06 June 2006

Nerd or Geek? Cast Your Vote Today!

My father, silly man, always acted like being called a "nerd" was the highest honor. As teenagers, when he would tell yet another corny joke, we'd all roll our eyes and inform him that he had reached a new level of nerd-dom. He would blush, bat his eyes, smile a bashful smile and humbly respond, "I'm not your average fool, you know." (Ponder that comment for just a moment.)

They say that a girl will marry someone who is just like her Dad. Well I sure proved that maxim! Steve is right up there with the elite nerds. A Nerd among nerds, if you will. Sometimes I feel kind of bad about calling him a nerd, but what other terms are available to me? "Intelligent"? "Super-duper smart"? "Ruler of the network world"? "Corny joke teller extraordinare"? None of that seems to quite encapsulate the man I know.
Remember now, my upbringing was one in which calling someone a "nerd" was the highest compliment. (And remind me later to tell you how my family warped the term "stupid" into praise for a joke of particular hilarity. "That's so stupid!" was often giggled around the dinner table to much chortling and milk spewing. My poor Mom.)

So anyway, back to the nerd issue. My friend, Rhonda, calls her hubby her "geek." So I began to wonder if maybe being a "geek" was more P.C. than being a "nerd." I decided to do a little research, and I think you'll find the results surprising. And stupid too... in the best way possible.

From The Free Dictionary:


n. Slang
1. A foolish, inept, or unattractive person.
2. A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.Dr. Seuss's Nerd

[Perhaps after Nerd, a character in If I Ran the Zoo, by Theodor Seuss Geisel.]

nerdy adj.
Word History: The word nerd, undefined but illustrated, first appeared in 1950 in Dr. Seuss's If I Ran the Zoo: "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!" (The nerd is a small humanoid creature looking comically angry, like a thin, cross Chester A. Arthur.)

I've always thought Dr. Seuss was a genius. Now I know it.

n. Slang
a. A person regarded as foolish, inept, or clumsy.
b. A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.
2. A carnival performer whose show consists of bizarre acts, such as biting the head off a live chicken.
geeky adj.
Our Living Language Our word geek is now chiefly associated with student and computer slang; one probably thinks first of a computer geek. In origin, however, it is one of the words American English borrowed from the vocabulary of the circus, which was a much more significant source of entertainment in the United States in the 19th and early 20th century than it is now. Large numbers of traveling circuses left a cultural legacy in various and sometimes unexpected ways. For example, Superman and other comic book superheroes owe much of their look to circus acrobats, who were similarly costumed in capes and tights. The circus sideshow is the source of the word geek, "a performer who engaged in bizarre acts, such as biting the head off a live chicken."

Is it preferrable to be a sideshow performer who bites off chicken heads, or a sneery humanoid from a Dr. Seuss book? The polls are open. Cast your vote.


Blogger gretalynn said...

The geek sounds something like Ozzy Ozbourne! (Biting of chicken heads?!?) I prefer Dr. Seuss any 'ole day!

6:59 PM  
Blogger Erica said...

Hmmm...its debatable! I mean, Dr. Seuss is awesome. But after hearing about the clothes scene in college, I can't help but wonder LOL...nah! Dr. Seuss it is!!!

11:32 PM  
Blogger Leatherwing said...

I think the answer lies in the definitions, not the commentary:
1. A foolish, inept, or unattractive person.
a. A person regarded as foolish, inept, or clumsy.

Bruce Wayne was regarded as foolish and inept, but he is really Batman.
Leatherwing (Rhonda's Geek!!)

8:45 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

Rising to the defense of geeks everywhere, you have represented your people well.
Wouldn't you say though that despite the accepted definition, a commentary on the origins of each term ought to be considered? That is, after all, how we got the word in the first place.

I have to admit I see a similarity between you and Mr. Tattoo (above). You're definitely NOT a nerd. Geek suits you so much better. You and Bruce Wayne are two bats from the same stalactite. ;)

9:39 AM  
Blogger Leatherwing said...

I think commentary should definitely be considered. But I also think nerds and geeks alike would agree that the rule-book/dictionary/manual has supremacy. Otherwise you end up with some kid claiming a new super power every week, ala the big blue haired school boy.

