Today’s rant is brought to you by the Book Blogger Hop prompt of the week, which asks, “Have you ever been called a “book nerd?” If so, how did you react?”. I immediately rolled my eyes at this because I think that flinging around the word “nerd” as an insult is ridiculous and I am going to tell you why this really isn’t a bad thing, or even a thing, especially in 2019.
I’m a firm believer in the power of words – they’re weapons in the right hands and should be used responsibly. Any kind of name-calling with ill intent is a misuse of the word. It’s bullying guys, okay? So stop using the word “nerd” to bully people.
So. Let’s talk about this word.
Nerd is a relatively new term.
According to Wikipedia, the word “nerd” wasn’t in use until 1950 when it appeared as a nonsense word in a Dr. Seuss book. It gained its association with intellectuals through its popularization in the 1970s, driven by its use in Happy Days.
In Happy Days, the connotation was clear. Everyone wanted to be like the sleek, cool Arthur Fonzarelli, and nobody wanted to be like Potsie. After all, the Fonz was the coolest, got all the girls… you know, that whole macho bad boy shtick.
Don’t get me wrong, like everyone else, I enjoyed the Fonz. But most of my readers probably never watched Happy Days (it was far outdated when I was watching it) so we’ll move on. Leave it to say that if Fonzie was a cool dude who rode a motorcycle and got everything he wanted, the nerd was the exact opposite.
Society’s message to its watchers: nerd bad, motorcycle jacket good. Welcome to the ’70s.
What does “nerd” actually mean?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of “nerd” is “an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person; especially : one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits“. It’s slang to call someone smart, ugly, and a social mess.
I like to actually pull dictionary definitions of things, because we tend to throw words around a bit carelessly. If you’re looking at a young girl who loves to talk about Harry Potter and call her a nerd, not only are you judging her interests, but in essence, you’re called her unattractive and friendless. Nice. Good work.
Also, these days? I think it’s pretty fair to say that we’re all sort of social messes? Society has leaned toward online interactions. We’re all socially inept in real life. And if it doesn’t look like it, we’re faking it really well.
Fortunately the “nerds” of the world have reclaimed this term, and are turning around the definition. Dictionary be damned.
The terms “nerd” and “geek” are often used interchangeably, and are still used in relation to people who enjoy intellectual pursuits, fictional worlds and characters, and technology. After all, to encompass an unhealthy obsession with anything would force it to include sports. And well… there are definitely people who fill their days with football stats and wear football jerseys and talk about football players all day long, but they’re the ones who – stereotypically – liked to use this as an insult. To include more “macho”, physical hobbies in the definition would be to invalidate it. Can’t have that.
Okay, but why isn’t this an insult anymore?
The problem for those who liked to use this term to belittle people is that, well, the world is changing. Where physical pursuits and extreme machoism may have once been highly valued in men and demure, feminine arts valued in women… that’s not true anymore. Intellectual achievement gets students into the best colleges, leads to the best career paths, and betters our world. Nobody ever improved quality of life by learning how to bat her eyelashes or check an opponent.
Nerds rule the world, baby.
Let’s break it down:
- The most anticipated movie of 2019: Avengers Endgame.
- The most anticipated television show of 2019: Game of Thrones.
- We’re working on self-driving cars.
- Our phones are computers for our pockets and they are essential.
- More and more people are tele-commuting to work.
So the things we rely on every day are packed with technology (created by nerds), our most anticipated film was a comic book adaptation, and the biggest television show of the year is an epic fantasy.
With the coming up of the Millennials and Gen Z hot on our tail, American culture (at least) is nerd culture.
So if you’re enjoying your smart watch or reading this on your tablet or have a Nest or streaming service or are on Team Iron Man or are mad about the GoT finale or are looking forward to Rise of Skywalker or Frozen 2 or really… if you’re not a techless hermit living naturally from the land in a tent made of animal skin (and therefore not reading this) I have just one thing to say to you from all of us nerds out there:
This week’s Book Blogger Hop asked:
Have you ever been called a “book nerd?” If so, how did you react?
Short answer: I’m sure I have, and I’m also sure it was met with a shrug of the shoulders and a “yep, so what?”
Do you consider yourself to be a nerd? Are you proud? If not – you should be! Tell me about all your favorite “nerdy” things in the comments!