On the Topic of Nerdiness

"Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people."
-Unknown
There are, as you may have noticed, two parts to the title of this blog. Overthinking, and Nerdiness. The first part was discussed in the previous post. Now it's time to discuss the second half. In this post, we'll be looking first at the confusion behind the term "nerd," as well as its companion words, and then we'll look at what a nerd really is. To begin, let's head over to dictionary.com and see what they have to say on the subject.
1. a stupid, irritating, ineffectual, or unattractive person.
2. an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit:
-Dictionary.com
...Well, that doesn't seem very nice. I checked The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, The Collins English Dictionary, and The Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, as well as the WordNet 3.0 thesaurus. Each had similar results. I won't put them here for the sake of space. It will suffice to say that I didn't find very many kind places. In fact, most of them seemed downright insulting. That's really not how the word is used today, is it?

Let's look at a few more definitions, but for some different words. For the sake of time and space, I'll be using Dictionary.com, and assuming that the other dictionaries have similar definitions. The first one will be the word dictionary.
1. a book, optical disc, mobile device, or online lexical resource (such as Dictionary.com ) containing a selection of the words of a language, giving information about their meanings, pronunciations, etymologies, inflected forms, derived forms, etc., expressed in either the same or another language....
-Dictionary.com (emphasis mine)
The word "meaning" seems to be rather important here. Let's look up that word as well, shall we?
1. what is intended to be, or actually is, expressed or indicated; signification; import:
2. the end, purpose, or significance of something:
 -Dictionary.com
These dictionaries certainly don't describe what I mean when I say nerd... It isn't what my friends tend to mean, either. In fact, I most commonly hear the word used in a positive light. It looks like those dictionaries are in need of an update. But, in order to find how these words are most commonly used, I suggest that we look at the Urban Dictionary. We'll use the top three answers in this case.
1. One whose IQ exceeds his weight.
2. An individual persecuted for his superior skills or intellect, most often by people who fear and envy him.
3. An 'individual', i.e. a person who does not conform to society's beliefs that all people should follow trends and do what their peers do. Often highly intelligent but socially rejected because of their obsession with a given subject, usually computers. Unfortunately, nerds seem to have problems breeding, to the detriment of mankind as a whole.
-Urban Dictionary
The word "nerd" has a certain style to it. A certain way that people look at it. A certain way that people have always looked at it. But in today's culture of the internet, as more and more people identify themselves as nerds, questions have arisen. What is a nerd? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Does the emphasis rest on the intelligence, or on the social awkwardness? And where does the word geek come in? Are they interchangeable? Do they mean different things? Is one good and the other bad? One video in particular, Epic Rap Battle: Nerd vs. Geek by Rhett and Link, has gained a lot of attention since it was posted in late 2013. The next day they posted another video on their secondary channel, called Nerd vs. Geek: How to Tell the Difference. However, in these cases, as in countless others, the difference was left ambiguous. This is extremely common in today's culture. Everything must be decided based on whether it feels more geeky or more nerdy, which isn't really very solid. People have different opinions on what has what feel, which means that if people stick to that standard, nobody will ever agree on what nerds really are. Well, I say no more of this. Right here, right now, I am going to unlock the secrets of nerdiness, and what nerdiness means.

The concept of nerdiness revolves around an idea that I'm sure you've heard of before, though probably not in the same way that it's going to be used here. Fandoms. That's right, nerdiness is all about fandoms. But why, and what is a fandom? To put it simply, a fandom is something you care about. Something you're a fan of. Some fandoms are quite popular and have their own names. For example, someone in the Star Trek fandom could be called either a Star Trek nerd, or a Trekkie. Both mean the same thing. Other fandoms, regardless of popularity, have no set name. Star Wars has no special name of its own, for example, and Star Wars nerds are simply called Star Wars nerds.
"So this blog is only going to be discussing fictional universes?" you may ask. The answer is no. While fictional universes may come up from time to time, that isn't the point of this blog. In order for me to clarify, you need to understand that there are two different types of fandoms. Base fandoms, and classification fandoms.

When people think of fandoms, they typically think of the base fandoms. Doctor Who, Star Trek, and The Hunger Games are all examples of base fandoms. A base fandom revolves around a fictional universe or story. Something that we don't find in real life.
A classification fandom is much more common, but not understood as clearly. A classification fandom is still something that you're a fan of, but it's something that can be found in the real world. For example, computers and technology. You could be called a computer nerd, or you could be called a geek. A geek is a sub-class of nerd that has a specific focus on computers.
The reason that real life fandoms are called classification fandoms is because they can provide clarity and specificity to the base fandoms. A Star Wars nerd and a Star Wars Geek are two different things. The first refers to the fictional universe of Star Wars in general. The second refers to the technology of Star Wars.

While it is relatively common for base fandoms to have special names associated with them, it is relatively rare for a classification fandom to have one. Geek and bookworm are some of the few exceptions, but since most people don't think of real life things as fandoms, they aren't typically referred to in the same way. But regardless of the classification fandom, since all exist in real life, all can be used to add specificity to base fandoms.

So, what does nerdiness really mean? To be a nerd is to care about something almost to the point of obsession, or even past that point. If we look at the traditional usage of the term, we can see that this matches up. The ones who obsessed over D&D or Star Trek were labelled nerds. The ones who went along with societies standards, or who treated life as though it didn't mean much, were considered to be the cool kids. Looking at nerdiness in this way, one could be a nerd about anything. There could be a football nerd, for example. The idea that football players are stupid and don't spend time thinking about anything is a stereotype, just like the idea that all nerds are socially awkward. Some are, some aren't. Some football players are stupid and uncaring. But I know other football players who are kind and intelligent.
But to be a nerd about something is different than being, simply, a nerd. To be a nerd without any type of specific fandom attached is to simply care in general. To desire accuracy. To want to know more, not because of one specific topic, or even many topics, but rather, as a lifestyle.
"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young."
-Henry Ford

2 comments:

  1. Great post! I completely agree. Though- now that you've covered nerds, whatever will your blog talk about? o.O

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  2. Since the purpose of the blog is to get people thinking, there are a lot of potential topics. Books and movies is one that I've been thinking I'd like to cover at some point in the future, for example. And if people have specific requests, I'll take those into consideration as well. Introverts and extroverts, speech&debate, why children are more valuable than we think, etc., are examples of topics that may show up at some point.

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