The Essential Nerd

Once Revenge of the Nerds type movies started hitting the big screen, a lot of people started taking pride in self-identifying as Nerds. All the people I know who refer to themselves as Nerds aren’t really Nerds as far as I can see. People who really are Nerds never seem to call themselves Nerds.

What’s your definition of a Nerd? Someone who is highly intelligent, engages in unusual hobbies, knows stuff most other people don’t know or even care about and doesn’t follow trends? All that is cool stuff. Everybody likes to think of themselves as being a little like that.

But, I think to be an authentic Nerd, if there is such a thing, also means being unpopular, socially inept to a lesser or greater degree and generally being unable to discourse, connect or even really converse with people.

I don’t think Nerds are unpopular because they’re intelligent. Only very ignorant people dislike people who are smart. No, I think Nerds are unpopular because they lack the necessary social skills to make them able to engage with people. And they don’t seem to be able to fun – at least not by the conventionally accepted sense of the concept. It’s difficult to hang around with people who don’t understand fun.

The term Nerd came from the Dr. Seuss’ If I Ran the Zoo. Dr. Seuss’ Nerd doesn’t look like much fun, does he?nerd

 And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Ka-Troo

And Bring Back an It-Kutch a Preep and a Proo

A Nerkle a Nerd and a Seersucker, too!

 In the early 1950s Nerd became a slang word synonymous with “square” or “drip”. So, long before the word also took on the above-average intelligence connotation (in the 1960s), it meant someone who was out-of-it socially.

Not only do Nerds not care about keeping up with trends or fashion or being able to make small talk or knowing how to groom themselves so they look their best; the don’t know how. They have more important things to think and worry about. But, every human being (especially when they’re teenagers when this labeling really takes root) wants to be liked and accepted by others.

Those labeled Nerds usually had a hell of a time growing up. No dates. No parties. No dances. No friends. They sucked at sports. They were laughed at; shoved into lockers, bullied, and picked on. They probably would have given anything to make all that go away. And yet, I don’t think any authentic Nerd would trade any of his/her intelligence for popularity. Would they?

As adults, Nerds might have a bit of an easier time of it. They seem to become immersed in their work and the rest of the world recedes and affects them less and less. I don’t know. I’m supposing. I’ve never asked them. I’m just going by my observations. How do you ask someone you think is a Nerd something like that?

Anyway, are we changing the meaning of the word Nerd to mean anyone who thinks of themselves as an individual, is maybe a bit eccentric and sometimes dresses like Richie Cunningham? Because those kinds of Nerds are super-cool right now – trendy even. This is pretty much the opposite of what the word used to mean. Because the eggheads with the weird hair and painfully awkward social manner are as unpopular as ever, right?

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Are you a Nerd?
  • Have you ever called yourself a Nerd?
  • Do you know a Nerd?
  • Are you close friends with a Nerd?
  • Is it easier to be a Nerd as an adult than it was as a kid?
  • Are Nerds fun to be with?
  • Why is it cool to call yourself a Nerd?
  • What do real Nerds call themselves?
  • Would a Nerd trade some intelligence for some popularity?