Apparently, 17% of Americans self-identify as geeks. I doubt as many self-identify as nerds.
I’ve posted before that I used to think that the words ‘geek’ and ‘nerd’ were synonymous, but colored subtly different depending on whether you were American, Australian or British (generally I believed ‘nerd’ was more acceptable outside the US). But there’s more to it, as this great infographic from MastersInIt demonstrates. There’s a whole history to the words, their meanings and how ‘geek in particular is being reclaimed as acceptable.
It is arguable, as some of my acquaintances have indeed argued, that even discussing this just perpetuates stereotypes – especially in the way this infographic portrays nerds. But I’m not convinced: Words are important and anything which disambiguates meaning is worth looking at. It’s not understanding the difference in meaning which is an issue, it’s the pejorative interpretation we put on those meanings that’s the issue.
It’s the pejorative that leads to the bullying and the slights that in turn make people defensive. There’s a great blog post I read recently entitled That’s Why You Don’t Have Any Friends and sub-titled “every geek needs to hear this when they’re about 14”. I like many of the thoughts expressed, including:
When you show up and you’re not like that, it scares them,” I continued. “They don’t know what to do with you, because they have no idea what it’s like to think for themselves. So they try to make YOU feel like the loser, because there’s more of them doing what they’re doing than there are of you. In such a small group of small minds, the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.
So here’s the infographic presented not to perpetuate stereotypes or pejoratives; but with a non-defensive sense of humour. And here it is because it contains some interesting facts and statistics; not because it allows others to define you, that’s not the job of an infographic or anyone else – defining yourself is your own job.