Published May 02 2013
Benshoof: Gettin’ geeky with it
That’s because in Monday’s issue of The Forum, I wrote about how it’s now hip to be square, and used the words “nerd” and “geek” to mean essentially the same thing – someone who loves things like Star Trek and has dark-rimmed glasses.
So, uh, someone like me, I guess.
But the problem with that, I think, is that it neglects the major differences that actually set apart nerds and geeks in real life.
Oh yes. There are differences.
But before I get to those definitions, some context about where nerds and geeks came from.
According to Merriam Webster, the word geek was first used in the early 1900s in conjunction with carnival acts. Geeks were essentially the carnival freaks, who did weird things like bite the heads off of chickens.
That definition has since changed, needless to say.
Nerd, meanwhile, appears to have its origins with Dr. Seuss, at least according to a 2011 article by the Boston Globe. In Seuss’s 1950 book “If I Ran the Zoo,” the narrator says that he will collect “a Nerkle, a Nerd and a Seersucker too!”
Interestingly, the illustration that accompanied Seuss’s nerd was an odd-looking creature with disheveled hair, a black T-shirt and a generally untidy appearance.
Nerds eventually broke out of Seuss’s zoo and into American culture. Just a year after “If I Ran the Zoo,” “Newsweek” magazine used nerd as a synonym for someone who was a “drip” or “square.”
The words nerd and geek have since evolved to mean entirely different things, and reflect entirely different demographics, according to various online sources.
For starters, a nerd is someone who’s interested in academia and in being smart, but lacks particular social graces.
A geek is someone who’s interested – to the point of obsession – in one specific subject, often a niche one. They’re more capable in social situations than nerds, unless you get them started on their obsession, then good luck with that.
According to www.geekwire.com, geeks love gadgets, especially Macs and Apple products, while nerds probably own PCs. Geeks wear things like jeans and T-shirts, while nerds tend towards apparel like button-down shirts and bowties. Go figure.
There’s more to it than that, but those are the basic differences. If you think you might be a nerd or a geek but aren’t sure which, there’s a helpful personality quiz on the dating website OKCupid, of all places.
According to the results of that test, I’m categorized as a “pure nerd,” based on my answers to questions about learning new information, school and how I interact with other people. I agree with the results, though I dispute the fact that I’m socially inept.
That being said, if you’ll excuse me, I have big plans this weekend. I’m off to sit in front of my PC to read online fan boards about the new Star Trek movie.
Take OKCupid’s “Nerd? Geek? Or Dork?” test: www.okcupid.com.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535