On Nerds and Geeks: Do you know how to tell them apart?

In our world of rapidly advancing technology, geeks are becoming ever more present in normal life. The people who identify as geeks can draw a distinct line between themselves and their less socially adept cousins, nerds. Non-geeks, however, sometimes have trouble distinguishing between geek and nerd culture. That’s where I come in. Today, I will set the record straight, and prove once and for all that not all geeks are nerds (and not all nerds are geeks!).

The term “geek” comes from the old English gek, meaning “fool.” The word evolved into “geek” in the early 20th century as a slang term for a circus performer who performed amazing feats. The term became truly popular around 1990, when it came to mean what it does today.

The word “nerd,” on the other hand, was first used in the 1950 Dr. Seuss book “If I Ran the Zoo.” The term was popularized in the 70s, leading to its widespread use in everyday life.

Despite popular belief, the terms “geek” and “nerd” are in no way interchangeable. A geek is a person who is more interested in technology and pop culture, while nerds are more deeply rooted in academics. WordPress user Burrsettles created this graph of the interests of nerds and geeks by mapping the Twittersphere. The more geeky hashtags were more likely to show up alongside the word “geek,” and vice versa for the nerdy hashtags.

The graph further proves the point that geeks are more involved in creating (#etsy, #cosplay) and technology (#tech, #electronics) while nerds are more involved in learning and academic achievement (#physics, #studying, #biochemistry, #studymode).

Geek has come to be a much more popular term than nerd – 87% of people prefer the term “geek” over “nerd” and 41% percent are comfortable being called a geek, as opposed to the 24%  who are okay with being called a nerd.

Are you a geek, or are you a nerd?

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