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“Nerd!” “Geek!” Do you consider these words insults or praise? Learn both of their bizarre origins

It was hard to miss the weekend hype about Comic-Con, the massive sci-fi and comic book convention. And “Inception” is still conjuring up all sorts of brainy talk: “what does inception actually mean?” (Here’s the answer.) “What do you call someone who wakes up in their dreams?” (Find out here.)

Which brings us to nerd and geek. Comic-Con and “Inception” are exemplars of nerd/geek culture ruling the mainstream. Many people don’t realize that these words were intense badges of shame until extremely recently. Start up the etymological time machine . . .

“Nerd” first appears in a 1950 Dr. Seuss book, “If I Ran the Zoo.” The Nerd is drawn as a comically angry humanoid, with the following caption: “And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Ka-Troo And Bring Back an It-Kutch a Preep and a Proo A Nerkle a Nerd and a Seersucker, too!” The journey of nerd from Seuss to common slang meaning “square, a fool, or a dud” is mysterious, but one possible ancestor is nert, an obscure 1940s slang term meaning “stupid or crazy person.”

It’s also unclear exactly how nerd acquired the specific sense of “an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit.” Such as, for example, building a personal computer in your garage and becoming a billionaire.

The rumors about geek are true: one of its oldest meanings is in fact “a carnival performer who performs sensationally morbid or disgusting acts, as biting off the head of a live chicken.” The word probably derives from the Scottish and Germanic geck, a “fool” as well as a verb “to mock, or cheat.” This charming word was popularized in the 1947 film “Nightmare Alley.” Geek gets swept up on a wave of post-World War II slang including gearhead, “a person who is extremely interested and knowledgeable about computers, electronics, technology, and gadgets.” And now you are reading these very words on a device that was probably invented by a geeky, nerdy gearhead.

Do you think these words are derogatory? Would you call yourself one? Should we come up with a term with less baggage?

Speaking of geekery, do you know what the “I” in iPhone is supposed to stand for? Find out here.

Rising tide for the American people; Prosperity goes up as corporate tax rate goes down.(COMMENTARY)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC) December 9, 2011 Byline: Jim Pinkerton, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES The RATE (Reforming America’s Taxes Equitably) Coalition briefed Capitol Hill this week on the benefits of lowering the federal corporate tax rate. With unemployment remaining at historic highs, it is imperative that policymakers recognize that a significant reduction in the federal corporate tax rate – currently 35 percent – will make our tax system fairer and simpler, boosting domestic employment and economic growth overall. Few Americans realize our corporate income tax rate is the second highest in the industrialized world. In the wake of President Ronald Reagan’s historic 1986 tax reform, the United States had one of the lowest rates. However, in the intervening decades, we have done nothing while our competitors have lowered their rates. The blunt truth is that our corporate tax rate makes us anti-competitive internationally and only exacerbates the economic slump we’ve experienced over the past few years. go to website corporate tax rate

It is essential that we reform the corporate tax rate to jump-start the economy – there’s no good reason to wait. Budget analysts and economists who have examined the issue all conclude that reducing the corporate tax rate will spur faster economic growth and create jobs in the United States. For instance, the Heritage Foundation calculates that reducing the corporate tax rate to 25 percent would create an average of 581,000 jobs in the U.S. annually from 2011 to 2020. Similarly, the Milken Institute issued a report demonstrating that reducing the corporate tax rate to 22 percent – the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average – could boost gross domestic product by an additional 2.2 percent and increase employment by 2.13 million workers. And the Journal of Public Economics argues that reducing the corporate tax rate by 10 percentage points could increase economic growth rates by 1 percent to 2 percent. see here corporate tax rate

But it’s important to remember that this isn’t just an academic issue about economics – this is about the U.S. economy and the 310 million folks who depend on it for their livelihoods. The American people – particularly those in the middle class – would win with corporate tax reform. As the saying goes, A rising tide lifts all boats. A quarter-century ago, Mr. Reagan understood the principle that companies succeed and thrive in the high economic growth environment that comes from low tax rates and a simplified tax code. When companies and entrepreneurs are successful, they create more jobs and pay better wages. It’s as simple – and profound – as that.

Today, in the wake of the failure of the congressional supercommittee, we are reminded yet again that strong economic growth needs to be a big part of any solution to the deficit and the debt. So a tax solution that encourages larger economic growth and higher wages will result in our nation getting needed revenue faster in order to lower the deficit sooner. And doing this while expanding the financial budgets of the average American household is a win-win plan.

