I want to talk about what I consider the misappropriation of words. It's an extremely annoying trend in this country right now. People love to redefine words. They love to "make them their own", or "take them back". For my part, I hate this trend. Misappropriation comes from an ignorance of not knowing the etymology of a word. And I for one strive to live in a world without ignorance. Everyone currently seems to be quick, even eager to denounce a word as “bad”, or “offensive”; albeit their own knowledge of whatever word they think is derogatory usually revolves around the idle whims of a society just as eager and quick to judge, as they are to condemn. George Carlin (a much more brilliant man than I) called these people the vocabulary police. These are the same people who want you to think it's offensive to say the word retarded. It is not. These are the same people who want you to feel bad about saying the word man, and or, woman. These are the same people who arbitrarily decide what is right or wrong for the general public at large to speak and even to think. They want to control vocabulary so they can control thought; most of the time I can ignore these people, because the only thing that exceeds their ignorance is their stupidity. Normally I can discount this atrocious, obnoxious, venomous group as the inane rantings of semi-crazy people. However, I now find that even moderate people, people like you and I, you know?... the majority of us that think and feel, are doing the exact same thing.
This brings me rather verbosely to my point- the way that, somehow, the word nerd has superseded the word geek.
I have always been exceptionally proud to call myself, and ultimately define myself by the nomenclature geek. Geeks are, by and large, some of the happiest people in the world. They love what they do, and do what they love. Their passion for art and fiction knows no bounds, and their ability to rattle off inconsequential information on a multitude of inconsequential, but nevertheless, wonderful subjects is awe-inspiring. I love geeks. I am a geek. Sure they (I) have their faults. Geeks are opinionated and long-winded. Sometimes I will catch myself espousing the glory of a movie now 30 years old to a child born when I graduated high school and I have to almost physically remind myself that they just might not give a shit. Geeks often love things to a harmless, but otherwise guilty fault, appropriating things that never existed and building their reality around those things; i.e. Steam Punk, Fantasy, horror… more often than not eschewing the trappings of modern life and reality for the realms found on the screen, in books, in video games, and in their own heads. They constantly yearn for pasts and ancient ways they perceive as better, but not understanding, or wanting to understand (because that would destroy the illusion) that the pasts and the ancient ways they imagine were better, were in reality ruthless and horrible and dark. They have a tendency to obsess over minute details involving their favorite sci-fi show or comic book movie or fantasy story, when it would be much better to simply revel in the momentary joy of living.
Regardless, geeks are by definition lovers- lovers of things, and words, and stories, and characters, and games, and books, and movies.
Again, I love geeks. I am a geek.
These are airsoft geeks.
This is a Harry Potter geek. Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows midnight book release at Borders
Chicago, Illinois - 20.07.07
Credit: (Mandatory): Sam Wilson / WENN
These are comic book geeks.
This is a LARP-ing geek.
These are multiple LARP-ing geeks.
So it is with much chagrin that I come to the realization that geeks are attempting to shanghai the word nerd.
How and when this happened I have no idea. The why of it all is beyond me as well? But somewhere, somehow, someone convinced other people that it was no longer acceptable to refer to one-self as a geek, instead we had to start calling ourselves nerds.
I am here to tell you that I do not like it. No sir and madam. I do not like it one bit. I am nowhere close to being a nerd. I am geek, and I am proud. Most of my friends and family are indeed geeks.
I think the thing that upsets me the most is the idea that it is no longer good enough to be a geek. Now all geeks must be nerds, which is simply absurd. Or somehow, you ceased to be a geek, you know?... that thing you've been for forty odd years, that thing that got you bullied and teased in high school. Magically, and overnight, geeks became nerds. This is blatantly false, and I will never promote nor support this.
Now, can a geek have nerd tendencies? Of course. Concurrently, a nerd can have geek tendencies as well. But by their very definition, geeks are geeks, and nerds are most definitely nerds. Let us take a look at the etymology of each word.
