Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Geek, Dweeb, Nerd, Dork

The famous Steve Urkel, nerd, geek or dork?
There is an ongoing discussion I have with a previous coworker who will remain nameless,* about the difference between a geek, dork and nerd. It actually started way earlier last year between my brother,** the nameless person Matt and another nameless person.*** We looked up the definitions and tried to use examples in our own world to put them into context, such as World of Warcraft, but as soon as you think you have it under control World of Warcraft suddenly seems just as dorky as it is geeky, or is it nerdy? Well, don't stress over it because it's probably all of the above. You can be a geek and still act like a dork and do nerdy things. You can be a dork and have moments of geekhood which you will forever look back to as the prime of your life. You can be a nerd with traces of dork and then later in life transform into a beautiful geek-swan. Truth be told they're pretty much interchangeable. Here are the definitions I got from Dictionary.com and I promise you, I did not make any of the below definitions up, no matter how ridiculous they seem. I have added dweeb and spod because I believe it is important to the discussion and necessary to really get a grasp of these terms in all their glory.
* Matt
** Josh
*** Murray

Geek  n Slang 
1. a computer expert or enthusiast (a term of pride as self-reference, but often considered offensive when used by outsiders.)
2. a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, esp. one who is perceived to be overly intellectual.
3. a carnival performer who performs sensationally morbid or disgusting acts, as biting off the head of a live chicken.

World English Dictionary  
1. a boring and unattractive social misfit  
2. a degenerate

Word Origin and History 
"sideshow freak," 1916, U.S. carnival and circus slang, perhaps a variant of geck "a fool, dupe, simpleton" (1515), apparently from Low Ger. geck, from an imitative verb found in North Sea Gmc. and Scand. meaning "to croak, cackle," and also "to mock, cheat." The modern form and the popular use with ref. to circus sideshow "wild men" is from 1946, in William Lindsay Gresham's novel "Nightmare Alley" (made into a film in 1947 starring Tyrone Power).

Slang Dictionary 
1. n. a disgusting and repellent person; a creep. (Rude and derogatory.): The convention was a seething morass of pushy sales geeks and glad-handers. 
2. n. a hardworking student. (Usually objectionable.): It looks like the geeks are taking over this campus. How gross! 
3. n. a person, soldier, or civilian of an East Asian country, especially in wartime. (Rude and derogatory.): Willy is tired of geeks and the way they talk.

Dweeb n Slang
nerd; wimp.   
Origin: 1980–85.
—Related forms: dweebish, adj. Related words for dweeb: grind, nerd, swot, wonk

World English Dictionary 
slang chiefly (US) a stupid or uninteresting perso

Slang Dictionary 
1. n. an earnest student.(Collegiate.): Don't call Bob a dweeb! Even if he is one. 
2. n. a strange or eccentric person; a nerd: This place is filled with dweebs of all sizes.

Computing Dictionary 
An even lower form of life than the spod, found in much the same habitat as the former, though more prevalent on talker systems. Unlike spods, upon receiving the desired response to the question "Are you male or female?", dweebs will then engage upon a detailed description of themselves and how wonderful they are, often in the hopes of truly impressing the other with their "charm" and "wit". Nearly all dweebs are male, but very few actually live up to the image that they present. Dweebs, unfortunately, are often the cause of ill-will, and may well bring a bad reputation to the system in question. They are often, however, easy to wind up and can be the source of great mirth to the seasoned user.

Spod — adj  
a person seen as being boring, unattractive, or excessively studious

Computing Dictionary 
(Great Britain) A lower form of life found on chat systems and MUDs. The spod has few friends in RL and uses chat instead, finding communication easier and preferable over the net. He has all the negative traits of the computer geek without having any interest in computers per se. Lacking any knowledge of, or interest in, how networks work, and considering his access a God-given right, he is a major irritant to sysadmins, clogging up lines in order to reach new MUDs, following passed-on instructions on how to sneak his way onto Internet ("Wow! It's in America!") and complaining when he is not allowed to use busy routes. A true spod will start any conversation with "Are you male or female?" (and follow it up with "Got any good numbers/IDs/passwords?") and will not talk to someone physically present in the same terminal room until they log onto the same computer that he is using and enter chat. Compare newbie, tourist, weenie, twink, terminal junkie, dweeb.

Nerd –n Slang 
1.a stupid, irritating, ineffectual, or unattractive person.
2.an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit: a computer nerd

World English Dictionary
a boring or unpopular person, esp one obsessed with something specified: a computer nerd  

Word Origin and History 
1951, 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. Adjective nerdy is from 1978.

Dork n Slang.

a stupid or ridiculous person; jerk; nerd. 
Origin: 1960–65 

Slang Dictionary
a jerk; a strange person. (See also megadork.): Ye gods, Sally! You are a dork!  