10:19 AM  
Blogger rhon said...

All I can say is that living with My Geek is very entertaining and bizarre and, if a chicken got it's head bit off at our house, I wouldn't be surprised.

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Steve said...

Dear Readers,

Would you describe Clark Kent (the non-Super form of Superman) as looking kinda "geeky" or kinda "nerdy"?
I only bring this to bear because of the allusion to the Bateman character from a previous post.

On to the meat of the discussion...

First, we are all a victim of media. "Revenge of the Nerds" being the first media presentation of the "modern nerd". This was the 80's version of the Nerd and it was, well, rather disgusting. Then there was "Napoleon Dynamite", which I have not seen, but I've heard much from my colleages. And most recently the television advertisements from BestBuy's GeekSquad...which have blaintantly insulted the nerds by saying, "Nerds are just plain weird, but Geeks get it done." (I think my quote is probably inaccurate in all the specific words, but I have accurately captured the spirit of the television commerical.)

Having said all this, I'll stand behind the defintion of Nerd if not for nostalgia, for the sake of all the great t-shirts that say, "I love Nerds".

There is also my emotional attachment for fellows at church (Rowlett Bible Fellowship) who, with me, participated in many games fests which fell under the moniker "Nerd Night". I wonder if leatherwing ever participated in those gatherings?

Moreover, it has taken me years to accept that fact that I probably look and act nerdy is many ways. Now that I am comfortable with who I am, I'm not interested in changing at this time.

Plus, I really can't bring myself to endorse the side show antics of those who called themselves geeks in the past: the chicken-head-biters, the sword-swallowers, the fire-eaters, and especially the chicken-head-eaters.

-- Nerd for Life, Steve.

10:22 PM  
Blogger gramarty said...

The most interesting thing to me in this discussion is the origin of Superman's cape. I've (this is the honest-to-goodness truth) been wondering that very thing!

A couple of weeks ago my oldest grandson (it's so neat to have to differentiate between TWO grandsons now), Eben, secreting something behind his back, ran past me into his mom and dad's bedroom yelling, "Grambee, don't look! Mommy, come help me!" I turned my back until, when given the signal, I opened my eyes, turned around and witnessed an amazing thing! A blue and red streak flashed before me so fast that, had I blinked, I'd 've missed it altogether!

What was this faster-than-the-speed-of-light phenomenon?

What had been a mild-mannered little boy, teeth freshly brushed and dressed in blue and red pj's, had become the lightening-fast SuperEben (with the help of his trusty mom) by simply donning a cape!

So I began pondering...I grew up in the era of the Steve Reeves version of Superman and I can clearly picture the close-ups of his muscular outstretched arms clad in gray stretchy super stuff and his darker gray cape flapping in the breeze...and the long shots of his whole horizontal gray-clad body with that cape still flappin'.

So what I wondered was who came up with the idea for Superman to wear a cape and why? What did the cape have to do with his ability to fly? Seems to me like it'd just get in the way (which I bet it did on the set!)

And I read Superman comics...he always had a cape there too. Why?

Now you're telling me that his character harkens back to high wire circus performers? trapeze artists? Why did they wear capes? Does it mimic a bird's wing or parachute (which in my shallow aeronautical understanding probably perform similar functions.)

If I continue to research this will I be labeled a nerd or geek?

10:32 AM  
Blogger Sprittibee said...

My husband is a classic nerd - in the mathematical and scientific sense of the word. I don't think he's socially inept... but he is a social recluse. Fine with me, cuz I'm the jealous type and don't want to share him anyway. :)

I am not sure I fit under nerd or geek now... after reading the definitions. Although, when my husband and I were dating, I figured both of us were nerds and we both didn't care.

I think what I'd be considered if you got technical is a WEIRDO. Eccentric, strange, persnickety, peculiar, unconventional,untypical, divergent, kooky, puzzling, unorthodox,offbeat, out-of-the-box, colorful, analytical, methodical, purposeful, religious, theoretical, nomadic... but unfortunantly, not nerdish. Too bad. Nerds usually end up rich.

4:19 PM  

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