What is a nerd?

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What is a nerd?

Postby OfficiallyHaphazard » Sun Oct 07, 2007 7:58 pm UTC

I have been thinking about this recently... what exactly is a nerd?

Dictionaries define a "nerd: to be
American Heritage Dictionary wrote:nerd n. Slang
A foolish, inept, or unattractive person.
A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.


Other dictionaries relate "nerd" directly to the term "loser."

I feel, however, that the definition of nerd has changed to point to a new group of people. This new group of people, in my mind, is technologically focused, has their own rule of etiquette, and thus is a branch off of mainstream society. However, I hardly feel that being a "nerd" is much less the derogatory term that it was in the past.

What are your thoughts? Is being a "nerd" any different now than it was 10-20 years ago? What exactly is being a "nerd"?

Thanks!
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby ascendingPig » Sun Oct 07, 2007 8:02 pm UTC

Of course the definition of "nerd" is different now. All the richest men in the world are nerds now.
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby SimonM » Sun Oct 07, 2007 8:08 pm UTC

See, this is where I seem to have slightly different meanings for the word 'nerd' to everyone else. What some people would call a nerd, I would call a geek, and vice versa.

i.e. Geek: Someone who will spend a lot of time perfecting a scientific skill - particularly involving technology
Nerd: Someone who doesn't have much of a social life and spends their time trolling and gaming
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby e946 » Sun Oct 07, 2007 11:16 pm UTC

Geeks aren't necessarily into technology. Band geeks for instance.

They're pretty hard to define. If I had to try, I'd say both nerds and geeks seem to be people who have friends in their own main hobby (Computers, gaming, band, D&D, magic cards, whatever), but are usually viewed as outcasts or losers by the main group.

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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby jeffpc » Sun Oct 07, 2007 11:20 pm UTC

Nerd vs. Geek vs. Dork, etc.

I consider myself a geek - one very interested in a subject area (computer for me). The word "nerd" I view as a too derogatory. And "dork"...well...I love using it when talking to some of my friends due to its meaning :)

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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby Infornographer » Mon Oct 08, 2007 12:01 am UTC

In my mind, "geek" denotes a person who has acquired exceptional skill (or possesses exceptional interest) within a specific area. Computer geeks love computers, music geeks love music, anime geeks love, well, you get the idea. "Nerd" refers to a person who has a more traditional, academic, devotion to a subject. There does not exist a very definite line between the two, and either may lack or possess social skills.
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby Gelsamel » Mon Oct 08, 2007 12:13 am UTC

"What is it to be a nerd?"
"What is it to be a goth?"
"What is it to be an emo?"
"What is it to be a jock?"
"What is it to be a chav?"

All meaningless questions, trying to find a objective definition of labels like this will end up with you shooting yourself in the face.
"Give up here?"
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"Do you accept defeat?"
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"Do you think games are silly little things?"
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"Is it all pointless?"
- > No
"Do you admit there is no meaning to this world?"
- > No

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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby OfficiallyHaphazard » Mon Oct 08, 2007 3:09 am UTC

Gelsamel wrote:"What is it to be a nerd?"
"What is it to be a goth?"
"What is it to be an emo?"
"What is it to be a jock?"
"What is it to be a chav?"

All meaningless questions, trying to find a objective definition of labels like this will end up with you shooting yourself in the face.



I disagree...
some people are definitely not goths, others are quite emo--things that everyone can agree with. I know they are not completely accurate terms, but they give a spectrum of attributes that a person may or may not have. What I want to know is if the group of people that call themselves "nerds" has changed, and if people feel proud to be a nerd, or whether it is something still frowned upon....
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby Gelsamel » Mon Oct 08, 2007 3:16 am UTC

Of course you can make a distinction between something which is definitely goth and something which is definitely not goth. However trying to draw the line in the continuum is impossible. Many "Goths" look at other "Goths" and claim that X and Y make them not "Goth" to define exactly the requirements of a "Goth" and hence other labels like "Nerd" is impossible.
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby williamager » Mon Oct 08, 2007 3:54 am UTC

OfficiallyHaphazard wrote:I have been thinking about this recently... what exactly is a nerd?