Of course, most of us know the origin of the word geek- "a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake". That is its origin. However, the word over the years has evolved from its dark, rather brutal, beginnings into the word we now know and love. Geek- "a person who is very interested in and knows a lot about a particular field or activity". The latter is a perfect summation of the word geek. For in essence there is a plethora of levels to being a geek. There are sports geeks (any man who knows every single athletic statistic of another man is most definitely a geek, or ambiguously heterosexual). There are movie geeks, book geeks, science fiction geeks, horror geeks and fantasy geeks. There are cycle geeks, car geeks, and boat geeks. There are aeronautic geeks, train geeks, and construction equipment geeks. There are conspiracy theory geeks, big foot geeks, dinosaur geeks. There are R.P.G. geeks, airsoft geeks, L.A.R.P. geeks. There are board game geeks, video game geeks, and pin ball geeks. The world is full of us. In fact, I would be willing to wager there is a little geek in each and every one of us.
Let us now take a look at the word nerd. Nerd- "an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person; especially : one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits". This last part is very important so at the risk of being redundant, I'm going to repeat it one more time... intellectual or academic pursuits. Nothing I do as a geek could be construed as intellectual or academic. When people call me a nerd I correct them, and say, "I am not smart enough to be a nerd. I am a geek." I cannot put a computer together with my eyes closed. I do not find Baryon Asymmetry, or ecliptic alignment of CMB anisotropy fun or entertaining in any way. The anomalous magnetic dipole moment, or pentaquarks and other exotic hadrons do not get me excited. I know nothing about quantum physics, nuclear physics, condensed matter physics, biophysics, or quantum gravity. And to be honest, math just makes me cry.
Not to put too fine a point on it I am not a nerd. I am a geek.
Nerds are awkward, both socially and physically. If you do anything considered geeky then you know for a fact that it is, more often than not, socially based: you sit around a gaming table with like-minded individuals; you play video games with your friends; you LARP together and talk about Patrick Rothfuss; you talk about movies or books or both while "geeking out" over pacific northwest IPA. And some geeks are actually quite physically gifted; just watch a LARPer or airsofter rush across the field to trade blows or bb's with his fellow opponents. Nerds on the other hand have real knowledge, not necessarily tangible (and some of it is nothing but theoretical), but nevertheless real. Knowledge cultivated from hours upon hours of study, sacrificing dates, and nights out with friends, and any activity that might be construed as social in the laborious, isolated pursuit of knowledge. Nerds would rather wear outdated clothes and outdated fashion for fear that any neuron spent in an effort to gain an acceptable appearance in regards to society is a neuron wasted. Nerds are smart and awkward. Some nerds are what I call "book smarts", meaning they have all the wisdom of a library or a super computer, but I would not trust them to look both ways while crossing the street. While I was teased relentlessly from grade school and well into high school for my love of fantasy and D&D, nerds were more often than not beaten. They tend to be physically weak, and mentally powerful. They tend to emerge from a place of both pain and love; love of science and math and astronomy, pain at being the smartest kid in the class, thereby shunned by others, and treated not as exceptional, but only as weird. Every character on the show "The Big Bang Theory" is a nerd that displays geek tendencies. However, they are most definitely nerds, not geeks. Think of it like this. You would never say, "hay look at those geeks in the spelling bee." Or, "look at all those geeks at the science convention." No. Those are nerds. On the flip side, you would say, "wow, the line for the new star wars movie is chock-full of geeks." You would also say, "there sure were a lot of geeks at the Rush concert." And you would most definitely say, "Damn! Comic-con! Nothin' but a bunch of geeks!"
To demonstrate my point further, below are some photos of some famous nerds.
Possibly the greatest nerd of all time.
Cool-ass space super nerd!
In short and in final let us, as geeks, start the healing.
Repeat after me: "We are not nerds. We are geeks. We are not smart enough to be nerds. But we can be geeks. And that's good enough."
Stop the madness. Stop the lies. And be proud of who you are. One more time- I am geek, and I am proud.