Gwynn: Embracing your inner nerd
- Feb. 1, 2012
- 2 Comments
The definition of a nerd, according to Merriam Webster online dictionary, is an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person; especially : one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits.
Now granted, what ranks as being offensive varies from person to person, yet, I can’t quite help but think that Merriam Webster considers “nerd” a less than complimentary identifier. I’m afraid then, that this puts Merriam Webster and me at an impasse because being a nerd is to me a title worn with pride.
Now, I maintain the highest of respect for Merriam Webster. Being an English major, I have a great affinity for words. Yet, Merriam Webster’s definition of a nerd is not only inaccurate, but also dated.
The word ‘nerd’ first originated around 1951, and throughout the decades, the images and persona associated with being a nerd haven’t, until recently, changed much in the eyes of mainstream culture. Changing from the caricature of bespectacled, physically and socially awkward fan of Mystery Science Theater to that of a bespectacled, physically and socially awkward fan of the Syfy Channel, being a nerd in the 50s wasn’t much different than being a nerd in the 90s.
And yet in recent years, there has been an evolution of, not nerds themselves, but in how society views nerds—a revolution if you will. Nerd culture has exploded into the mainstream. Why?
Because being a nerd is fun. And mainstream culture is catching on. You have only to look at our American pop culture itself in order to see the signs.
There’s the story of “the boy who lived”, which went on to win over the world and spawn everything from a multi-billion dollar movie series to a genre of music called “wizard rock.”
There’s the near frenzied consumption of technology, with the latest iPhone, iPad, iWhateverapplecomesoutwithnext driving people to stand in line overnight just so they can have it the moment it’s available.
There’s the fashion industry, which now embraces grandpa sweaters, high-waisted pants, clashing prints, and of course, bowties, as being sartorially fabulous.
There’s the gaming culture, which started out with “Tennis for Two”, comprised of a dot and two sticks controlled by a few scientists in a lab, now having matured into everyone from your grandmother to KU basketball players crashing into each other in Mario Kart
All this is just the tip of the Death Star. The truth of the matter is, even though we used to have a particular image ingrained as to what a nerd looks like and is interested in, nerds come in all shapes, sizes, interests, and social skill level. Being a nerd is to admit that you are passionate about something—anything—and that you devote a large portion of your energy into that passion.
I’m a nerd. I’m out, I’m proud, and I have no shame. I flaunt my ‘nerdiness’ to the whole world, as obvious as Peeta Mellark’s perfection. Really, there wouldn’t be any use in my trying to hide it, either. I count myself as being interdisciplinary in my interests: Harry Potter, style, Broadway Musicals, Adventure Time, 19th century British literature, heck ANY literature, Disney, Medieval history, Glee, Marvel Comics, 80s movies. The list goes on. And on. And on…
Before I go onto automatic with geeking out, because then I’d have to stage a coup and take over the entirety of the Kansan’s Opinion Page: Nerd culture has exploded into the mainstream. Chances are, if you’re an interesting human being, you’re a bit of a nerd about something. So Merriam Webster, I’m sorry; I swear that when I’m trying to find a synonym when I’m writing my fanfiction, I’ll come crawling back to you. It’s just, when it comes to being a nerd, you don’t know a bogart from a dementor.
Katherine Gwynn is a freshman in English from Olathe.