I had an LOL moment last night watching Jimmy Fallon. Ex-gangsta-rapper and "Law and Order" detective Ice-T was on (broadcast here, anyway—I don't watch often enough to know whether it was a rerun or not) with his extravagant wife Coco, and he pointed out that there's a big difference between a nerd and a geek. Given any little area of enthusiasm, a nerd is a guy who knows all about it—and likes to talk about it and argue about it—and a geek is a guy who likes to do it. Whatever "it" is.
So I'm a darkroom geek but a Miata nerd. (Makin' me laugh again.)
Seems like a useful distinction to me. When I worked at the model railroad magazine, there was reader—famous among the staff—who would write highly detailed, deeply knowledgable 10-page letters about the magazine's layout articles, critiquing the author's ideas and suggesting improvements. They were so good the Editor would post them on the office bulletin board. But despite repeated attempts, the Editor couldn't get the guy to actually write an article for the magazine.
So he was a model-railroading-magazine nerd, then.
I remember back when I occasionally participated in the often contentious forums of a certain high profile British digital camera review site. I got into it once with a guy who was evangelical about a certain brand of high-end professional DSLR and outspokenly critical of the competing brand's flagship model. (I forget whether he loved C and hated N, or loved N and hated C...not that it really matters.) When I dug into it, it turned out that the fellow was a teenager who didn't own a nice DSLR at all.
A goal for him to aspire to: geekhood!
Note: Please don't take the above too seriously. Or, god forbid, personally. I know the two terms under discussion are mildly pejorative; I just thought it was funny.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by MHV: "The truth of the Internet Age is that it has essentially enabled ALL of us to become geek/nerds of something in minutes. We spend more time learning about arcane matter than ever simply because we can. The problem is that we end up missing on what made our subjects of obsession obsessive at all: rarity. In the '60s, being a film buff essentially meant 1) living in Paris and 2) going to the Cinémathèque every other day. Here's a classic essay on post-rarity geekhood/nerdiness." [By the comedian Patton Oswalt. And an excellent essay, too. —MJ.]
Featured Comment by John Wilson: "I think he's wrong about the definitions. This is what Geeks believe the definitions to be:
Scott Lamb's Nerd Venn Diagram, from Buzzfeed
Mike replies: Wouldn't it be really nerdy to argue about the competing definitions of "nerd"?
Ctein replies: "Dear Mike, That would be 'nerd geeking.' helpfully yours, Ctein."
John Wilson replies: "Mike, I'm too busy being a nerd to argue about the definition at any length :-) ."
Featured Comment by Dave Burns: "Re your point of debating the definition, there's an alternate Venn diagram from xkcd (make sure to hover over the image for the tooltip comment)."
Featured Comment by Steve Jacob: "Interesting entymologies for some of these terms:
Dweeb: 1980s West Coast slang acronym for Dim-Witted Eastern-Educated Boor (usually with regard to Ivy League grads).
Nerd: Actually started as 'knurd' which is the opposite of drunk, as applied to students who don't know how to party, as supposedly coined in the 1940s at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.
Geek: Originally applied to carnival performers who could do weird things with their bodies—came to apply to those who could do equally weird things with computers.
Dork: A term actually coined by geeks to refer to those of lesser ability, supposedly derived from a breed of chicken (a Dorking) which had an extra toe on each foot."