Nerd vs Geek vs Dork

In the last post I maintained that my husband is, in fact, a nerd. Others took exception, pointing out that his qualities (and his collection of Sci-Fi t-shirts) most likely make him a candidate for the status of geek, instead.

So I decided to do a bit of research on how these different terms work, and it turns out tehy're all over the place. Here's one stab at it, though.

According to this wikihow article and others, a Nerd = a bright or even genius-level individual with intense and advanced knowledge, interest, and skills in one field (usually academic), likely to the exclusion of other interests, associations, or social skills.

Geek: Intense interest (but not necessarily accompanying skills) in obscure fields that are not necessarily academic. So, what the geeks would call, "a nerd with social skills" or what the nerds would call "a nerd without the smarts."

Except there are other people who switch those definitions completely around. And whether or not any of these words are considered compliments or insults most definitely depends on what camp you belong to (or believe you belong to) So who even knows what to believe or think or feel or cling to in this tenuous world?

At Going the Wrong Way, the writer has this to say about Dorks:

"Dorks are the type of people who will do silly things. . . . If the dork is aware that they are a dork, then it’s funny. If they’re not aware, then it’s painful to watch such a socially uncomfortable person try to get by."

When I told GH I was writing about this, he asked how to tell if you're a Goober (other than, say, having the name of Nemesis). According to the Urban Dictionary definition, a "goober" is a "kindhearted, rather oblivious goofball." So there, it's totally a good thing to be called. GH claims he had no idea I possessed such goober traits when we met. He just thought I was uptight all the time. Lucky, lucky him!


Nookleerman said... [reply]

I like to think of it as a nerd is someone who's left the social flow and become a master of one particular thing (as you said, typically academic) and a geek is someone who worships at the foot of said nerd. Assuming the nerd does something incredibly cool, like come up with star trek or star wars or star gate or star search. Most of the time nerds just write some sort of programming software that raises the current operating system efficiency by 2%. Nobody worships at their feet, which is why so many of them are so bitter.

Word Verification: punolli
An Italian joke?

Unknown said... [reply]

... and I totally thought a goober was a chocolate covered peanut!
(What does that make me?)

Spitfire said... [reply]

Why would GH be into somebody that is completely uptight all the time? Does he only care about looks? :)

Glad to know he's finally met the real goober in you.

Th. said... [reply]


What does it mean that I don't feel sufficiently qualified to be either a nerd or a geek?

Mrs. Clark said... [reply]

I recall a local cable TV show that was asking if someone was a dork, dweeb, or spazz. There is a distinction, but I couldn't articulate it for you.

I, too, married a nerd, but he's not quite as nerdy as he was in high school. He's not a geek, because he does a lot of nerdy things well and while he has more than a passing interest in Star Trek and though we do have some old Star Trek publicity photos on the wall--some were personally addressed to him, which is why I put up with it--he can't speak Klingon or anything.

There is a guy in my ward, though, who qualifies as a nerd, geek, and dork. He has a son who is also a nerd, geek, and dork, and my daughters would probably call him a dweeb, too. You really don't want to get into a Star Trek or Star Wars discussion with either of them.

Giggles said... [reply]

I'm going to have to pass along your definition of "goober" to my sister. Her mother-in-law thinks it is a highly offensive term.

Andrea said... [reply]

Interesting. I just use "nerd"--too hard to keep the definitions straight. :-D

Anne said... [reply]

Wow! I call people Goobers all the time (especially while driving). Turns out that I'm not a horrible person for doing so. Thank you for soothing my conscience.

CWYoung said... [reply]

No matter the term I like to think of it as a spectrum disorder. Meaning that while GH likes to go to free comic book day, his interest mostly stems from his interest in other media. Depending on the topic, his place on the spectrum changes.

Also, if you're really freaking geeky/nerdy it is very likely that you have no social skills and no hygiene skills either. This would be the extreme end of the spectrum.

