Let the battle commence
Sorry to disappoint you, this is not the title of a new reality TV game show, although I think a cross between Beauty and the Geek and Gladiators would work?!
A group of bookcrossing friends and I regularly meet up for a coffee, to swap books and chat. We pretend to be normal so that we can fit in, however, on more than one occasion we have seriously discussed the difference between geeks and nerds. That’s just the way we roll 😉
An unfashionable or socially inept person. A knowledgeable and obsessive enthusiast
The word came into use in the late C19th, from Germanic roots meaning mad or silly, but now refers almost exclusively to computer geeks. There is also a more recent verb form;
‘To engage in or discuss computer-related tasks obsessively or with great attention to technical detail; become extremely excited or enthusiastic about a subject, typically one of specialist or minority interest.’
A foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious
This is a more modern word (circa 1950’s) which started life as a more generic description of single-mindedness and non-conformity. So not just computer nerds.
Herein lies the problem, both geekiness and nerdiness are mildly derogatory and are often associated with a particular type of behaviour, and the person exhibiting that behaviour, typically male (but not always). Both geeks and nerds are hugely over-represented in the IT industry. Those taking an interest in computers and technology, and by extension, maths, science & engineering – the so-called STEM subjects at school – are tainted (if that’s the right word?) with the same stigma.
1981 when geeks ruled the world
For those of us of a certain age playing with microprocessors and the new personal computers was an extension of hobby electronics, linked inextricably to being a maths-geek or a science-nerd, or both. The times have changed, everyone has a smart phone, a social media account, a pinterest page or a blog, but there are still mainstream and niche interests.
So, you like to read science fiction (you like to read!), you know the difference between a Galaxy S6 and an iPhone 6s, you find The Big Bang Theory funny, and prefer Brian Cox to Rita Ora, how could you possibly have an interesting job working with real people?
It’s not really about the labels, words and meanings, they come and go, and shift and evolve over time – some words have even had complete make-overs; awesome was once a very bad thing, boys were called girls, nice was silly, and silly was happy…
As a fellow geek/nerd (whatever the difference is!) I salute you and your different-ness. We’re happy to have you at our party, but please bring some of your normal friends along too!
(c) 2015 Antony Lawrence CBA Ltd.