The Heritage Foundation confirms this plan in a report showing that a typical family of four’s after-tax income would rise, on average, by $2,484 per year with a 25 percent corporate tax rate. A Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas study predicts that each 1 percent decrease in the tax rate would result in a 0.9 percent increase in gross wages. If we lowered the corporate tax rate to the OECD average, U.S. worker wages and benefits will rise some $100 billion to $200 billion a year in the next decade, according to accounting firm Ernst & Young.

A pro-growth jobs agenda is just what the American economy and the American people need. Doing nothing is not an option. Our country’s high corporate tax rate depresses wages and kills economic growth, hurting each of us at the kitchen table and American businesses around the world.

As co-chairman of the RATE Coalition, I’m working with like-minded individuals in Washington and businesses that create jobs all over America. Our mission is to reform our nation’s outdated corporate tax policy and reduce too-high rates in order to put in place a high-growth, job-creating corporate rate.

Such a positive change – pushing the corporate tax rate down to the average of our industrialized competitors, about 25 percent – would better allow U.S. businesses to compete in today’s global marketplace, restore vibrancy to our economy and ensure that the American people have access to the kinds of high paying jobs they deserve. The time to act is now.

James Pinkerton, a former adviser to President George H.W. Bush, is co-chairman of the RATE (Reforming America’s Taxes Equitably) Coalition.

72 Comments

  1. Tipp Grad -  November 21, 2016 - 11:58 am

    And it all turned around when the films “Revenge of the Nerds” and “Revenge of the Nerds 2″ came out. I guess technically speaking though, Booger was probably a “geek” along with Ozzy Osbourne.

    Reply
  2. Ginny Weasley -  December 4, 2015 - 4:48 am

    I wouldn’t mind being called either, except for the fact that I don’t fit any of the descriptions for one, modern or not.

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  3. Old Mate -  July 18, 2015 - 10:39 am

    In relation to the word nerd, you wrote this following a quote claiming nerd as a nonsocial and single-minded individual – “Such as, for example, building a personal computer in your garage and becoming a billionaire.”

    Dumbest comment I’ve seen in a long time, because no one becomes that wealthy without being social or conversing with others. Being single-minded will never result in that kind of wealth. Politicians fit that bill, but they aren’t billionaires.

    No one cares, nor uses the word geek or nerd in any context that they may have originated from.
    It’s the year 2015. We’ve already concluded that Led Zeppelin weren’t sent by the devil, and that the Earth isn’t flat.

    You make claims in this article, without proof. (just pointing out)
    I hope you’re better at writing articles now than you were 5 years ago.

    Reply
  4. Pledging Geek | What Means Geek? -  August 29, 2013 - 4:26 pm

    [...] the terms should describe. I won’t delve into the complete etymology of the two terms, though  you can. The short version is that both terms are fairly young (63 and 97 years), both started out as [...]

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  5. Deryn -  June 29, 2011 - 7:41 pm

    being called a geek or nerd might anger me, but i wouldn’t mind being called a gearhead, it actually sounds kind of cool.

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  6. FooGriffy -  February 21, 2011 - 10:36 am

    I take it as a compliment. A nerd is an intelegent person.
    I still prefer ‘enthusiastic learner.’

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  7. Sharif -  October 8, 2010 - 2:39 am

    Yeah I remember as a little kid it being an insult to call someone a geek and a nerd. I think it only started getting “cool” in some way within the past 10-20 years.

    I don’t think it is unreasonable that a term that meant a crazy person, ‘nerd,’ came to mean someone obsessed with something perhaps taken as anti-social since anti-social obsessive behaviour could be taken as crazy.

    I also don’t see being foolish and being overly concerned with gadgetry and technology being completely different concepts. As it is not the tools in and of themselves, though also important, but what is done with them that is important as well I think.

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  8. The all american girl-next-door!!! -  October 6, 2010 - 5:52 am

    I’m not a geek or nerd but I am one of the smart kids in my school. Sure I love learning but I also love to have fun and act stupid at times. Hehehehe Like now I’m sooooooooooooooooo bored!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  9. The all american girl-next-door!!! -  October 6, 2010 - 5:47 am

    It’s funny when you think about it. So wait what do you call a person who is as my father says I am so smart I’m dumb. Or as he calls my older brother so dumb he’s smart.