Dork also has another definition that I did not previously know existed. (If you look it up, be prepared to have your innocence spoiled. I came to the difficult conclusion that as it was not something I set out to do in this post, I did not want the blood of your lost innocence on my hands).   

After extensive study and comparison I have made some very acute observations however. One is that geek, though it originally meant fool, as well as of course a crazy carnival guy who eats live chicken heads, it now means very smart especially with computers, whereas dweebs, nerds and dorks all have "stupid" in one of their definitions. A dweeb and a nerd are almost identical. One of the differences is that nerds are incredibly annoying but they can also have a weird obsession for a "something specified." Example: a Trekkie. So despite being ridiculously annoying, nerds are almost cool because they have their own little world where they fit in and dress up as Klingons. People can appreciate nerds, but they also very much feel the desire to beat them up for being so annoying (along with dweebs and dorks obviously), and the really stupid people, which is 97% of all bullies, also want to beat up geeks out of pure jealousy that they are not smart enough to be them (taken from "Faith's Study of Bullies"). Dorks are not only stupid and ridiculous, they can also be big, fat jerks (and other things, which we won't talk about). Sadly all of these terms are described as unattractive and unlikable, and even geeks are misconstrued as boring, degenerate social misfits and repellent creeps, but the difference is that nerds, dweebs and dorks rarely go places, whereas geeks eventually end up as your boss, in government or working alongside robots to take over the world. 

More importantly, the people who wrote the computing dictionary definitions for spod and dweeb are clearly the biggest geeks in the entire universe and aren't really in a position to criticize the spods and dweebs of this world. But seriously, spods? Do spods and dweebs often ask people if they are male or female as a conversation starter? What exactly is the desired response to that question that upon receiving makes them talk about how wonderful they are, and why can't they figure it out in the first five seconds, as long as the person is not a bearded woman or a cross-dresser? Is it a secret code for something else? Like they want to verify you are a true nerd and not an impostor therefore you will have to answer something like, "I am a complex system of cells and protozoa," or "I am a female homosapien. What are you?!" Maybe it is only in chat rooms where they are trying to find cyber-love and the desired response is simply the opposite sex, or whatever they are attracted to, bearded females not excluded. My favorite part in the dweeb definition: "They are often, however, easy to wind up and can be the source of great mirth to the seasoned user."  

It helps that the example sentences the slang dictionary uses are very true to life and things I regularly say: "It looks like the geeks are taking over this campus. How gross!" "Willy is tired of geeks and the way they talk." "Don't call Bob a dweeb! Even if he is one." "Ye gods, Sally! You are a dork!" And for the other, innocence-killing definition of dork, it says "Paul told a joke about a dork, but everybody just sat there and looked straight ahead."   

Returning to my original and most current debate between geek, nerd and dork, it all began with a picture of Milhouse I colored for one of the nameless persons previously stated (Matt) that says: "My mom thinks I'm cool" which I have just realized is wrong (it should say "says" not "thinks" thereby revealing me to be an impostor and barring me from ever entering the secret club of nerdhood). I had gotten said-nameless person in Secret Santa for Christmas and afterward said to him, "Wouldn't it be funny if I had given you the Milhouse picture in a frame?" I then tried to convince him it would, in fact, have been so hilarious that if he were being smart about this he would frame it anyway. He said that people would think he was a dork, which then brought on another discussion about the difference between geek, nerd and dork and as I quickly became confused (not uncommon), we had to figure it out again. This is how we figured it. Well, mostly he did, but after my extensive research I have now modified for the fullest effect:
  • A geek would frame a breakdown of "The Simpsons" characters and all the little details that only serious Simpsons fans would know.
  • A nerd would frame a collector's edition picture of Milhouse, signed by Matt Groening.
  • No one cares what a dweeb would do.
  • A dork would frame a crummy picture a coworker colored for him which people would think was awkward and weird and yet the colorer would be soooo flattered it would be worth it.
And yes, I do realize by having discussions about the difference between geek, dork and nerd makes me very much a dork... or a dweeb... maybe both. But probably not a geek. As I'm writing this another nameless coworker (Dom) who is reading Harry Potter (yes, at work, I'm telling you, this job is good to us) just asked me some questions about Death Eaters and Aurors, declaring me her "go-to" person for all things Harry Potter. That is how I know I am also a nerd.

Seriously though, who's Tyrone Power?

...I found him. Apparently my grandma had a serious crush on him back in the day.

I will be screening Nightmare Alley at my house sometime in the near future. But probably never.


  1. You wish you were a spod! You are in fact a dweeb, and as I recall, a dweeb is "an even lower form of life than the spod."