In search of meaning.

The world has changed. I see it in the water. I feel it in the Earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, For none now live who remember it.

Okay so that’s not quite true, but it may as well be. It’s hard to imagine today that there was once a time when the words I’m going to discuss were used with the sole intent of insulting someone. It seems comical now to consider that these words were once hurtful, but such is the power of language. It’s constantly changing. Did you know that the word “Humbug” was basically the old timey equivalent of “bullshit”? It’s true. Yet today humbug sounds quaint, no one takes offense. Today’s profane will be tomorrow’s mundane. That rhymes and you know it rhymes!

Today I’m going to talk to you about a quartet of words; all closely linked and yet each distinct from the others. I present to you Geek, Nerd; Dork and Dweeb.

Now I won’t claim this is definitive; I’ll just tell you it is. I’m sure that everyone has bestowed upon each of these words their own unique meaning and relevance. Some of you may disagree with the hierarchy of meaning I am about to apply to these words. I understand. However if you disagree then you should have made the definitive declaration of meaning regarding these words before I did. You snooze you lose I’m afraid. (that also rhymed)

There was a time when all 4 of these words were derogatory; each of them ugly and abusive to a particular sector of society, specifically my sector. Times have changed though and what was once for all intents and purposes hate speech is now a symbol of pride… mostly. Like rappers before us, we have taken the words meant to hurt us and have claimed ownership of them. It makes it sound much grander and more important than it is really.

Regardless of the reclamation and assimilation of these words, there is still a hierarchy within our little slice of society pie. Some of these words are not as reclaimed as others. So here is my anthropological study (in as far as I know absolutely dick about anthropology) on the subject.

Of all of these words, geek carries with it the most prestige. A geek is basically a cool nerd, a nerd without the social ineptitude. In essence, all Geeks were once and to a certain degree remain nerds, but not all nerds ever become geeks. Geeks have the brains and the social skills to allow them to move relatively unhindered through society in general. A geek can speak at length on various topics not related to Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica; comic books, video games or computers. They would merely *prefer* to be talking to you about those subjects. Geeks possess a certain self awareness which allows them to remain fanatically devoted to the things they love while at the same time giving them the ability to remain objective about them. As an example, a geek loves the original Star Trek, however, that geek is fully aware of how ridiculous the original series is and can appreciate it on multiple levels from visceral, satirical, allegorical to irony and camp.

Nerdosity focuses more on the intellectualization of things. This does not necessarily mean that a nerd is smart, although often times they are. This means that the nerd has devoted a significant amount of time and thought to his or her passions. Those passions are generally not considered “cool”. Nerds are generally devoid of social grace. A nerd is rarely cognizant of how they come across in conversation. In the Nerd mind the nerd is witty and urbane, saying pithy; interesting things on topics they find infinitely fascinating and entertaining. In reality the nerd is more often than not talking someone’s ear off about the minutia of hyperdrive motivators, the mating habits of the tribble; or any number of other topics, much to their victim’s dismay. Given time and enough social interaction a nerd can eventually metamorphose into a geek. Sadly, this doesn’t happen for everyone.

Dork is a curious term, as it is often used as a semi-derogatory term of endearment amongst geeks and nerds. It is the kind of phony put down tossed about between friends. In its standard usage a Dork is a Nerd minus the intellectual component. Dorks are lacking both social grace and intelligence. They may enjoy the same things as Geeks and Nerds, but their enjoyment is considerably more base in nature. Subtle nuances are often lost on Dorks. Dorks are dazzled by spectacle and often confuse it with quality. Dorks are the reason movies like Independence Day, Armageddon; Transformers and the like are popular. Dorks are the nerds of the lowest common denominator, and in fact LCD’s and dorks are practically indistinguishable from each other in many respects with numerous interests that tend to overlap a great deal.

This term is the most derogatory of the lot. Not because it is the most hurtful, but because it is the term that Geeks, Nerds and Dorks use to differentiate those of our social sector that belong to none of these castes. Dweebs are, for want of a better description, tragic. They lack all of the endearing qualities of Geeks, Nerds or Dorks and yet retain all their worst attributes. Dweebs are annoying, stupid, socially inept, and embarrassing. Dweebs tend to overcompensate for their many shortcomings which make them abrasive much of the time. Dweebs tend to consider themselves “authorities” on any number of topics which geeks, nerds and dorks actively discuss, although they rarely are in possession of the encyclopedic knowledge they espouse. The dweebs desire to exert ownership or control over these topics may be a manifestation of their insecurities arising from the lack of group acceptance. Ironically it is this very quality that makes dweebs dweebs and prevents them from ever graduating to dork, nerd or geek status.

There you have it. The ages old debate over meaning finally settled. Someone had to do it. I’m glad it was me.


~ by Pagz on February 6, 2010.

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