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  10. Dyana -  October 5, 2010 - 12:28 pm

    When I was a kid in school some 30 years ago or so both words were derogatory terms, stereotypically the plastic pocket protector group. Anymore though they’ve have taken on an air of one who is intelligent but somewhat socially inept, Sheldon on Big Bang. In our family, both terms are terms of endearment or indicating that someone is technically superior to the rest of us. My daughter is our family’s techno-geek, we all go to her when we are stymied by our “toys”.

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  11. Mel -  September 28, 2010 - 10:35 pm

    P.S. I got called a geek last night, and my response was, “So what?”

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  12. j10 -  September 28, 2010 - 5:23 pm

    My class motto in middle school was “Nerds 2^2 Ever!”
    I’ve never been in a situation where it was not good to be a nerd or a geek. In fact, intelligence is admired and envied.

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  13. jmc -  September 28, 2010 - 11:35 am

    “Nerd” was definitely a term of derision in the 70′s. A “nerd” just wasn’t “cool”. Trouble is, with the advent of all the techy gadgets we all use daily (most of which were invented by nerds), the “nerd” became a rather powerful figure. He/she became the person the “cool people” had to go to when stuff didn’t work. Further, you *definitely* did not want to tick off your local nerd, otherwise it might be weeks before you would ever get that great new tune on your iPod. The derision went away when the “nerd community” adopted that name for themselves. “You want to call us nerds? Fine. You still have to come to us to get your stuff to work.”

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  14. mike -  September 14, 2010 - 4:06 pm

    When I was growing up a nerd was somebody who’s obsession was learning, and possibly computers. A geek was somebody who’s obsession was comic books and star trek. Many nerds of course were geeks, but not all of them. These days both are used evidently to refer to gamers. It’s kind of sad when people wear ‘nerd’ or ‘geek’ as a badge of pride simply because they play videogames, and yet talk about ‘nerds’ ruling the world as in intelligent people.

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  15. #1 Skillet fan -  September 6, 2010 - 12:46 pm

    I’m homeschooled, so I don’t get called either. But I know that if I went to public school I would probably get called a geek. I call myself a math geek- and I’m ok with it. But unlike all the steriotype nerd/geeks, I’m not overly obsessed with it. I do a lot of other things too. For example, I’m a drummer (chick drummers can rock harder than guy drummers any time) and I LOVE star-wars bounty hunters- especially Jango Fett, so just because you are a Geek or Nerd, that doesn’t make you obsessed with it.

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  16. Sam -  August 22, 2010 - 10:28 am

    I’m a self-declared “word nerd” and “speak geek” [English major], and I think either word can be praise or insult, depending on the intent of the speaker. Also, “nerd” can refer to the physical appearance or mannerisms of the person being described. For instance, in my area there are two “weathermen” on the same TV channel. One I call “the weather nerd” because of his appearance: rumpled, bad hair, and horn-rim glasses that he is constantly pushing back up on his nose. [He actually owns a pocket protector full of pens.] The other guy I call “the weather geek” because he presents a more polished, carefully groomed appearance. I respect both of these guys and regularly tune them in to hear what they have to say. They both are trained meteorolgists, but the “nerd” seems totally wrapped up in weather-related subjects, while the “geek” has other interests [some athletic] that he often talks about on the air. That illustrates how I see the general difference between these words. In the case of either word, I think that if the speaker intends an insult, then insult it is. The words themselves aren’t necessarily either one.

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  17. alice -  August 4, 2010 - 11:56 pm

    nowadays in schools, being “smart” in any way, shape, or form makes you a “geek”, “nerd”, “dork” and “dweeb”. all of them with the same derogatory meaning.

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  18. Joyce Mason -  July 28, 2010 - 1:23 am

    Geek/nerd is neutral, it’s how you feel about yourself that makes the difference between an insult or badge of honor. I admit these terms started out pejorative back when I was a kid in the ’50s/’60s. Now many a techie and/or brainy type is proud to call him- or herself a geek. I know a young woman of 19 who practically wears a Geek t-shirt and was delighted to go away to college and find more kindred geeks. It reminds me of the Black Pride movement, when “black” went from derogatory to being embraced by many. If you have a positive self-image and like being a brainy techie type, what’s the insult? Nowadays the world could hardly turn without “geek/nerds.” I celebrate them. I thank God for them. And while I’m fairly brainy and somewhat techno conversant, I don’t qualify for either title but would wear them proudly if I did. I might even buy the t-shirt.

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  19. Taylor -  July 27, 2010 - 11:55 am

    Dude, somebody give Richard a mood stabalizer quick.

