Geeks & Nerds

So XKCD’s current strip is on the difference between Geeks and Nerds. According to XKCD you’re a geek if you’re specifically into something – so you can be a music geek, a baseball geek, a maths geek, etc.; nerds are ‘(often awkward) science, math or computer geeks’.

I don’t agree. I think you’re a nerd if your interest in one specific thing (preferably something nerdy, but then everything at an obsessive level is nerdy, perhaps?) is verging on the all-consuming; you’re a geek if, well, it’s hard to explain, but I think it’s about being intelligent and interested in a number of things to a level which surpasses decent small-talk with your grandmother – you know, she’d never understand whatever you told her about your degree or your new computer or the films you like watching. Your degree subject only counts if you talk about it a lot when you’re not talking about actual work you’re doing or have to get done. So A is a geek because he’s always telling me to read this or read that or about some philosophical thing he’s studying and he’s obviously mainly interested in those things; my housemates, two of whom study politics, never talk about that when they’re not ‘on the job’ and only talk about drunken gossip and so on.

Perhaps it’s about being comfortable with your intelligence and intellectual curiosity and thinking that getting engaged with something interesting and out of the ordinary and not just about what’s for tea or who’s sleeping with whom* is an acceptable way of having a conversation. I think it is. But then, I’m a geek.

What do you think? Also, are you automatically a geek if you keep a blog?

*Not that these things aren’t fascinating. I love gossip, clothes, scandal, stupid humour and what’s-in-the-fridge as much as the next person. But then, you knew that.



Filed under Blogging, Books, Happenings, Internet, Life, Relationships, Society, Thoughts, University

10 responses to “Geeks & Nerds

  1. “you’re a geek if, well, it’s hard to explain, but I think it’s about being intelligent and interested in a number of things to a level which surpasses decent small-talk with your grandmother”

    Probably true. And I think a nerd is basically a geek who doesn’t have social skills. And no, I don’t think that blogging is inherently geeky or nerdy, unless you write about geeky/nerdy stuff…

  2. Dominic Rout

    @Dickie I always saw it the other way – a geek being a nerd without social skills. That said, I also just don’t like the word “Geek”. It doesn’t feel nice to say.

    Personally, I’d be proud to be categorised as either. There was a time when I couldn’t find friends who would listen to me rant about what is now my degree.

    These days I seem to be surrounded by such people!

  3. Jenny

    I would personally say I was a geek but not a nerd. Although I think some people might see me as a music nerd or a grammar nerd or something and perhaps that’s fair enough.

    I think it’s a regional thing – becuase it’s to do with language as we use it every day, in the vernacular, then it depends more than most words do on the connotations the word acquires and words like ‘geek’ or ‘nerd’ acquire different connotations with different people – and that has far more of an influence upon meaning than is the case with most words.

    Does that make any sense whatsoever?

    I guess basically ‘geek’ and ‘nerd’ mean one thing to a clique of friends in Oxford, say, and somthing else entirely to a group of people in a sixth form in Bradford, whereas ‘tomato ketchup’ or ‘connotations’ or ‘countryside’ or ‘fancy’ or even really subjective things like ‘love’ will have roughly the same meanings or connotations, taken as some kind of linguistic average within each word, across both those groups and everyone else besides.

    I know nothing about linguistics.

  4. Jenny

    (that last was a disclaimer of sorts).

  5. Clare

    I dunno. I think Geeks and Nerds are silly distinctions to draw, perhaps because they are, to some extent, perjorative, and I’d like to think that actually it doesn’t matter what the difference is between either of them because they’re irrelevant to people who value intellectualism for itself…

    If that makes sense.

  6. Jenny

    I like being a geek. I like being able to identify myself as someone who a) thinks about things, b) knows about things and has opinions on them and c) can laugh about themselves and others. It’s not just about being an intellectual, it’s a bit less ‘serious’ than that. And I like that.

  7. I agree with Clare!

    I have been called a geek in jest and in insult – I think the distinction is in inflection; certain tones of voice suggest admiration, others trying to pull you down.

    I find it interesting you mention some people only disucss their work whilst “on the job”. I meet/have met a lot of people like this and I’m glad I’m not one of them.

  8. There’s a rich and fine history of pejorative terms being “reclaimed” and turned into a positive things. Geek, and to a lesser extent nerd, have gone that route, I think.

    I think I would go with Dickie’s definition, but that’s not surprising seeing as how we come from more-or-less the same place.

  9. Flix

    I claim to be a geek. I have been told that I am a “wannabe geek”, this is mainly in terms of my degree and my attitude towards studying. That is, I’m not nearly motivated enough to be a geek. I am instead, the special kind of loser who spends time online rather than go out and get trashed.

    I don’t see geek as a derogatory term, but like you say, it depends on your impression of the word and the personal connotations it brings. One of my friends, I believe, is a geek and I don’t think it’s a mean thing, but she hates it, even if it’s said in jest, as she used to be bullied at school for that reason. Whereas my school was basically School of Geeks all over, so I pretty much fitted right in. If someone thinks I’m a geek, whether it be meant as an insult or a compliment, I don’t think I’d mind. Because you know, it’s probably the truth.

    I’ve had the nerd/geek distinction discussion before and what it basically comes down to is that I just use the word geek more readily, for any situation, though it could have different meanings depending on the person.

  10. Jenny

    I think you’re probably a geek, Flix :P.

    I wish I’d gone to a School of Geeks :P. I was always called ‘boffin’ instead.

    And otherwise, agreed.

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