We had a good-natured discussion in our Facebook group on Thursday when I laughingly posted that Low End Mac’s new motto was Nerds Helping Nerds. And that led to a discussion of the meaning and negativity sometimes associated with the words geek and nerd. And the dangers inherent in calling ourselves geniuses.
For me, “nerd” doesn’t have negative connotations. Nerds are an underclass that doesn’t get much respect – until you need your electronics fixed, your computer cleaned of malware, or to understand enough about electricity to pass that section of your physics class. Nerds know who they are, are unassuming, and don’t rock the boat.
Well, until they have to. There is always Revenge of the Nerds, after all.
The geeks love mastering a subject, whether it’s computer viruses, baseball statistics, or which variation of Dungeons and Dragons is the absolute best. There tends to be a narrow focus that goes very, very deep. And once they start talking on their beloved topic, they keep on going. They assume and hope that you are as interested in Star Wars as they are.
Good people. Experts, really. Normally on the outskirts socially, but they really know their stuff. (In the realm of government, they’re known as policy wonks.)
And then there’s the genius, which Apple has nearly copyrighted in the computer world. These people not only grasp the technology, they see where it’s going. They think different, to borrow an Apple phrase, and see further because they stand on the shoulders of giants.
Many of them are humble, but once you get them started in their area of expertise, it’s hard to tell them from geeks.
There is overlap between the groups. My brief (and hence not fully accurate) assessment comes down to this:
“Geeks will talk incessantly about their beloved topic, whether you want them to or not. Geniuses will stay quiet until you ask, and then bury you with facts in their area of expertise. Nerds silently help, saying just enough for you to understand but not overwhelm you. And gnerds have a higher level of expertise than regular nerds.“
Yes, we coined a new term. The G in gnerd is silent, and it stands for geek and genius, those rare individuals who combine the best traits of each of these labels. (G is also silent in GNU, an operating system, giving us one more geeky reason to choose the letter.)
So after several hours of riffing off each other, we decided that if Low End Mac is to have a new motto, it should be:
Gnerds Helping Gnerds
At least it’s short.
A big thank you to Dr. Suess, who coined the term “nerd” in 1950.
keywords: #geek #nerd #genius #gnerd
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