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  20. bOb -  July 27, 2010 - 5:10 am

    hey! i think it jjust depends on who you say it to and in what context.

    try calling a maths teacher a geek/nerd and see what reaction you get!!
    ;-)

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  21. Kap -  July 26, 2010 - 2:04 pm

    I have heard (a friend’s deduction):

    “Geek” seems to imply a person who has strong interest in “asocial” pursuits… not unlike the “weird” connotation the original article stated. Usually technical/obsessive things, which is why…

    “Nerd” seems to imply an intelligent individual, and probably why geek/nerd are so related.

    “Dork” completes the triptych, implying an individual is socially awkward. Again, given the nature of “geek” pursuits, you certainly don’t help not being a dork if your primary forms of entertainment are video games.

    It’s possible to be nerdy, but not very geeky. It’s possible to be dorky, and neither of the former.

    Interesting way of defining the pejoratives, if one chooses to call these descriptive terms negative. Maybe someone doesn’t mind enjoying odd activities, being a genius, or being the weird guy in a group. If someone didn’t mind these labels, they’d probably use them as means of identity.

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  22. High School English Teacher -  July 26, 2010 - 1:56 pm

    It is good to see the influence on the English language of Dr. Seuss. However, I’m sorry, Andrew, but you need to review your most basic comma rules. Since it is entirely possible, and not at all that unusual, to be a gearhead who is not a nerd, then the comma is appropriate. For more insight, read the wonderful explanation of how to use the comma appropriately in the book “Eats Shoots and Leaves.” [BTW: please don't criticize my entirely proper use of the period inside that second quotation mark.]

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  23. rv -  July 26, 2010 - 1:33 pm

    I’m surprised no one mentioned the 1970s show “Happy Days” as having made the word “nerd” part of common English vocabulary, even if the word already existed (which I didn’t know before reading this article). I think the question about it being derogatory or not is much like other examples: gay, fag, n****, all these words, which actually should have no negative value associated with them, because they simply describe people, have been used negatively by dominant groups (heteros, whites etc.), in order to assert their domination, until mentalities changed enough among the so-called dominant groups and it was no longer considered appropriate to consider themselves dominant or to use these terms. And then the formally dominated groups appropriated these terms, which over time, or at least in small sub-cultures, has the effect of robbing these terms of their negative connatations, which, I think, is a good thing. and yada yada yada I’ll stop here.

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  24. ChrisCD -  July 26, 2010 - 1:25 pm

    I suppose I’m glad some words now have a positive connotation such as “nerd” and “geek”. I profess to being one and am not insulted.

    However, some terms, use to have a positive meaning, such as Hacker and have now been corrupted. That saddens me. Hackers use to work for good and were basically code junkies using computers to find solutions not create problems.

    cd :O)

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  25. sprode -  July 26, 2010 - 12:32 pm

    I’d rather be a nerd and a geek, so the implicit negative connotations roll off like water on a duck. What am I supposed to fear, meatheads still clinging to their dreams of playing in the NFL and falling back on gas station cashier? I have no desire to be like the mindless sheep who all straighten and dye their hair blonde and watch Twilight together. Thanks for the compliment! I’m glad I’m educated enough to not be like everyone else in this brain dead society.

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  26. Geek, not nerd -  July 26, 2010 - 8:00 am

    Also, just wanted to comment on how geeks and nerd are displayed in movies and such. The most common stereotype portrayed is the unpopular geek (usually computer nerd) who is ostracised with the rest of the geeks and just wants to be able to hang out with the popular kids and be one of them but instead has to make do with the company of other geeks.

    As a self-identified geek, this was something I could never relate to. I hung around with most of the rest of the geeks in high school, who were a great bunch of nice, interesting and intelligent people. We had lots of friends (all geeks) who we could relate to and enjoyed hanging out with. We had no interest in hanging out with those who could be described as resembling the ‘popular kid’ stereotype. Frankly they mostly seemed like ditzy airheads to us.

    Perhaps this is why the word ‘geek’ has lost it’s negative connotations, at least amongst the people I know.

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  27. Geek, not nerd -  July 26, 2010 - 7:40 am

    In high school the common definition was that a geek was someone who was brainy in a cool way (e.g. mad scientist, Mythbusters, etc) while a nerd was someone who was brainy but obsessive and dorky (e.g. the worst kind of Trekkies). Geek was generally a compliment, while nerd was in insult, or at least mildly derogatory.

