- a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious.
“one of those nerds who never asked a girl to dance”
Nerds and nerd culture have come a long way. The Oxford dictionary definition doesn’t do it justice. Maybe back in the 1940s it did, as a nerd according to my Holy Grail of word origins, The Online Etymology Dictionary, classifies it as coming from “1951, U.S. student slang, probably an alteration of 1940s slang nert ‘stupid or crazy person,’ itself an alteration of nut. The word turns up in a Dr. Seuss book from 1950 (“If I Ran the Zoo”), which may have contributed to its rise.”
I guess Dr Seuss knows a thing or two about a thing or two, and maybe even about nerds.
But I’m was worried that in this brand new, glowing age of nerd culture that I could no longer consider myself among their ranks.
This is one of those things that’ll make me feel old, as back in the day when I was looking up random stuff in real, worn-out, really expensive encyclopedias, I didn’t really consider myself as any one thing, much less a nerd. Like the above dictionary classification, I was indeed studious. In grade school whenever the teacher would read a book aloud to the class, I would run to the library, check out the same book, and then run home to finish it because the teacher read too damned slow. In class I’d tell my classmates, “Ooh, wait. This is the good part. Pay attention.”
I did my 9th grade reading project on Piers Anthony’s On a Pale Horse. To the bafflement of my fellow students. Here I was blabbing about a character who accidentally kills the avatar of death, takes over the job, and has to learn the job skills on the fly. Fantasy fiction. It’s like no one had ever heard of it.
I didn’t tell kids in class that I’d spent my evening watching Star Trek: TNG, or Babylon 5, or that I watched the animated series Gargoyles before walking to high school every single morning. (P.S. I’ve since re-watched it and still think it’s the best).
Oh, and kids in class started calling me a nerd.
When I grew older, I began to wear it with pride. It was a badge. It was a way to identify myself in the world. I’d say, “I like nerdy things.” It summed up my character. I was unequivocally a NERD.
Then I met with other self-professed nerds. And I worried that they weren’t interested in my type of nerd. The concept that there was such a large scope and breadth of nerd confused me, and honestly sometimes it still does. I met people who went to Cons (a new concept to me at the time), who tried in vain to suck me into the world of MMOGs, MMORPGs, RPGs, and other acronyms I still have to look up, people who spend hours and hours making cosplay costumes, steampunk makers and revelers, people who love Anime, people who read comics and graphic novels, people who play table top games, cards, strategy games, and video games of a stripe that are far too involved for me…
So I wondered, Am I truly a nerd? This thing that I’ve identified myself as…I don’t think I fit into that definition anymore. The things I love aren’t nerdy anymore, they’re mainstream, they’re “normal,” they’re accepted by everyone.
What I didn’t realize was I should be celebrating that nerdom and nerd culture had expanded. It exploded. It became more widely accepted. Nerds share what they love, and though it goes against the socially-awkward stereotype, nerds gather together in insanely large crowds to proudly show what they’ve devoted themselves to.
And maybe I shouldn’t try to define my type of nerd. Science fiction and fantasy books and movies are obviously my jam, and they always will be. I’ve been intimidated by comic books for a long time (there are sooo many of them!), but I’m planning to slowly to dip my toes in those waters. And yeah, I recently binge-watched Stranger Things, and Penny Dreadful, and desperately hope more shows like this become a thing. And maybe, just maybe, I was recently introduced to Portal 2 and I think it’s my favorite video game ever. Aside from all the Lego games I play to 100%. And no one can tell me that because Doctor Who is now all mainstream that I can’t love it, and that it isn’t nerdy.
What about you, my lovelies? What’s your brand of nerd?