Geeky nerds vs. nerdy geeks

Before I get into the main topic, I thought I'd preface it by addressing one of those seemingly endless debates: What's the difference between a "geek" and "nerd"?


According to the Jargon entry (top Google result), geek [via]:
"A person who has chosen concentration rather than conformity; one who pursues skill (especially technical skill) and imagination, not mainstream social acceptance. Geeks usually have a strong case of neophilia. Most geeks are adept with computers and treat hacker as a term of respect, but not all are hackers themselves - and some who are in fact hackers normally call themselves geeks anyway, because they (quite properly) regard `hacker' as a label that should be bestowed by others rather than self-assumed."
As opposed to its entry on nerd:
"Pejorative applied to anyone with an above-average IQ and few gifts at small talk and ordinary social rituals."

Unfortunately, I find those definitions less than adequate and far too involved with the connotations. Ironically, I thought I'd take a chance with Urban Dictionary.
(1) A geek does not have to be smart, a Geek is someone who is generaly not athletic, and enjoys Video Games; Comic Books; being on the internet, and etc. 
(2) The term now enjoys a special status within the technical community, particularly among particularly knowledgable computer programmers. To identify oneself as a "geek" indicates a recognition that most people still consider programming computers to be a bizarre act, along with a certain fierce satisfaction in being very good at their inglorious profession.... Note: Unlike the word "nerd," which is always pejorative, "geek" often carries a positive connotation when used by one of the group. The use of the term by outsiders is considered insulting.
Whereas, for nerd:
An individual persecuted for his superior skills or intellect, most often by people who fear and envy him.
An 'individual', i.e. a person who does not conform to society's beliefs that all people should follow trends and do what their peers do. Often highly intelligent but socially rejected because of their obesssion with a given subject, usually computers. Unfortunately, nerds seem to have problems breeding, to the detriment of mankind as a whole. 
Though I feel the latter set of definitions is more accurate, it's still not good enough. In fact, at this point, I still prefer that Venn diagram featuring geek, nerd, and dweeb.

Too often, people are quick to assume that you are a geek if and only if you are into computers, programming, and/or hacking -- except such interests only makes you a computer geek. And nerds, while they defy the norm, aren't necessarily inept, as the previous definitions suggest.

I would say that a geek is merely someone with a deep, abnormal (and perhaps unhealthy) preoccupation with a particular topic, whereas a nerd is more academic, booksmart, knowledgeable on many topics, and takes the time to research or read up on areas of interest or curiosity. Superficially, a geek is more about depth, whereas a nerd tends toward breadth (but that isn't clear-cut).

As a prime example, I'll assert that most doctoral students at my undergraduate university are geeks -- you pretty much have to be if you're willing to dedicate all your time to a specific subject. The undergraduate students, for the most part, are nerds, and I'd even claim that characteristic is essential to get into such a high-level school (though that's not to say some aren't geeks as well).


So now to get to my intended focus of the discussion. If we consider the above ideas for "geek" and "nerd", how do you distinguish between using them as qualifies for one another?

One of my friends claimed it's a moot topic, and that "geeky nerd" and "nerdy geek" are like Crayola's colours "green blue" and "blue green". But I say fiddlesticks to that! There's definitely a difference, though perhaps subtle.

The term geeky nerd signfies "geeky" as the qualifer for "nerd", which suggests to me that you have a nerd exhibiting geeky tendencies. Taking that into consideration, I say if you've got yourself an all-around booksmart person who pulls away away from others to (an unhealthy) focus on his or pastimes, that's more of a geeky nerd. I'd even go so far to say that it's not something you want to be (but oftentimes results unintentionally). As an example, I'd draw upon several of my fellow straight-A high school students who eventually consumed their time with World of Warcraft or other MMOs during college and later years. Some of my co-workers are geeky nerds (and in general, I'd say all of my co-workers are nerds in general). Oh, and as I said above, it doesn't have to be games. But usually it does involve losing oneself for a little while, perhaps even at the expense of personal hygeine (too extreme?).

nerdy geek, on the other hand would be a person who, at the onset, has distinct (but not necessarily academic) geeky interests, say, video games, art, or music -- really anything that encompasses a wider range of knowledge and exposure to a particular topic or idea. Over time, this evolves into a desire to learn more than simply "what" but rather "how" and "why". So an interest in video games might transform into desire to program; an appreciation for creating art could become a study of art history; an enjoyment of music could evolve into a career in musical theory and composition.

Perhaps a distinct difference between the two terms is that a nerdy geek would still define him or herself by his very obvious interests, whereas a geeky nerd is more all-around agreeable with several interests, but none that steer away quite as much (less the occasional relapse). Calling back to my crude analogy to university students, your nerdy geeks often end up being your Ph.Ds and your (geeky) nerds tend more toward the MBAs. And even if they don't take that route, they still exhibit the tendencies. Of course, these aren't mutually exclusive. It certainly is possible to be a blend of the two, or to be one for certain and still share characteristics of the other.

Oh, and in case you were wondering where I evaluate myself, as someone who has a strong interest in music and technology and now has one bookshelf dedicated to engineering and another for theory and history, I would call myself a nerdy geek, as would I call my closest friends from school.

So what about you? What do you think?

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