Wednesday, May 8, 2013

100th Post!

...Took Long Enough

So here it is, a milestone I had intended to hit long ago. 100 posts. In a perfect blogosphere I would've cracked 100 posts over a year ago, but we're here now and at last. And still with a massive backlog of topics, rants, and columns that I need to write. I'll say this, as well: don't worry about me running out of nerd topics to lather over, and don't worry about the next 100 posts taking quite as long.

As we hit triple digits in posts, it occurs to me that I still haven't elaborated on a concept that is foundational to this blog. That is the divide between nerd and geek. Now, before I get all iconoclast on you, let me wave a disclaimer in your face. What I mean when I say geek probably isn't what you mean when you say geek (although if it is, you're probably an immensely cool person). So when I proceed to insult geeks and separate them from true nerds, keep in mind that I'm insulting my very specific classification of geek, which may or may not apply to you and yours.

With that out of the way, my definition. A nerd is defined by inordinate enthusiasm for activities not considered acceptable enough to be part of mainstream culture. The earliest use of it came in 1950 from Dr. Seuss' book If I Ran the Zoo, where the nerd was listed amongst several fanciful creatures. However, only a year later it was popularly considered synonymous with a drip, or a square. I imagine this leap came from people identifying a Seuss nerd as a goofy, unreasonable animal in his crazy zoo, which naturally evolved into identifying goofy people who seemed over-enthused with uncool things or activities. Now, with over sixty years in the vernacular, the term nerd is still about boxing someone into a classification over their interests.

Geek, meanwhile, is a term originating in circus culture. The geek is a circus performer who eats just about anything for the crowd--typically biting the head off a snake or chicken. So when I refer to a geek in a general, non-circus sense I'm referring to someone who is motivated by something other than legitimate passion. A geek appears to share those enthusiasms only so far as it provides some selfish gain, usually in the form of attention or money.

Here's the telltale aspect of my distinctions between these two terms: geek is generally used by outsiders in a more ameliorative sense while nerd is still much more likely to be pejorative. Why? Because to someone who considers themselves outside nerd culture and passions, the geek is defined as being useful. They're the "good ones" in our social minority group, and that's why we have the Geek Squad and Geeked At Birth as commercial entities and advertisement taglines, respectively. To be a nerd, meanwhile, is still all about your personal love for your hobbies, and so it's still open to ridicule and still used as an insult. Which is exactly why I make it a point to clearly delineate these terms--to clearly underscore that I personally esteem true, earnest nerds and group them quite separately from geeks. The bottom line is that a nerd, while not necessarily a dork, isn't afraid to look like one while having fun. A geek is totally willing to look like a dork for compensation.

In case the distinction is still eluding you, here are some illustrations.

  • Play games in their basement and forget that it's a bad stereotype until someone reminds them.
  • Go to conventions in normal clothes and feel out of place for not wearing a costume.
  • Fantasize about playing board games with celebrities.


  • Get into cosplay just to build a fan-base, then move into modeling.
  • Wear prescription-zero glasses to look smart/sophisticated/businesslike/full-of-crap.
  • Insist on the label "pro gamer".

Yeah, it's pretty much like that.

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