Cover of If I Ran the Zoo (Classic Seuss)
The term “nerd” is a little bit blurry in derivation. Urban legend states that the term originated on college campuses, and was spelt “knurd”. A “knurd” was a diligent student, the opposite of a “drunk”. There is no validation for this theory. According to The Online Etymology Dictionary, it is “…U.S. student slang, probably an alteration of 1940s slang nert “stupid or crazy person,” itself an alteration of nut. The word turns up in a Dr. Seuss book from 1950 (“If I Ran the Zoo”), which may have contributed to its rise.” The term is still used to describe a nutty or eccentric person, but is more likely someone who is intelligent to the point that they are seen as something “different”. That will be the working definition for this paper. But this is still a little vague, so let’s expand it.
“…some people, especially young people, adopt a broad definition and define a nerd as anyone who wears glasses…glasses must be some kind of badge of nerdity,” says psychologist David Anderegg. Being a nerd really has nothing to do with suspenders, glasses, and pocket protectors. What it comes down to is the way they interact with the world. Nerds
“…tend to remind people of machines by
- Being passionate about some technically sophisticated activity…
- Speaking in language unusually similar to written Standard English.
- Seeking to avoid physical and emotional confrontation.
- Favoring logic and rational communication over nonverbal, nonrational forms of communication or thoughts that don’t involve reason.
- Working with, playing with, and enjoying machines more than most people do.
…They get stuck with the name “nerd” because their outward behavior can make them seem less than, and more than, human.” (Nugent)
In the past, they were seen as “unkempt eccentrics”.
“…Now they actually mean something along the lines of ‘expert’, ‘clever’, you know a little bit staying up late at night drinking black coffee, ‘keyboard monkey’, but nevertheless they’ve got respect. To say you’re a computer nerd now, people think oh that’s someone who can do something for me. … It sort of now means highly computer literate and quite well respected. I think some people would be proud to be called a nerd…” (Leyton via Hunter)
They are “often regarded as poor communicators, introverted, and inferior team players, although a number of positive attributes such as intelligence, diligence, good organizational skills, and patience offset these rather negative qualities.” (Krawe)