seems to be the common factor there. But then, English has a lot of words.
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Re: What is 'nerd'?

Post by Hirundo Bos on Wed Sep 23, 2015 7:00 pm

And if you look back some centuries, more than a few of them are Norwegian. But that's the language... geek in me going OT.
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Re: What is 'nerd'?

Post by Wondering on Wed Sep 23, 2015 8:17 pm

Quite a few are Norwegian. Pretty much any that start with sk, for example. Part of the reason English is estimated to have more words than any other Indo-European language is its fluid adoption of other languages' vocab. French and Latin for starters, but Norwegian, Welsh, and many from Native American languages, too.

And here's where I call myself a language nerd, so I guess I'm using that word the opposite of everyone else? Oh, well. Not gonna stop now. Smile

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Re: What is 'nerd'?

Post by Enail on Wed Sep 23, 2015 10:01 pm

I think it's both geek and nerd. Since a lot of the enthusiasm one can have for languages is knowledge-based, it's a subject with a big overlap. Or at least, it's sort of making sense to me at this particular moment Shrug
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Re: What is 'nerd'?

Post by Wondering on Wed Sep 23, 2015 11:35 pm

(Off-topic: I think the shrugging emoticon is adorable.)

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Re: What is 'nerd'?

Post by Enail on Thu Sep 24, 2015 12:02 am

(I think my new favourite might be Run in circles flail  But I also like Uh-oh and Shiny/thrilled )
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Re: What is 'nerd'?

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