Michael's Blog

Stupid, funny things.

10 March 2005

“you nerd”

**** This is an essay that my brother Steven wrote.

“I heart NERDS” novelty tees are in style, but why? Surely, being the young American you are, you’ve heard the words Dork, Dweeb, Geek, and Nerd. Now, these words, developed across the nation and grouped haphazardly in sitcoms, have sadly become almost interchangeable. Although alike in many ways, each of these words has their own meaning. A solution is needed to illustrate and establish the difference between these words. Dork, Dweeb, Geek and Nerd are all derogatory terms used for poking fun at others, or can also be used as terms of endearment, depending on who says which to whom. There is a widespread misinterpretation of these words and an encompassing solution to avoid further confusion and miscommunication will be presented later.

First, we will examine the actual intended meanings of these words (this might take you by surprise). Keep in mind that a word’s definition and its use in spoken English don’t necessarily always correspond. For example, there’s a tradition among our generation that a “Dork” is the male reproductive organ of a whale. Although I couldn’t find anything in any dictionary to support that, I have been called a dork and called others a dork, and that was definitely not my, and hopefully not their, intended meaning. A “dweeb” is “a subservient person, a flunky… a despised person” according to the American Heritage College Dictionary. A “Geek” with, perhaps, the most startling definition is “A carnival performer whose show consists of bizarre acts, such as biting the head off a live chicken” according to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. A “Nerd” is “a person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.” These definitions can easily be found in most dictionaries. It’s easy to see the difference between the original, intended meanings and the accepted uses of these words today.

Moreover, all these words have come to mean pretty much the same thing. They have all melted together like a beige, tan, camel and neutral colored crayon that have all been mashed together in the backseat of a station wagon. Each was used for a specific purpose, but all, except dork, have taken on the meaning of a socially awkward, highly intelligent person. A person is normally called a dork when they show lack of intelligence and bizarre social position, but is still commonly misused.

A modern example of this problem is in Best Buy’s “Geek Squad”. This group of home service computer repair technicians, which wear white, short sleeve shirts and thin, black ties, have been given this name to show their ability in computer repair. But, aren’t nerds the ones who would be highly skilled at computers? Shouldn’t they be the Nerd Squad? Also, the above mentioned t-shirts, which advertise a preference for NERDS have grown in popularity. But, are geeks or nerds the ones who are better with girls? How can we know which is which? These words can not easily be distinguished.

My solution for this problem is a visually based definition. One day while I overheard a group of students trying desperately to make sense of these words, the solution just came to me like a glint of light off of a pair of horn rimmed glasses. These students were trying to put these words in some kind of order. They would say a few and come to a consensus on their placement, but then would argue about the correct placement of others. It was difficult for them to come to any real conclusion. I realized that two, instead of one criterion for placement had to be given in order to accurately illustrate their position. An X-Y axis, with intelligence and social abilities as the criteria can be used easily to give a suitable definition of the words.

This x-y axis solution clearly demonstrates how these words are connected. Exact placement of the dots may vary from person to person, but they will not normally end up with all four in the same place, thus creating the needed distinction between the words. A nerd is a person with high intelligence and low social skills, so we can see that the original definition was correct. A “Geek” is a person higher in intelligence, meaning that they are smarter than the average person, yet not quite as intelligent as nerds but with better social abilities than nerds. A dweeb is lower in intelligence than a geek or a nerd and with correspondingly low social abilities. A dork has the lowest intelligence, yet the highest social abilities.

I am confident that with my solution, no more companies will incorrectly name any members of their team, no high school student will be incorrectly labeled, and no young woman will purchase any clothing that incorrectly advertises her preference for a group or type of person. My hope is that dictionaries will begin to implement this “visual definition” to more accurately represent the difference between these words. With a little time and patience, and this x-y axis solution much confusion can be avoided.

** very interesting. I know I have used these words wrong. Thanks Steven for clearing it all up for us all. (And for letting me post it.)


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