Some people use these two words interchangeably. If you are a comic book fan, you are considered a nerd. If you are a comic book fan, you are also considered a geek. But what is the difference? And are we using these words correctly?
Honestly, most people don’t care because we understand the implications of both of these words when used in a sentence, whether it’s in derision or a proud proclamation of identity. But there are some important factors that upon analysis make it necessary to differentiate between these two groups of people.
Feel free to disagree with this. You may already have your own definitions sorted out, but this is what makes sense in my mind.
A person who is passionate about a certain hobby or subject and knows a lot about it. For example, if I said I was a film nerd, I have an extensive knowledge of film. Some people associate being a nerd with being socially awkward. Being a nerd doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be antisocial, but it does mean you have to be smart. Whether it’s a subject in school like math or a game like Pokémon, nerds are smarter than average people about something.
A person who is obsessed with a certain movie, show, game, genre, etc. They can be enthusiastic fans but unlike nerds, they do not need to have a lot of knowledge about the object or subject of their obsession. They just have to feel immense love for it. For example, I am a Star Wars geek, but that’s because I am obsessed with the movies. I don’t necessarily know a lot about the mythos. Therefore I would not classify myself as a Star Wars nerd. A person who cosplays as their favorite character is not necessarily a nerd, but most likely a geek. Again, like with nerds, just because many geeks are antisocial it does not mean all of them are. That is a stereotype.
Belle from Beauty and the Beast? She’s a book nerd.
Hogarth from The Iron Giant? He’s a comic book geek.
…are nerds, and these people…
Sometimes people fit into both categories like Dwight Schrute from The Office…
…and Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory.
In the old days, nerds used to be portrayed on TV as stereotypes like in Family Matters…
…but are now portrayed more respectfully and three-dimensionally like in Silicon Valley…
…thanks to people like Paul Feig and Judd Apatow who created shows like Freaks and Geeks which helped break stereotypes and portrayed geeks in a realistic way.
Otacon from Metal Gear Solid is also a geek, but he only likes manga, so that makes him an otaku.
If it isn’t Halloween and you see people dressed like this…
…they are most likely geeks.
Some people might call Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers a nerd, but that’s just because she’s socially awkward. Being bad at talking to people does not make someone a nerd.
Also important to note that these two…
…are not nerds.
They are dorks. Very different.
This kid reading a comic…
…and this man using a computer…
…are not necessarily geeks, and they might never wear costumes, but for all we know they could be the biggest geeks of them all. Anyone can be a nerd or a geek or an otaku and you might not know it until you talk to them.
These people used to be outcasts who didn’t fit in with mainstream society and hid their obsessions, but now it’s widely accepted to be a nerd.
Stephen Colbert is the biggest nerd on television and also one of the biggest comedians who currently hosts one of the most mainstream shows on television, The Late Show on CBS, where he typically waxes on about Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Marvel and other nerdy things.
Despite the rise of nerds and geeks, some people still think they should grow up and stop obsessing over superheroes and act like adults.
My response to that?