    However, the definition is often highly dependant on who’s using it. In certain circles, all members of which could be considered ‘nerds’ by outsiders, the definition of ‘geek’ and ‘nerd’ would get readjusted along the scale of ‘nerdiness’, if you will. A good example would be the more obsessive LOTR fans. In these circles a ‘LOTR geek’ might be someone who goes to the trouble of learning to forge and wield their own sword, while a ‘LOTR nerd’ could be someone who owns a complete collection of ALL the merchandise, including the Legolas dolls, which is frankly just weird.

    Sometimes the definition is context dependant too. For example, ‘computer geek’ and ‘computer nerd’ would be synonymous, but the phrase ‘music geek’ might be synonymous with ‘muso’ or refer to a member of a small-time rock band, while ‘music nerd’ would refer to that weird little kid who knew every obscure fact that you never wanted to know about pretty much any band that ever produced a song and absolutely insisted on sharing it with you under the misguided impression that you possessed the same insatiable interest in irrelevant information. (Please excuse the accidental alliteration. I refuse to rephrase it to preserve your precious sensibilities.)

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  28. Esteban -  July 26, 2010 - 7:08 am

    I think the fact that “geek” and “nerd” are a little more socially accepted is a sign of the times. It has become trendy to embody some of the characteristics of what formerly made one of these. As it has been said above, it is what you make of it. If I wanted to take offense to somebody calling me athletic or kind, I could. It’s a matter of pride, and insecurity is what makes those terms a badge of shame. I don’t mind calling myself a geek or a nerd because in my mind’s eye I am, and it’s not a big deal.

    Two more for you to dissect: dweeb and dork.

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  29. Jarred Spengler -  July 26, 2010 - 6:30 am

    I personally enjoy being called a nerd or a geek. I’m okay with it.

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  30. just a person -  July 26, 2010 - 6:23 am

    I never leave comments but I would just like to put some perspective on a statement by Richard. You gave a background story that exhibits some form of pain that translates into your current disdain. You can’t change the past; your “smart” enough to know that, so stop trying to live in it – that’s an illusion.

    “This is as bad as saying n****. If people think it’s OK to say nerd and geek, then I should just say n**** all the time.” That’s a perfect example of ignorance. It’s NOT as bad. One of those words can make you look like the modern meaning for “racist” – please note I said “modern meaning.” Why not: “…then I should just say ‘stupid’ all the time.” Why use the word you chose? That only pigeon-holes YOU.

    All I’m saying is “stop hating” and “start educating.”

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  31. Ryan -  July 26, 2010 - 5:56 am

    I think the terms are only deragatory in the context they are used in. For example, calling Vin Diesel a nerd/geek because of his past interest in Dungeons & Dragons is a moot point because any insult carried in the term is clearly overshadowed by his celebrity status. Calling someone who is more socially challenged and considerably less famous a geek is more of an insult I think, but only if they don’t have the means to defend themselves. Numbers in social-circles also play a part, as the insults are devised to make someone feel alienated from the socialized-whole. The more people having an interest in activities that were once socially taboo, the less relavent the insult. At which point, the accuser only risks being viewed as that which he is criticizing someone else for being.

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  32. pixiexele -  July 26, 2010 - 5:41 am

    I AM NERD, HEAR ME ROAR! ::)

    If feminists can “take back the night,” and African Americans can (controversially) own words previously used to oppress them, then nerds can PWN the terms! Geek it up, y’all!

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  33. opinion -  July 26, 2010 - 4:36 am

    what diff does it really make?????? all that matters is what YOU think about yourself!

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  34. Yida -  July 26, 2010 - 3:38 am

    I think I’m a proud geek and nerd, and if someone were to tell me that I was a nerd, I would always think, why be smart than be dumb. But the problem is, the word “geek” and “nerd” is usually used as an insult. But, the meaning for the words differ as to an insult or a nice comment.

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  35. bOb -  July 26, 2010 - 2:36 am

    i think that these nicknames can differ depending on your personal views and opinions.
    ‘geek’ could be seen as a really cool person that knows what they’re doing with computers and other tech-head stuff— handy people to have around!!
    ‘nerd’generally is more offensive, but can be seen as a description for a really cool and way-out person! ever tried wonka nerds? YUM!
    it all depends on whether the glass is half-full or half-empty…
    take life with a laugh and you won’t have to be offended by silly little names…
    “sticks & stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me”
    :o)

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  36. Terry -  July 25, 2010 - 10:30 am

    fallynleaf on July 24, 2010 at 5:23 pm wrote:
    “For example: the word ‘gay’.
    It once meant ‘happy’, then it became a slang term for ‘homosexual’, and then an adjective that some use to mean ’stupid’.”

