In a recent post, I proudly identified myself as a nerd and went on to suggest that while I was happy to revel in my nerdiness, I was not actually a geek. Most people might not see it right off the bat, but there are actually very clear distinctions to be made between the three (3) primary levels of abnormality: dork, nerd, and geek.
A dork is someone who has tendencies that might be considered aberrant or unusual, but whose weirdness is not based on an elevated sense of intelligence. Dorks know that they sometimes act a little goofy and are generally okay with it, but might make an attempt to conceal their more extreme dorky behaviors. For instance, a dork might enjoy Starbursts, but is incapable of consuming them except in a specific flavor/color order. A dork might tend to favor certain notebook colors for no particular reason, or might demonstrate an unusually high level of delight over the acquisition of a largely mundane object, such as a new writing implement. If you’ve ever squealed in delight over a $0.37 disposable pink pen found at the drug store, because, you know, it writes stuff, in pink, congratulations, you’re a dork. Rick Gassko, Tom Hanks’ character in Bachelor Party, was a dork, as is William Shatner. I mean….come on…anyone….who…talks….like this…is a huge dork.
A nerd has similarly atypical or excessive behaviors, but usually attempts to appear smarter than your average person. Being of above-average intelligence is, of course, not required to be a nerd, as people with the tendency to do or act in a manner that might make themselves appear smart are also members of the nerd flock. Nerds will often be able to reproduce the dialog from an entire motion picture from memory. A nerd uses the phrase motion picture when everyone outside of the Academy just says movie. If your friends have ever looked to you to explain the differences between the words “catsup” and “ketchup”, congratulations, you’re a nerd. Famous nerds in history include yours truly, of course, and nearly every character played by Anthony Edwards.
A geek is a nerd lacking any sort of appropriate social function. Obviously, button-up shirts, pocket protectors, and glasses held together by tape are key indicators of a potential geek. A geek would never be asked by friends to explain the origin of a dipping sauce, as he or she typically has no actual friends. Yes, a geeks may congregate with other fellow geeks, but this is more a form of self-defense than a social organization. Lazlo Hollyfeld, the guy living in the steam tunnels below the dorm room of Chris Knight, Val Kilmer’s character from Real Genius, was a geek. Louis Tully, from Ghostbusters, was also clearly a geek.
If anyone has any questions or might enjoy further clarification, I would be happy to explain it to you in excruciating detail; I’m a nerd, and that’s what I do. There is a reason my wife, the lovely Puddinette (who could arguably be considered a nerd herself), makes it a general practice to require that I give 30 seconds answers if she asks me to explain something. Otherwise, we probably never would have gotten around to having any children.