I wish people would stop mistaking me for a Nerd.
A lot of people keep calling me a Nerd without understanding that I’m a Geek, or even that there’s a difference between the two. So, since so many people don’t know the difference I think I’ll try to explain it here so everyone out there who wants to know can finally find the answer. Or at least my best attempt to answer this complex conundrum. And then, when some fool tells me that I’m a Nerd I can calmly tell them they’re mistaken and give them this URL so they can become educated on the subject and thus save their life because I won’t stab them in the uvula with a fountain pen.
My sincerest apologies, Frank. Get well soon.
In the hopes of making my personal definitions of Nerds and Geeks as simple and easy to comprehend as possible, I’ve tried to come up with a simple phrase to help describe the differences. Something that would be easy to remember. A defining catch-phrase that cleverly illustrated my point.
In that endeavor I failed miserably.
The best I could come up with was to co-opt and bastardize Bruce Lee’s famous description of Jeet Kune Do and liken Nerds and Geeks to water. But before I get to that, let me fully define to you the differences between Nerds and Geeks so you’ll fully grasp the utter lack of originality and cleverness of my catchphrase. That way, when you read it, you’ll have even greater joy as you write a hurtful and inflammatory comment making fun of me, my website, my lineage and my stupidity.
Hey, I always give the audience what they want.
So, to start off, how about we define what a Nerd is? OK, first off Nerds are fricking SMART. They usually have a vast and deep knowledge of a very narrowly defined subject like relational quantum mechanics or the theoretical viability of dimensional travel using man-made wormholes. Nerds are also, for the most part, socially awkward or even inept. They do not do well in public settings and have a really, really tough time interacting with figures of authority or people of the opposite sex. And if they are so unlucky as to be forced to attempt interaction with someone who is both a figure of authority AND a member of the opposite sex, then the poor Nerd will most likely spontaneously explode in fiery giblets from the sheer magnitude of their fright. Nerds usually have a very good sense of humor, but only if your IQ and area of expertise matches their own. Which is probably why 95% of the world thinks Nerds aren’t funny unless they’re getting into awkward situations on a sitcom, or involved in elaborate pratfalls in a movie.
Geeks, on the other hand, are also intelligent but just not to the extreme of a Nerd. They also have very large areas of knowledge and can carry on a conversation with nearly anyone as long as the conversation doesn’t get too deep into the minutia of a subject. You see, whereas a Nerd knows nearly everything in there area of expertise, a Geek knows a little bit about a vast amount of different subjects. Geeks want to know something about nearly everything that catches their fancy, while a Nerd usually only cares about knowing everything there is to possibly know the few things that interest them. This helps make Geeks far more socially adept than Nerds because a Geek can speak on a whole array of different subjects and thus integrate more easily with whatever social group he or she finds themselves engrossed in conversation with, while the poor Nerd would feel either ostracized or bored due to their lack of knowledge about whatever the subject du jour was. Lastly, a Geeks sense of humor is far more approachable to the average person because of, and due to, the Geeks wide pool of knowledge from which they can connect seemingly unconnected concepts. An obscure factoid gleaned during a late-night conversation with someone three years ago will, at the most opportune moment, be remembered by a Geek and used during a conversation today to make a hilarious punchline. In essence, Geeks thrive in social settings where they can use humor, while Nerds wither unless their expertise is being utilized.
Thus, the difference comes down to depth of knowledge (Nerd) vs. breadth of information (Geek).
This is why to me a nerd is like a very deep but frozen lake and a Geek is like a fast-moving but shallow river. Nerds are way, way, WAY smarter than Geeks on certain subjects and have a depth of knowledge on those subjects that few others could ever hope to comprehend, let alone match. Geeks on the other hand have larger areas of interest and thus a much wider pool of information to draw upon. Geeks know enough about nearly any subject to at least hold a conversation with someone where the Nerd simply could not. And that is why I classify myself as a Geek. I do fine in social settings, I can hold my own in nearly any conversation on almost any subject, but I’m just not anywhere near smart enough to be a Nerd. That’s not to say I’m not a little Nerdy on a few subjects (Anime anyone?), and I’m betting most people are Nerdy about a few things, but usually the differences between Nerds and Geeks spelled out above help to classify whether someone truly is a Nerd or a Geek.
Another way of putting it; Geeks are smart but Nerds make Geeks look stupid.
Nerds are frozen lakes with hidden depths of knowledge and Geeks are frothing rivers of information. If you want to have a conversation with someone where you’ll probably laugh while learning something new, talk to a Geek. If you want to truly understand a subject in great detail skip the Geek and go straight to a Nerd.
And that’s all I have to say about that.