Definitions of Geeks, Dorks, and Nerds

“What a dork!” “Oh, my God! You are such a nerd for ruining the curve! Where’s your pocket-protector?” “Hey, geek-boy, why don’t you fix my computer, eh?”

We’ve all either called someone a geek, nerd, or dork at some time or another (either in jest or with malice) or been called one before. These terms can hurt when used, the same way people use racial epithets to scar emotionally. They can also be used in a very jovial manner, allowing a person a very defined role based on their personality traits.

Randomly ask anyone on the street about what a geek, dork, or nerd is, and you will almost guaranteed get the same answer: Lame. There is something that goes along with these words that doesn’t bring to mind the most macho, socially competent people. There is a slight stigma to calling or being called a geek, dork, or a nerd, but there doesn’t have to be. They are simply words used to denote people by interest, personality, and intelligence. There is no difference in calling someone a geek than there is calling someone an athlete; both are distinguished by that at which they are adept.

A break-down of the categories will, hopefully, bring to light what a geek, nerd, and dork are, dispelling myths about them (or reinforcing them, in some cases). Please note that these descriptions come from my own opinions as well as my friends’. We are all confessed geeks with nerd tendencies.

GEEK: A geek is generally someone who is very technologically inclined. They generally include the ranks of computer repair people, service techs, and help-desk operators. Their personal interests, as a general rule, include video games (many coming from Japan), science fiction/fantasy works (such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and Lord of the Rings), and comic books. If it is considered “lame,” the geeks are all over it. Their social skills are above average, however. Geeks generally have large groups of friends around them at all time, allowing them a social circle where their “lame” interests are accepted as being “cool.” Geeks take pleasure in knowing random facts about their interests that most people would (or should) not. For instance, Chewbacca (from Star Wars) is a Wookiee. Wookiee has two E’s in it, and some geeks take pleasure in pointing out that mistake when people do not put the second E. Geeks are in the upper-eschelon of up-coming job holders because technology oriented jobs are coming by the truck-load. Even “Best Buy” has a part of their store dedicated to their workers called the “Geek Squad.”

DORK: Dorks are generally a sub-genre of geeks. Dorks are the ones that take it too far. While “geek chic” is becoming popular and accepted, dorks do their best to stay labeled as outcasts by most people. Dorks are the people you see dressing up for the release of the new Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter movie. They attend book/video-game releases of their favorite series dressed as characters. They regularly attempt to wear costumes on random days of the year. Dorks are easily picked out on college campuses because they are known to wear capes (with hoods, ocasionally) during the winter instead of a jacket (I wish I were making this up, but my campus has a few people who do this regularly). Dorks do not have to be geeks, however. One can look at “sports fanatics” as being dorks, as well. Look at any given football game. What is the difference in seeing 5 grown men paint their bodies complimentary colors to spell “VIKINGS RULE” in the middle of winter and a group of people who decide to dress up as the Fellowship of the Ring for a movie release? Very little, I think. Dork is generally the only one of these three which can really be described as negative. If you are a dork, then it means you are over-indulging, and we all know that everything is better in moderation.

NERDS: Nerds are, for the most part, categorized by their brains. Nerds have always been those who value knowledge over anything else, including social interaction and food. Gone are the days where nerds wear horn-rimmed glasses with tape over the bridge and pocket-protectors. Today’s nerds are almost impossible to pick out by appearance. Nerds sustain themselves by knowledge. They are really the all-encompassing category of geeks, nerds, and dorks. Nerds can be picked out by someone who would rather sit home on a Friday night and watch a Science Channel special on neutrinos than go to a party. If they generally read educational texts for their own benefit (and not a class assignment), you are looking at a nerd. There is nothing wrong with being a nerd, nor should there be a negative connotation to the word, I think. A nerd is an intelligent person, generally exceptionally bright, who thrives on learning as much as they can at any given time, even to the point where they forego social interaction. You will generally find nerds in the fields of academia and professorship due to their interest in knowledge and passing it on or preserving it.

These three categories are not fail-safe ways of naming people, nor should they really be used to harm people emotionally. When I was young, I was almost purely nerd, but as I moved older, I was almost purely geek. Now, I feel that I am a great amalgam of geek and nerd. That fits my personality. That fits my interests. That fits my desires. If someone calls you a geek, be proud; you are one of society’s up-and-comers. If you are called a nerd, rejoice; you are smarter than the person who called you that. If you are called a dork, think; there may be something you’re doing a little too hardcore for your own good.

I hope to have distinguished a little more what a geek, a nerd, and a dork is. We have all either called someone one of them or been called one. Now we can understand why. These are simply categories that people place each other in. Like athlete or artist, these labels do not make the person. The person makes themselves, and they can either embrace who and what they are or be forever ruled by the concept that someone else places on them.

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