Dictionaries define a "nerd: to be
American Heritage Dictionary wrote:nerd n. Slang
A foolish, inept, or unattractive person.
A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.


Other dictionaries relate "nerd" directly to the term "loser."

I feel, however, that the definition of nerd has changed to point to a new group of people. This new group of people, in my mind, is technologically focused, has their own rule of etiquette, and thus is a branch off of mainstream society. However, I hardly feel that being a "nerd" is much less the derogatory term that it was in the past.

What are your thoughts? Is being a "nerd" any different now than it was 10-20 years ago? What exactly is being a "nerd"?

Thanks!


One of the dangers of trying to give a universal definition for a slang term is that the usage and meaning of such words are often not isotropic. Many different people have different definitions of 'nerd' and 'geek', and thus it's almost impossible to understand what any arbitrary person means when using the terms.

When I was growing up, my friends and I considered ourselves to be nerds, and would have been offended by the term 'geek', but if we had been asked at the time to explain the meaning we wished to impart when using 'nerd', none of us would have been able to give an adequate response. It could perhaps best be described by culture: we defined nerds as being those who were part of a culture where the pursuit of knowledge was held as the most noble. Unattractiveness and the inability to interact socially were not considered to be typical traits of the nerd; instead, we would have (if we had thought seriously about the matter) considered these perceived traits to actually be a clash between two cultures. We did not consider the paragons of social ineptitude who sometimes tried to emulate us, but were unable to speak to anyone (especially those of the opposite gender) to be nerds, and would probably have considered them geeks or simply losers. Later, when I was amongst the culture of Free software and the Internet, I found an almost diametrically opposed definition, where geeks were considered to be technically inclined and with their own culture, and nerds were considered to be the unattractive and socially inept losers. Yet another segment of the population considered the two terms to both refer to a culturally-connected group of people, with geeks being more technically inclined and nerds being more scientifically inclined. Considerable confusion resulted from the use of all of these definitions, and many variations, in the same conversations.

It has been my experience, however, that 'geek' tends to be unheard of in the media of the general public, with only 'nerd' being used. In that segment of society, it seems that the term originally referred to the socially inept loser, and is now moving toward meaning a person in a knowledge-based culture. However, the unfortunate connotation of social ineptitude is still present, to some extent.
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby OfficiallyHaphazard » Tue Oct 09, 2007 6:45 am UTC

Gelsamel wrote:Of course you can make a distinction between something which is definitely goth and something which is definitely not goth. However trying to draw the line in the continuum is impossible. Many "Goths" look at other "Goths" and claim that X and Y make them not "Goth" to define exactly the requirements of a "Goth" and hence other labels like "Nerd" is impossible.


I can agree with that. Yet, there are some traits that are "nerdy" and some that are not. (You may interpert nerd as geek, for I do not know which I am talking about).
I view nerdy activities as extensive video game playing or being emotionally invested/invested via the amount of time you put in to an activity that is technologically related
for example, posting in this forum, I think, is a nerdy activity. I have no problems with that, and i view myself as nerdy/geeky, but definitely not the nerdy/geeky type that you see in "revenge of the nerds"
I feel the definition has changed to focus on a slightly different group of people--but am I the only one that feels this way?

what does it say that there are 3 new shows that are focused on nerds coming out this tv season ("chuck" "big bang" and one other, which I forgot)
thanks for all these replies!
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby Victorkm » Tue Oct 09, 2007 1:29 pm UTC

I would call a nerd like everyone else: Someone who has become really good at/knowledgeable about a range of academic or pop culture subjects or skillsets to the exclusion of other areas such as social interaction or sex etc.

I think the sense of being a social outcast is inherant in the meaning of geek. A geek alone would be a weird/strange person who puts off others due to his focus on a single/range of subjects over all others. So a geek is kind of a nerd who projects his nerdity onto others.