    I’m so glad you wrote that. Because I’m getting a little tired of the “gay” community taking offense at using the term “gay” to mean something that is dumb to do or say. The word existed since the 11th century, and they don’t “own” it. It didn’t mean “homosexual” for 700 years and just because it has, since 1950, it doesn’t give them the right to make kids today feel bad about using the word in a way that DOESN’T mean homosexual. This is where “PC” irritates me to the point of throwing a dictionary at the TV screen …

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  37. Terry -  July 25, 2010 - 10:19 am

    I don’t like “stupid” as a meaning for “nerd.” Describing someone as a “nerd,” as we use it today, is about as far from the meaning “stupid” as anyone can get. Would you call Bill Gates stupid? Possibly “socially inept.” At the very least, “stupid” is archaic and it should noted that way as a meaning.

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  38. Robert -  July 25, 2010 - 10:13 am

    I think nerd is okay; acknowledgement that someone is really smart. However, geek is degrogatory.

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  39. Richard -  July 25, 2010 - 9:42 am

    Also if anyone uses the word nerd or geek in front of me I’m gonna slap their face, hard. It hasn’t happened yet, but if it does, I will slap their face. This is as bad as saying n****. If people think it’s OK to say nerd and geek, then I should just say n**** all the time.

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  40. Richard -  July 25, 2010 - 9:08 am

    I wanna slap or kill anybody who uses that word. They put all the social stigma onto smart introverts, but the truth is that most single guys don’t have a sex life even if they are extroverted or stupid or never use computers or all of these things. I know a dumb, extroverted ESFJ guy who plays basketball, likes talking to people, is sociable, and works out at the gym. He’s 33 and never had a girlfriend and I don’t think he ever asked out a girl either. He’ll probably die a virgin. All the smart people I went to school with were normal, good looking people. I’ve never met someone who looked like the nerd stereotype. I’m smart and introverted and I was one of the best looking guys in school. I had lots of hot girls that wanted me. Nobody ever called me a nerd to my face, even though they’ve said lots of other nasty things to me. Smart people should be respected. We’re the ones who make advanced civilization possible. We’re the most important and valuable people in the whole damn world! We do more for society than all the movie stars celebrities and athletes put together! All the dumb people out there would be living like they did in the middle ages without smart people. I’m sick and tired of people insulting other people because they’re smart and they know how to do advanced things with computers, electronics, math, and science. Also I’m sick of people calling themselves nerds and geeks just because they were in the school band or they like certain intellectual subjects. Oftentimes it’s girls who call themselves geeks. If they call themselves geeks for being in band, they’re insulting me too because I was in the school band. There was nothing wrong with being in the band! We were not freaks!

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  41. sundaynap -  July 25, 2010 - 2:06 am

    Geeks and nerds are called ‘otaku’ in my cultural context, who are obsessed with collecting child things, usually with anime characters, mini cars and so on. The terms are used in a deragatory way that they are socially misfit. They are perceived self-absorbed and override the social codes. However many of them have become successful as artists,cartooninsts and that because of their standing at the edge of line. In that sense, there are breakthroughs in terms of our capitalistic mind. Talking about misfit, by the way, I watched the movie with that title, the only reason I picked that up was Mongomery Clift that was in it along with Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. Gee, I do not like voluptuous women although she was good, but no more than Clift and Gable.

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  42. Tommy B. -  July 24, 2010 - 11:53 pm

    Both nerd and geek still mean the same thing, but it isn’t an insult at all anymore. It is, like quite a few other words, an example of a word that the community it was originally intended to offend has taken ownership of and it’s used proudly. Once an insult always an insult just isn’t accurate.

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  43. Corianne -  July 24, 2010 - 11:01 pm

    I don’t find the terms geek or nerd to be offensive, I refer to myself in both ways quite frequently.

    And I don’t really think it’s odd that they have gone from insults to badges of pride–I think it all has to do with the upswell of technology.
    In the past 20 years or so, everybody has had to embrace what was once the domain of the kids with bad skin and thick glasses.

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  44. Nate -  July 24, 2010 - 10:25 pm

    I have found these to be the best explanations for people who just don’t get the difference.

    http://s-ak.buzzfed.com/static/imagebuzz/terminal01/2009/9/6/7/nerd-venn-diagram-9420-1252236207-2.jpg

    http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/geeks_and_nerds.png

    Randall Munroe says “The definitions I grew up with were that a geek is someone unusually into something (so you could have computer geeks, baseball geeks, theater geeks, etc) and nerds are (often awkward) science, math, or computer geeks. But definitions vary.”

