Geek vs. Nerd vs. Dork

I have spent an embarrassing amount of time in search of definitions to distinguish between nerd and geek. The first blog post I failed to complete was titled, “Geek vs. Nerd.” I just couldn’t define what I felt existed.

Over the years I’ve seen many graphs, diagrams, and definitions that attempt to accomplish the mission, but I found them lacking. I couldn’t put my finger on what was needed, I just knew something was missing… until now.

Geek vs. Nerd

Typically one is viewed as good, the other bad. For example, I heard Chris Hardwick say that he viewed geek as negative, and nerd as positive, thus he named his website Nerdist. I, as I’m sure you have inferred saw geek as positive, and nerd as negative.

One thing I can say for certain is that the only people who care about the difference are geeks and nerds.

My first breakthrough came when I determined the standards by which to measure the extent to which an individual was a geek or a nerd.

Intellectual Obsession – Any geek/ nerd has intellectual obsessions, it’s just a matter of what he/ she fixates on (technology, design, sports, writing, politics, economics, music, etc).

Social Skill – The degree to which an individual can function socially.

This was attempt number 1:

Staring at this first solution got me thinking…

What’s on the other side of the Y-axis?

This was my eureka moment.

The problem with defining the difference between a geek and a nerd is that it ignores the rest of society. At that point I set out to figure out two new questions:

  • Who is unburdened by intellectual obsession, but has social skill?
  • Who has neither intellectual obsession, nor social skill?

Make no mistake. I am using “Cool” & “Dweeb” in the pejorative; I see both as lacking substance.

Think of it this way:

Paris Hilton = Cool

Grant Morrison = Geek

Mark Zuckerberg = Nerd

I can’t think of any famous dweebs. When I think of dweebs I see basement dwellers working mall security, while in the middle of their fifth year working towards a two-year associates degree.

In the middle of the graph is “dork” territory, or people who do not fit strongly in any of the four quadrants.

No Value Judgement

(So long as you’re a geek or a nerd)

There are many kinds of nerds and geeks. There are people who are intellectually obsessed with technology, comics, sports, video games, politics, writing, coding, fish… the list is endless. This graph does not cast judgement on the practicality or marketability of one’s obsession.

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”

4 thoughts on “Geek vs. Nerd vs. Dork

  1. I am a Harry Potter geek, so let me get this straight…

    Griffindors are wise and admired. They are GEEKS. Perfect example: Fred and George Weasley.

    Ravenclaws are brilliant and are probs too busy being brainy to be socially up to snuff. They are NERDS. Perfect example: Luna Lovegood.

    Slytherins are charming and well-established in the wizarding world, despite missing a few mental (and moral) cogs. They are COOL. Example: Draco Malfoy.

    Hufflepuffs mean well, but there’s not an excess of brains or charisma… just the fact that they were put in the NICE house. They are DWEEBS. Good example: Ernie Macmillan.

    I have it on good authority that the Sorting Hat consults David Spira’s chart before sorting the first years.

  2. Spotted on tumblr – a venn diagram showing geek at the intersection of Smart & Nice (but not Handsome)… All 3 is Batman :)

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