A dork would be someone like Booger from revenge of the nerds. Or someone like Chuck's best friend on Chuck.

Harold on The Big Bang Theory fits into my geek definition, while Leonard and Sheldon would fit into Nerd definitions. I'm not sure how to classify Raj.

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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby chaosspawn » Tue Oct 09, 2007 2:44 pm UTC

I've usually heard it as
dork: someone socially inept
nerd: someone who is interested in learning and knowledge
geek: someone with a strong interest in a specific subject

This is not necessarily tech related, for instance you could be a linux geek just as easily as sports geek or history geek (I thinking the term 'buff' will often substitute in these fields however).

Using such definitions it's easy to see why there's a significant overlap between nerd/geeks. Nerds may have a fvorite subject, and geeks will like to peruse knowledge about their preferred subject. And such people are probably more likely than the general population to have some degree of social ineptitude. Or perhaps those who aren't inept really aren't noticed as much or since they're more accepted then less emphasis is put on their nerd/geek qualities.

These are just the definitions I've always been told. I consider my self to be both geeky and nerdy, and yes a dork sometimes as well.
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby Dark Ragnarok » Tue Oct 09, 2007 7:47 pm UTC

@Gelsamel

It's funny, i agree with you, or at least i know exactly what you are saying, yet i will call myself a nerd.

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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby OfficiallyHaphazard » Tue Oct 09, 2007 8:50 pm UTC

Dark Ragnarok wrote:@Gelsamel

It's funny, i agree with you, or at least i know exactly what you are saying, yet i will call myself a nerd.



ya, same here-- I think this is what I am trying to figure out :)
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby smallpot » Wed Oct 10, 2007 12:10 am UTC

chaosspawn wrote:I've usually heard it as
dork: someone socially inept
nerd: someone who is interested in learning and knowledge
geek: someone with a strong interest in a specific subject


The above definitions come closest of those listed thus far to my own understanding of the terms.

However, I also tend to associate specific subjects more strongly with each label:
Nerd: academic interests, science, history, math, knowledge
Geeks: Technology, computers, sci-fi, video-gaming
Dork: Fantasy, role-playing, monty-python, LARPing

Although all three are often used in a pejorative sense, I'm of the mindset that they can also be used to describe a set of interests without necessarily implying a lack of social skills.

Of course, it should also be noted that each of these terms mean different things to different people, so no definition will perfectly encompass all usage or be without counterexamples.

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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby Oblivious Bear » Wed Oct 10, 2007 3:59 am UTC

Gelsamel wrote:All meaningless questions, trying to find a objective definition of labels like this will end up with you shooting yourself in the face.
And if you're the sort of person who instinctively searches for labels to apply to themself, I support said face-shooting.

So I'm a bad person.
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby Dark Ragnarok » Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:37 pm UTC

If anything an aspect of a said nerd has something to do with being *highly* interested in things most people take no interest in.

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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby elminster » Thu Oct 11, 2007 3:03 pm UTC

"Art" would be the counter argument to trying to label non-specific things that vastly vary in meaning from person to person.

You can't make a specific definition of what each sterotype is, but you can use the most commonly used meanings that overlap.
E.g. Goth: Strong preference to wearing darker colours, mainly black with possible highly contrasting colours elsewhere. Use of metal, leather and Christian/Satanic imagery is also strongly associated. Predominately accompanied with a preference to subgernes of rock music that have a macabre or aggressive theme.

Then again, that definition would also include people who like wearing suits and don't listen to rock at all.... so yeah, it's not so good (Also I suck at writing definitions). Some peoples definitions of "Goth" only covers clothing and it's extremely hard to describe gothic clothing without being so specific that it would just turn into a list.
Although I agree, you can't really formalise slang terms as easily as above.

For me:
Geek: Someone who is really interested in science/technology/video gaming/academic interests
Nerd: see Geek.
Dork: More degratory and extreme version of geek.
All with some degree of social ineptness.
Then again, I generally don't differentiate between them that much since it's usually the context that gives it most of the meaning.
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby Fudge » Thu Oct 11, 2007 6:36 pm UTC

Only nerds would try to objectify the definition of nerd.

