"Yo Nerd" .. is not the way to talk to a geek.

Sep 21

“Hey Nerd !” where the exact words this conversationalist opened up with. Patting me on the shoulder and beaming a broad smile he stumbled into a conversation about technology, that was nothing more then a fluffed up support question. I smiled at him, as he cut through the niceties of his elaboration, sighing quietly inside myself. This was obviously another technological troglodyte who had stumbled into the 21st century and decided to converse with one of its long time residents. ” Hey Nerd ” .. What kind of an opening line is that ?

I’m looking for some analogies here. Imagine some diplomatic mission where the initial ‘first contact’ between two parties is a delicate but important moment: For example a trade mission between a western country and china. You don’t see the Chinese diplomat point , laugh and yell : ‘yo Fisheyes !’ while addressing the other guy ? The simple fact that people still use the term “Nerd” or its terrible twin “Computerfreak” to address a ‘technofilical superior person’ is beyond me.  I have pointed out to people who refer to me as a “computerfreak” if they call their gynaecologist a “pussylover” and address the police officer as “Yo Coppah !” but it did not seem to sink in.

I do think popular culture is to blame. Series like CSI, Bones and others have somehow ‘pimped’ the definition of “nerd” to “anyone who knows how to operate a computer, wears glasses and solves a crime by just licking a random toenail. This was not always the case. Remember “revenge of the nerds” ? No crime solving toe licking heroism there.

Explaining to the troglodyte WHY his initial address could be interpreted as offensive is like trying to talk to a tree. 150 words into the conversation I appear to suffer from “Sheldon Syndrome” (see ‘big bang theory’) where the very point of educating a ‘technologically challenged’ fellow human feels about as pointless as talking to a tree.  I have no superiority complex, but the sheer fact of trying to point out WHY its not nice to call a “geek” a “nerd” is just beyond some people.

Halfway through this internal mental monologue I’m having with myself, I’m interrupted by the silence of this techno-troglodyte as he has apparently arrived at the “inquiry” part of his social elaboration. As he looks at me with raised eyebrows, I focus on my “inner geek” (the one with the social skills that defines me from the socially in adept nerds” and ask him to elaborate. With that very twist I manage to have him refrain the question that I completely missed back there and avoid an “awkward” pause in a fluent conversation.  So there ..another difference between nerds and geeks. Try explaining that one.

If you want to try to educate people about nerds and geeks, try this nice info gram.

PS : My oneliner on the difference between nerds and geeks ?  Geeks can hook up their linux machine in order to stream and transcode video from their homebuilt linux server to their Xbox in the bedroom so they can watch Battlestar Galactica (and porn) with their girlfriend. Nerds don’t have a girlfriend but can translate this entire scentence in Klingon… on the spot.





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