Monday, December 10, 2012

Semantics: You say "tomato", I say "nonpoisonous member of the nightshade family"

A woman I follow on Twitter (@honestlynina) asked
Anyone: Whats the difference between a geek and a nerd to you? 
I replied in two parts, because 140 characters just wouldn't cut it.
Geek = *serious* fan of pretty much anything; music geek, comics geek, science geek [con't]

Nerd = bookish, awkward, excessively knowledgeable (about anything). I am geeky about some things, & nerdy abt others 
I want to expand on that, though. There's more to it than just being a fan, or excessively knowledgeable.

These days, people use the phrase "geek out" pretty casually. (I don't have to get into the whole history of geeks/carnies, right? That's been done to death.) I think it's awesome that what was once reserved for gamers and Star Wars/Trek fanatics is now crossing into other fields of interest... and that's really what it amounts to for me. YMMV* I love comics, comic book movies, World of Warcraft, Star Trek and Star Wars, etc. etc. I cannot quote chapter and verse, issue and volume, episode and season. I haven't memorized the canon or the lore. And I'm not saying that people who do are bad or weird. They are the nerds, those people who have encyclopedic knowledge about their favorite things. But just because I can't quote Cassandra Cain from page 10 in issue 4, volume 2 doesn't mean I don't have sincere passion and appreciation for comics. It's what makes idiotic rants from people like Tony Harris so hurtful and baffling.

I am a casual gamer. True, I can spend hours and hours playing in a single sitting, playing until I can barely get out of my chair, but I have not memorized the loot tables. I hate raiding, and I don't like dungeons. I enjoy questing. Most of my toons have leveled almost exclusively through questing, so my gear ain't so great. I nearly made a guildmate cry because all my gear on a max-level character was green level from quest rewards, not blue or purple from dungeons. He decided that I needed better gear and started dragging me through dungeons. He is a WoW nerd, I am a WoW geek. I love the game, love the stories (seriously loved Golden's novel The Shattering), hoard various things in the bank because I might want them later... I can discuss story lines, but not mechanics of boss fights. I have all the soundtracks, and that is my preferred background music for long-distance driving, and think Cranius is a freakin' genius. (Oxhorn's good for comedy, but doesn't have the level of artistry that Cranius has, in my opinion.)

I suppose that's sort of where I draw the line between geek and nerd; nerds aren't casual. They are driven in their passion to know everything they can learn about something.

My nerdiness usually comes out as weird bits of stored scientific knowledge. The "classic" nerd, if you will; the studious and socially awkward kid who was the teacher's pet and got straight As. (I was a solid B student; studying was too much work.) I think that was how I was perceived, in part, by a lot of my classmates. One of my biggest hurdles, so to speak, to becoming a true nerd is my inability to devote the time to gaining that encyclopedia head. I bounce from interest to interest and back again, because there are a lot of things that interest me. It's hard to focus on one thing for a long time, because there's just so much more in the world to know and learn and try. A less kind person would call me (and I have done) a dilettante, a person of casual interests, without commitment to the subject(s). Oh, what a hateful, insulting and mean word... worse, because it's accurate. We should all be grateful that the Fake Geek Girl proponents haven't used the word, not that I've seen anyway. Perhaps it's because they're ignorant, sophomoric twits who have a less than stellar grasp of wordsmithing, hmm?

Anyway, that's how I look at the nuances between geeks and nerds. How do you use the words? Are they interchangeable?

*Your Mileage May Vary, or what is true for me, may not be true for someone else. My experience is mine; yours is yours.

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