<_<

>_>

With that said, I'm a nerd, even though I have no set criteria. I know one when I see one!
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby Dark Ragnarok » Thu Oct 11, 2007 7:12 pm UTC

I always did it like this:

Nerd: One who puts their time into at least one activity most people find un-interesting. Usually the kind of people who know a *lot* more about the subject than any other random 10 people. This can many acticities, but it can deviate to just a few or one.

Geek: One who spends a *lot* of energy with heavy mind inducing activities, especially those that people wouldn't want to get into. They have a strong tendency to fall in with Nerds because they have lots of interests in things most people don't get *that* interested in. The difference is how a Nerd doesn't have to think a lot to love his subject of interest. Maybe... loving WOW would make the guy a nerd, but a total idiot can be wrapped up in the game. (not all WoW plays are idiots)

Dork: A term coined by girls to describe the exaggerated weirdness of a guy, no matter what it is.

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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby sgware » Sat Oct 13, 2007 9:06 am UTC

Gelsamel wrote:<snip/>
"What is it to be an emo?"
<snip/>
trying to find a objective definition of labels like this will end up with you shooting yourself in the face.

Sorry... I just had to highlight this. Please forgive my off-topicity.

I've always seen the difference between Geek and Nerd as being a difference between interest and skill. Geek implies interest, whereas Nerd implies skill.

For example, my CS professors are computer nerds because they understand computers inside out and backwards, but most of them are not computer geeks. They do not participate in "hacker culture," or contribute to any open source projects so far as I know. If you used a term like "BRB" in a vocal conversation, some of them would not understand you.

Another example: I am a Star Trek geek. I love Star Trek and consider myself a huge fan, but I would embarrass myself at a Trek fest, where I would inevitably meet Star Trek nerds who would put my to shame with their extensive knowledge of trivia or ability to speak Klingon.
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby Handsome » Sat Oct 13, 2007 11:17 pm UTC

I've always defined 'nerd' as "One who is too smart for their own good, and mildly socially inept", a geek is "A nerd who has social skills", and a dork is "Some idiot who sits around playing Halo all day.

I'm somewhere between geek and nerd.
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby OfficiallyHaphazard » Sun Oct 14, 2007 2:36 am UTC

By that logic I am part nerd, part geek, and a wannabe dork ;)
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby aleflamedyud » Mon Oct 15, 2007 4:30 am UTC

I always heard that a geek is a person who has extreme knowledge in isolated interests, often to the exclusion of "broader" things like music and sports, and may or may not lack social skills (most of them don't, actually). A nerd, however, is one who tries and not-quite-succeeds to acquire the knowledge of a geek as compensation for their lacking social skills.

And a dork is just something girls in '80s movies call any non-jock male they don't like.
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby BoomFrog » Wed Oct 17, 2007 9:23 am UTC

Do you call Pepsi, a "cola", a "pop", a "soda", or a "coke"?

It just depends on which dialect of English you speak.
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby aleflamedyud » Wed Oct 17, 2007 9:42 am UTC

Actually, under no circumstances do you call Pepsi Coke.
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby General Meevious » Tue Oct 23, 2007 12:32 pm UTC

My understanding is this; a nerd is a intellectual, a geek as a wannabe nerd. :P

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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby crazyjimbo » Tue Oct 23, 2007 1:07 pm UTC

Fudge wrote:Only nerds would try to objectify the definition of nerd.


It goes further than that. In my observations, nerds try to define what a nerd is, but don't really know; geeks can tell nerds easily, but are unsure what makes a geek, and non-geeks can tell a geek from a mile away.

It's like our own social halting problem.

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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby aleflamedyud » Tue Oct 23, 2007 3:31 pm UTC

In my experience the word "geek" is positive enough to be applied with modifiers. Eg:

"band geek", "painting geek", "nature geek"

A nerd is really just anyone whose window the Alpha-Betas throw a brick through.
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby FACM » Tue Oct 23, 2007 3:41 pm UTC

aleflamedyud wrote:Actually, under no circumstances do you call Pepsi Coke.