I also like to think that any topic is fair game for these types of behaviors- including sports. I mean, how geeky/nerdy is it to have no athletic ability and not personally know the people involved but get so emotionally attached to team, etc? Talk about nerdy.

G said... [reply]

I have a BS in electrical engineering so I've spent a lot of time around engineers, including the one I married. The ones I've interacted with seem to think that to be a geek you need only possess a lot of (preferably technical) knowledge while a nerd implies social ineptitude. We've always used it in such a way that a nerd doesn't have to be all that smart, just mostly socially off. Granted it's often being smart that makes them socially off, but not a requirement. I proudly consider myself a geek but would be offended to be called a nerd. I'm not really into Star Trek, or much Sci-Fi or Fantasy really, or anything like that. Obviously the terms have different meaning to different people. Funny how slang terms can be so hard to pin down a universal definition.

Monica said... [reply]

I am married to a 100% geek. He gets offended when the word nerd is used. He is highly intelligent but does have social skills (and is an amazing dresser if I do say so myself).

He agrees the term nerd is for those without social skills. (Which most Star Trek fans fall into that category.)

Maree said... [reply]

I have to agree with the last 2 comments. My husband proudly wears the title GEEK. He's amazingly smart and skilled, and he has social skills. In our home GEEK is a compliment, but Nerd would not be. So we don't care what the dictionary says--does that make us goobers?

Melanie said... [reply]

How funny, I once worked out in my head a whole hierarchy of nerdiness. I actually think of geeks as the ones without social skills (and interests in things like StarTrek and medieval virtual reality games). Nerds are brainy, but not as socially inept. Pretty much everyone who is not completely uptight is a dork, but that's a temporary condition of behavior. Those who are perpetually dorky are doofuses

Anna B said... [reply]

whereas i always somehow associated goober w/ booger. which is why i never wanted to eat the chocolate covered peanuts with that name.

Audra said... [reply]

I am a Dork I think...

yep... a dork...

the sad thing is, I am often oblivious to it until a later date! Like looking back at the video I show as a Freshman in college... I even locked myself out of our room while shooting the video. Comeplete dork!

april said... [reply]

this just reminds me of something steve carrell said when he was interviewed about playing michael scott. he said something like: "if you don't know any michael scotts, then you probably are one." i just thought that was funny and wanted to share. and if i had to classify michael scott, i would go with dork. he's definitely not smart enough to be a nerd or geek in my book, but he's definitely painful (if not hilarious) to watch at times.

goober sounds like a lovely compliment. life isn't fun without some goofiness in you.

Unknown said... [reply]

as a nerd...i don't see nerd & geek as very far apart...i claim them proudly...dork though...well aside from the actual connotation of that word...the other meaning as used in this case would be Hannity...LOL

goober/dork/FOB (fresh off boat) are all intended to be derogatory

the nerd/geek thing signals to others by my pocket protector that i am gooood ;-)


i happen to be a double nerd though...(elusive cool nerd) Arts & Science

Unknown said... [reply]
This comment has been removed by the author.
coolmom said... [reply]

Nem, I have never thought of you as a goober. Or a boob or a wienee, or even a blonde. Even though you are blonde. It just doesn't seem to fit. Or maybe I am just such a goober that I can't see it.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Mom, I think GH must bring out my inner goof. :-)

chosha said... [reply]

That link makes it sounds nerds are ultra smart and geeks are barely above the status of fanboys. For me a nerd is someone who's smart (usually about something most people find boring) and a geek is a person who's smart (and totally into) something offbeat but cool. Both groups can be a bit socially awkward. I totally agree with the people who said that nerd is an insult and geek is a compliment. Geeks rule!

I use dork for when people say or do something goofy stupid, but you kinda love them for it. Of course technically a dork is a whale's penis, so it's kind of odd how that word developed over time. Also twit (I mean are pregnant goldfish more stupid?)

Anonymous said... [reply]

I agree with Gretchen, Monica and Maree. Geeks are smart. Nerds lack social skills. You can be both geek and nerd; they are not mutually exclusive.

Remember the saying, "There is no geek without EE".

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