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  45. Ash -  July 24, 2010 - 10:14 pm

    I would call myself a nerd based on today’s connotations associated with the word.
    I noticed people were saying that it is still an insult because of it’s history. Connotative definitions of words change over time, it’s inevitable. The word gay is an example, but the other way around. It was originally used as happy, but now is a derogatory term for homosexuals.

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  46. Mee Murphy -  July 24, 2010 - 9:46 pm

    Totally. I’m a nerd, a geek, a dork, a “lil weirdie” (so proclaimed my cousins as I was growing up), and sometimes a hedgehog. My boyfriend is also a (very attractive and very smart) nerd as well, and we enjoy being socially inept together. It works.

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  47. SoccerJen -  July 24, 2010 - 9:25 pm

    Nerds and Geeks were the most unpopular kids at school. However, those unpopular kids have now become the most successful adults.

    It is simply survival of the fittest. Nerds and Geeks are the best survivors in todays world, so now they are the most popular.

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  48. Jaydub -  July 24, 2010 - 8:39 pm

    I for one have the rep of being a total geek/nerd, and you know what? I think other geeks and nerds are way hotter than other people XD

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  49. danuab -  July 24, 2010 - 8:30 pm

    Nerds were popularised by Harry Potter and Seth Cohen. Nerd culture has been glamorised in many TV shows and movies. Where I live, people usually add a descriptive noun to nerd, e.g. music nerd, which is considered a good thing.

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  50. Shannon- Proud Nerd/Geek -  July 24, 2010 - 8:03 pm

    I so agree. I am a proud nerd/geek- I find it to a very apt description. What’s wrong with being smart?

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  51. no regrets -  July 24, 2010 - 7:25 pm

    Is it just America that still sees the average comic-con attendee (be they a gaming/comic/scifi/art geek) in general as weird, sub-humans? Almost every news report I come across (that is not affiliated with comic-con related industries of course) has some reporter or newscaster speaking on the event with obvious ridicule. I wonder if they have something that they are truly passionate about, and what makes it ok for them to look down on people for being passionate about something.

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  52. Daniel -  July 24, 2010 - 6:51 pm

    I think part of the transformation of these words are that individuals like Bill Gates would personify a geek and nerd. Then he became “the world’s richest man.” So when called this, nerds feel a sense of honor to be called someone in Bill Gates stature.

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  53. Walter Silveira -  July 24, 2010 - 6:31 pm

    Best complements I’ve ever received, bar-none. Dear Hide-bound old folks in the comments, what rocks are you living under?

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  54. sabrina -  July 24, 2010 - 6:01 pm

    nerd >.> <.< geek O.o confusing.
    you always think there the same but they're different!

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  55. Katrina -  July 24, 2010 - 5:44 pm

    I’m a geek and proud of it, although my geekiness relates to games and such. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the terms “nerd” and “geek”, although it really does depend on the context in which they’re used.

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  56. Miss Coconut -  July 24, 2010 - 5:32 pm

    It depends how you use them. Generally, I see them as good or fun words. It depends greatly on the person as well.

    Words change, meanings change: Language evolves, and there’s no stopping it, no matter how much someone wants it to stay the same.

    Saying that since the words were once derogatory they will always be such is like saying that someone that was a bully in school can’t change his (or her!) ways, or that a person that used to be a goody-two-shoes can’t ‘go bad.’

    Gay – used to primarily mean ‘happy,’ but often means ‘homosexual’ now.

    Fag – used to primarily mean ‘bundle of sticks,’ but often means ‘cigarette,’ or sometimes, offensively, ‘homosexual’ (like the ‘n-word’ for homosexual people). (Among other things.)

    Weird – used to primarily refer to fate or destiny, then to things extraterrestrial, but now usually refers to anything out-of-the-ordinary.

    ‘The f-word’ – used to be about corn ‘mating,’ but I think we all know how it’s used today.

    Christian/Atheist – both used to be offensive terms, but are now either ordinary or said with pride (although a Christian can see ‘Atheist’ as offensive and vice versa.), and are, altogether, often just descriptors of beliefs.

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  57. JFL -  July 24, 2010 - 5:30 pm

    As a CTYer (as in Johns Hopkin University’s Center for Talented Youth program) I find that nerd and geek are overwhelmingly not taken as insults. Nearly every other CTYer I’ve met has proudly self-described themselves as nerds and geeks. Of course the usage of those words also rely on context; if a word is specifically being used perjoratively, there is a good chance it will be taken as an insult.

