I had a conversation with a colleague the other day about the definitions of the words geek and nerd. Well, I just stumbled across this recent post on slashdot…
There *is* a clear distinction and a value hierarchy among geeks, nerds, and dweebs, but you’ve got it all wrong.
What follows, I claim, is the one true classification of geekdom. It has stood up to rigorous peer review (loud arguments amongst drunken physics students) for years, and I stand by it.
A dweeb is someone without social skills who either doesn’t recognize or is unable to accept that they are unusual. They constantly *try* to fit in, with disastrous results, and dedicate a significant portion of their daily lives to obsessing over how to pass as normal.
A nerd is someone without social skills or popular interests who recognizes that he or she is unlike most people and feels no shame in it.
A geek is a nerd with technical skills and passionate interests; in particular one who has a myopic dedication to a particular specialty. (This is the subspecies *true geek,* distinct from but related to the *common geek,* or nerd who is generally technically savvy and useful to have around.)
To summarize, the dweeb is the guy wearing a slightly out of fashion hipster shirt who generally creates embarrassing silences at parties by saying awkward things about pop stars or sports teams.
The nerd is the guy who skips the party in order to achieve moderately high scores on a popular video game while eating unheated canned peas with a spoon and listening to recordings of experimental music.
The geek is the guy who skips the party in order to code a popular video game, figure out the angle of repose one might expect for a pile of canned peas, or compose and record some experimental music.
On the college campus, geeks make up virtually the entire population of physics and math majors (as well as a majority in classics, many of the less trendy engineering sub-disciplines, linguistics, physical anthropology, and some of the more obscure languages.)
The nerds are the guys who drop out of school after one semester but stay in a college town working in a bookstore, where they get great discounts on whatever genre books they happen to like and talk to their geek friends about writing their own books yet never seem to actually finish any of them.
The dweebs largely end up in engineering or the quantitative business disciplines, in the hopes that they can earn enough money to buy the respect of powerful and attractive people. Those in engineering have a tough time of it, as they are publicly ignored by the normals whom they so admire while simultaneously earning the scorn and contempt of the geeks in their departments. Those in business do rather well, since they have a good chance at fooling their colleagues into thinking that they are geeks. (Normals may not invite geeks to parties, but they do like to hire them.)