In parts of the American south, everything cola is coke.

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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby Bluggo » Tue Oct 23, 2007 8:10 pm UTC

A geek is someone who would follow the right path of this tree.
A nerd is someone who would first build a Faraday cage around him. And who, after some experimentation, would manage to create a much more powerful device.
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby Dan Frank » Tue Oct 23, 2007 8:51 pm UTC

FACM wrote:
aleflamedyud wrote:Actually, under no circumstances do you call Pepsi Coke.


In parts of the American south, everything cola is coke.


Truth.

I've even seen places in the USA where everything soda is called coke.

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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby e946 » Thu Oct 25, 2007 4:21 am UTC

Dan Frank wrote:
FACM wrote:
aleflamedyud wrote:Actually, under no circumstances do you call Pepsi Coke.


In parts of the American south, everything cola is coke.


Truth.

I've even seen places in the USA where everything soda is called coke.


In that case, how would you order the drink that's actually named coke?

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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby aku » Thu Oct 25, 2007 12:59 pm UTC

e946 wrote:
Dan Frank wrote:
Truth.

I've even seen places in the USA where everything soda is called coke.


In that case, how would you order the drink that's actually named coke?


"Can I have a coke please?"

"Sure, what kind would you like?"

Well, that and the fact that most people actually want Coca-cola anyways.

As for the nerd thing, I've never really found two distinct areas/groups who agree on a single definition. In high school, my group of friends played Magic the Gathering (and other card games), watched anime, read manga, and in general much of our sub-culture was based on internet culture, such as L337 jokes, AYB, and homestarrunner. We called ourselves nerds willingly, and we didn't take any offense to it. We also considered ourselves to be partly geeks, but not completely. I think it's best to say that we borrowed things from what we considered geek culture. That would have been the leet, AYB, linux, and stuff like that. But in general we still considered geek to be a bit of an insult. I guess in our minds, it had to do with the antisocial aspect. Nerds like us had a huge group of friends (actually we were probably the largest social group in the school, since we drew in members of other groups too), while geeks were more of loners. We actually had a joke between us that, after being called a geek, we would say something like, "Hey! I'm not a geek! I'm a nerd. Get it right." Like I said, I'm not really sure why, it just seems like it happened like that.

I don't exactly think of it the same way any more, but I still have the instinct that geeks are more loners than nerds.

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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby Iori_Yagami » Thu Nov 01, 2007 8:17 am UTC

Labels are EVIL, period. :x They are for crippled minds which are unable to process continuous qualities and need something simplistic.
And what is 'social skills'? :shock:
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Re: What is a nerd?

Postby Toeofdoom » Thu Nov 01, 2007 8:52 am UTC

Last time this thread came up the definitions got so extremely far off track they were plain wrong. I'm not sure whether it's better or worse this time.

Not to say that theres any exact right definitions, but they were *really* bad some of them.

Boring description you might as well not read...
Spoiler:
Anyway, my take is that nerds are more into maths/science/academics. If someone goes and learns stuff for the sake of learning for 10 years after leaving high school, they're (almost) definitely a nerd. These types tend to be the more serious ones.

A geek is passionate/insane about one or more subjects in the realm of computing, gaming, fiction, music etc. all of which are very broad areas. They are knoweledgable about some subjects and rather ignorant about others. They also tend to be louder and more excitable than nerds.

Dorks are just people who are a little lamer than usual, and dont particularly try to be cool. A person can't just be a dork. Labelling someone only as a dork just means you know nothing about them, but think they're pretty lame or socially inept. Honestly, I don't know anyone I'd describe as dork, because it just isn't that descriptive.


In the end, they're all pretty useless once you're out of high school.
Hawknc wrote:Gotta love our political choices here - you can pick the unionised socially conservative party, or the free-market even more socially conservative party. Oh who to vote for…I don't know, I think I'll just flip a coin and hope it explodes and kills me.

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