New here, and the thoughts I've been having on defining "Nerd."

Hello all,

So, while I've been following the Vlogbrothers and have read a few John Green books, I don't think I necessarily fit into the category of what might be considered a "nerd."

Not that I have any desire to.

The term "nerd" becomes problematic in its own right. 

Let's find a definition and go from there. (I hope that Wikipedia will suffice for now.)

"A nerd (adjective: nerdy) is a person, typically described as being overly intellectual, obsessive, or socially impaired."

From here, we must go further to define what "intellectual", "obsessive", and "socially impaired" actually is. 

I know the pride from many people in this community comes from their crowning achievements in science/physics/hard sciences--rightfully so, because they are difficult topics to master and study for. These are considered "intellectual" topics, requiring quite a bit of cognitive work.

But does this mean only the people who are rewarded with recognition/grades deserve the title of "nerd" or "intellectual"? Can the term also be used to describe people who are simply curious?

Likewise, I have seem claims to people saying that they are a "grammar nerd." Does this mean that their strengths are figuring out the actual punctuation/syntax, or does it mean that they are able to spell better than other people their age? 

If you are a "grammar nerd," does that mean that you are able to figure out the rules and differences of when to use preterit vs imperfect in other languages, such as Spanish?

Does this also include considering Black English as a different language? (Something that over 90% of linguists agree upon, anyway? So, yes, "James drunk" vs "James be drunk" have entirely different meanings and are actually legitimate sentences.)

What is "intellectual"? While many may roll their eyes at the notion and scoff at someone who has never read Ulysses and instead choses to read "See Spot Run," this may actually be a challenging/intellectual read for someone. If someone at the age of one and a half somehow matured earlier and developed the ability to read/speak "See Spot Run," we hail them a prodigy. But anyone older who makes the same effort who has trouble with reading is considered "below average."
I guess my point is that "intellectualism" is paired with age, and what others are able to do, comparatively. 

Now. "Obsessive."

Of excessive degree in nature. Does this mean that my love for dance makes me a dance "nerd"? Does this make anyone with Asperger's syndrome a "nerd"? Or do they have to have the combined obsessiveness (which is not clinically defined or proven) with the "intellectualism" as described above?

What about someone who is genuinely OCD? Are they a nerd about an anxiety disorder? (The obvious answer is no.)

"Socially Impaired."

Underneath this umbrella--anxiety disorders, phobias, psychopaths/sociopaths, feral children.

Do you see my point?

Instead of making Nerdfighting about the exclusiveness about how one might be an intellectual badass/outcast, how about inviting people in? There is nothing better than information and experience when shared. 

Maybe I'm simply bitter because my specialty is more so with English, semantics, culture, and critical thinking/theory, and being considered "less than" intellectual because it takes me twice as long to figure out a difficult math problem. 

I also try to discourage exclusivity, because I know firsthand how hurtful it is when people don't give you the opportunity to learn. 

"You don't know how to do XYZ? Wow. It's actually really simple---"


People do not learn the same. People do not process the same. Stop holding others to the same esteem as you. Empathize. Be part of the human experience. If helping others against Worldsuck and better understanding others is part of Nerdfighting, count me in!

Thanks everyone!

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Tags: blog, definition, first, language, linguistics, nerd, nerdfighter, post, science


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Comment by Juliet G. on December 20, 2013 at 8:47pm

I feel that the definition of "nerd" has been redefined in recent years, and does not always mean the same thing to everyone. I've had a lot of ideas about this that I've been thinking about and that were sparked by your post, and I think I might do one of my own on this topic! DFTBA!

Comment by InternSherry on December 19, 2013 at 7:25am

Great acknowledgements! It's been my interpretation that Nerfighteria is an all-inclusive organization, but like any gathering of humans, the human error to cling to those who you share interests with and ignore those who you don't share interests naturally occurs. It is more difficult to make the mindful decision to purposefully and intentionally be open to new ideas, thoughts, and types of people. Because most of us don't enjoy the uncomfortable-ness that comes with reaching out, it takes a decided effort to be inclusive. This because inclusiveness isn't just a passive acceptance of all but an active decision to seek out and include them. I am fascinated with the human experience because I believe its what connects us. Its the one thing we all have in common. We should use it to our advantage.

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