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  58. fallynleaf -  July 24, 2010 - 5:23 pm

    The meaning of words, derogatory or not, most certainly can change.

    The reverse happens surprisingly often.

    For example: the word ‘gay’.
    It once meant ‘happy’, then it became a slang term for ‘homosexual’, and then an adjective that some use to mean ‘stupid’.

    Another example: the word ‘dumb’
    It once meant ‘mute’. Now it generally means ‘stupid’.

    The root of a word is not necessarily its current meaning.

    A word can be claimed by a person, or a group of people, and given a new meaning. That meaning can be treated positively by society or negatively, and it can change again just as easily.

    Personally, I consider myself a nerd and a geek. I fit the definition of ‘nerd’, being someone who has various different obsessions in obscure pursuits, and I fit the definition of ‘geek’, being someone with a high knowledge of mathematics and some sciences, as well as some aspects of computers and technology.

    I don’t see what there is to be offended about.

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  59. jackthelad -  July 24, 2010 - 5:22 pm

    “Nimrod” = “hunter” in Japanese

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  60. Lisa -  July 24, 2010 - 5:13 pm

    I really believe insults need to be taken in context. When I was in high-school and the “popular kids” called me a geek, sure, I was offended. But they also called me “smart” and that felt like an insult too. Now, as an adult, I’m happy to call myself a geek – it’s part of who I am and it makes it easier for fellow geeks to find me … like my husband!

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  61. Mark -  July 24, 2010 - 5:09 pm

    I consider it to be a reaaly good thing. I’m very much a nerd, it describes be quite well. Anybody who considers it an insuilt should remember that nerds and geeks rule the world now. Thay develop our computers, cars, buildings, recording technology, cures for health issues, energy sources etc. Also, words do change meanings over time, supose the word “gay” once just meant happy or joyful.

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  62. Ashley -  July 24, 2010 - 4:32 pm

    *On certain other words, I do agree with j.v.

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  63. Ashley -  July 24, 2010 - 4:31 pm

    I disagree with j.v. There are plenty of insults people have turned around, just to get back at people and show them you’re proud of who you are. I’m one; a geek.

    If you embody one insult, then it is today considered okay. On certain other words, I do agree, but that doesn’t make me a hypocrite; if you don’t embody a certain insult, it is still considered rude. So I don’t use them, and detest those who do.

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  64. J. Siete -  July 24, 2010 - 4:20 pm

    j.v., as with the n-word or any other racially or otherwise charged term, the person or group being referred to has the prerogative to either reject the word or reclaim it and redefine it with whatever attributes they wish to express or celebrate. Keep in mind, there was a long period when “Black” was considered derogatory, and now it’s the standard, having been embraced and shaped by African Americans as, generally, their preferred term. (See also “Teabagger”, an ignorant attempt which backfired.)

    English is fluid. And I am a nerd. If you’re uncomfortable calling me that, fine, but I’m happy with it.

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  65. SpecialAgentJan -  July 24, 2010 - 4:19 pm

    to be called like that would be an insult! im not a geek LOL
    Thanks for the “nerd” origin though.
    YES the “geek” was popularized in the 1947 Nightmare Alley starring my very own favorite tyrone power. and its still in black and white, and very ahead of its time. great twist at the ending. you dont usually see that on a 1940s movie.
    omg! how did i know that?
    ok gotta get back to my comic-con line… LOL

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  66. Andrew -  July 24, 2010 - 4:15 pm

    It’s sad that dictionary.com would have such a glaring grammatical mistake as “geeky, nerdy, gearhead”. Way to use an extra comma. Way to destroy your credibility. Way to give me an opportunity to be wildly asinine and pedantic.

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  67. FulfuraterX -  July 24, 2010 - 4:09 pm

    Then what would be an intelligent person who is not self-absorbed in one particular hobby and not a prep?

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  68. anon. -  July 24, 2010 - 3:33 pm

    I think whether they’re derogatory or not really depends on the person. Some people may be insulted, but other people may just accept it. I’m a nerd. And that’s fine with me.

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  69. j.v. -  July 24, 2010 - 3:26 pm

    Insults, and how can you say they are not! How can words that used to mean something horrible suddenly turn into good? If you are good with computers, call yourself a computer expert. Same goes for the N-word, and every other word like that. Once an insult you can’t erase the past.

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  70. tp -  July 24, 2010 - 3:24 pm

    I am surprised that these words aren’t derogatory anymore. They still were 20 years ago.

    Reply

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