Nerd? Geek? Or Maybe Just Better Than You?

When was it that ‘nerd’ became a pejorative term for someone who does things properly? If you take the time to use punctuation correctly, all of a sudden you’re a “grammar nerd”.
Yet it isn’t applied universally. Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t called a “soccer nerd”. Win a chess tournament, you’re a chess nerd, but bowl a perfect 300 game in tenpin bowling and no-one calls you a “bowling nerd”.
What is disturbing is the rush to own the term. Why should we celebrate this? People proudly “outing” themselves as grammar or punctuation or political or word or tea nerds.

Of course, let’s take the last one.

But first, a side journey into “geek”. Geek is a related word, for those of us nerdy or geeky enough to care.

The Free dictionary defines “nerd” as:

1. A foolish, inept, or unattractive person.
2. A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.

And defines “geek” as:

a. A person regarded as foolish, inept, or clumsy.
b. A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.
2. A carnival performer whose show consists of bizarre acts, such as biting the head off a live chicken.
So, not much difference, except that nerds are uglier than geeks and less prone to bite the heads off chickens.
Anyway, tea nerds. tea geeks. What was I saying?
Oh yes, the pejorative aspects.
It doesn’t matter whether we are defined by others, or choose to label ourselves as either. What is wrong is the underlying assumption that there is something wrong with us.
There is a blog called Tea Nerd, although it appears inactive over the last three years, and the exceptional and ironically named Michael J. Coffey has a store/blog/wiki thing called Tea Geek. Good luck to both of them. The latter even has the tagline “A Socially Unacceptable Level of Tea Knowledge” or something similar, from memory.
But the very labelling makes assumptions.
When the side blogging project the Beasts of Brewdom was set up, I wrote the “about”section to address a similar and just as objectionable theme, that drinking tea is somehow not masculine. Here it is:

Men! : Specifically, tea-drinking Men!

Are you fed up with being stereotyped, just because you drink tea?

If they don’t think you’re some foppish panty-waist with a peerage, they think you’re a beanie-clad navvy with a Thermos of Liptons.

Well, it’s time to tell ’em to stick it. We’re LOUD, PROUD and REEKING of TANNINS.

The Beasts of Brewdom are a collective of tea bloggers that aren’t afraid to thumb their nose at convention; to swear, to rant, to muse, to wonder and to drink an insanely manly amount of tea. None of your effeminate macchiato-sipping poseurs here.

If you eschew cola for a brew; if you can take down a bison with one arm whilst filling a teapot; if you can skull a mug of hot Lapsang Souchong and shout “Please Sir, Can I have another other”, then welcome to the Beasts of Brewdom!

It may be a different topic, but in many ways it’s the same, and that is that the preference for tea is not an indicator for a bunch of other personality or lifestyle factors.

Evil geniuses drink tea. Opera lovers drink tea. Incredibly wealthy individuals drink tea. Chinese peasants drink tea. Dr. Oz drinks tea. Royalty drinks tea. I am none of these.*

I drink tea. That’s doesn’t mean I’m socially inept**. It doesn’t mean I can quote π to 10 decimal places***. It doesn’t mean I bite the heads off of live chickens****. It doesn’t mean I believe it will make me live to 150 years old and guard me from ever getting sick*****.

It means I like drinking tea.

And because I like it, I like to make it well, with quality tea and all the care and attention I can muster. And when I’m thinking about making tea, I’m really not wasting any brainpower on what anyone else might think.

After all, there’s cake to think about as well.


*I'll take a job as an Evil Genius, if the pay is good, I get sufficient holiday time and I like the white cat that comes with the job.
**It doesn't mean I'm not.
*** I can.
**** I don't.
***** Don't get me started.

4 thoughts on “Nerd? Geek? Or Maybe Just Better Than You?

  1. I’ve always heard that the difference between “geeks” and “nerds” are thus:

    A nerd is smart but socially inept; a geek is smart but socially unacceptable.

    Where’s “dork” in all of this? Because I drink enough tea to fill a whale penis and then some!

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