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Set Your Inner Geek Free

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Just because no one's called you a nerd since junior high doesn't mean you aren't one. David Christiansen sheds light on why being a geek is good, but being a nerd is bad. Do you know which one you are?
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If you, like me, first got into computers and software when you were still a teen, you have probably had the dubious honor of being labeled a geek or a nerd. Hopefully this honor didn’t also include wedgies or swirlies, but if it did, perhaps you will find a little comfort in this article. It’s good to be a geek, and I’m going to explain why.

Nerds and Geeks are Not the Same

First, we must address the words. There is a difference between a geek and a nerd, and it’s important to understand them, even if the general population doesn’t. Why? Because everyone in IT is a geek or a nerd, including you. But not me. I’m normal! Right... I think this article will clearly demonstrate that I, too, am a geek. But not a nerd—at least not all the time.

Let me tell you what Webster says:

Geek: 1: a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake; 2: a person often of an intellectual bent who is disapproved of.

What the heck? A wild man who bites off snake heads? How did that evolve into a dude with a PDA on his belt?

Nerd: perhaps from nerd, a creature in the children’s book If I Ran the Zoo (1950) by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel): an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person; especially: one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits.

Sweet. The next time someone calls you a nerd, thank Dr. Seuss.

There is a subtle but important difference between a geek and a nerd. A geek has an "intellectual bent" that others find odd. A nerd, however, is a social klutz.

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