Does Smart Mean Nerdy?

February 12, 2009
By LizaW. GOLD, Glenview, Illinois
LizaW. GOLD, Glenview, Illinois
17 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Imagine this... There is a student who tries very hard and does their best in whatever they do, and eventually shows a result. How would you classify them? A nerd? Or as an intelligent student? Nerd is defined as an unattractive or socially inept person; especially one who is slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits (Merriam Webster Dictionary) while, smart is defined as being mentally alert, bright, knowledgeable, and conversant, (Merriam Webster Dictionary). Through the definitions of these two terms we understand right away the differences between them and how categorizing them together would be improper. After all, they hold two separate meanings, thus disproving the idea that smart and nerdy mean the same thing. As a result, they can?t be used reciprocally: they can?t substitute each other in a sentence; it?s one or the other.

"Among these was that he would bring a creature known as a Nerd from the land of Ka-Troo. The accompanying illustration showed a grumpy humanoid with unruly hair and sideburns, wearing a black T-shirt. A fitting image, these days, for a nerd? (Burrows par.5).

Are the words geek and nerd an insult? Well, yes? and no, but before the definitions were edited, it was an insult to be called either a geek or a nerd. The original idea of a geek or a nerd was not pleasant, it was perhaps a name used for animals and those who live below the standard line. For example, the people who looked different than normal, such as disfiguration were called these two names. "As an insult a geek thus was originally someone with unbecoming habits and few social graces, whereas the nerd was entirely dull and boring ? a square. Both were outcasts, but one was hopelessly conventional, the other bizarre and outlandish" (Burrows par. 22). This may be where the stereotypical definition of nerd could have developed. These two words were used to describe what would be a sideshow freak, an outcast. So, technically to be called either a geek or nerd, is an insult, however, time and the English language have bent the two words a bit and are used by us in everyday life. These terms are being used against those who simply want to do their best everyday and to try and find their true quality and potential.
I believe that these terms and these stereotypical views are actually destroying and undermining chances for kids and students with untapped potential. Calling other people and other students by these two words is, in my opinion, part of the reason why kids are being less and less interested in schoolwork and their education. I think that because the students are so accustomed to seeing other peers using these derogatory terms, they are being discouraged to excel further and instead tend to stay in the background as they try to avoid being called names. Nevertheless, it has found its place in the English language and part of school life, but why do people think it's okay if you give other peers this title when even these people don't fully understand it? I understand that peer pressure or trying to fit in can also be part of the problem, but that?s why we have a brain, to be able to think and determine what is right and wrong, and we have self-respect, so think for yourself. However, no matter what, no one should have the right to call others a nerd.

"Some of us are tired of hiding the fact that we are intelligent people. We want to be able to express our intellect without ridicule" (Nerd Liberation Movement par. 1).

Throughout my 3 years at Middle School, the most common word I've been named is nerd, but the reason seems to be far from acceptable. It is annoying and demeaning to the self-esteem, but it has never really bothered me so much as to hurt me inside. The fact that people use words that they don?t fully comprehend seems ridiculous to me. So far in middle school, I have never felt like the tasks that I did or accomplished were that anomalous. Nonetheless, I have felt my moments of pleasure and sense of accomplishment in my academics, but I never thought that it would lead to people calling me a nerd. I enjoy learning and doing my best on everything that I do. In addition to academics, outside of school, I love to travel, ski, watch T.V., etc. Would the combination of good grades and activities still fall underneath the nerd category, simply because I get good grades?
Before, I thought that being called a nerd was not detrimental, now, I think I can see what kind of effect this term can have, and I can see how it could affect someone else. Perhaps someone who is not very confident would be especially vulnerable to feeling badly. Perhaps it could be just someone who wants to fit in, but is very intelligent. So, I can see how someone within that situation might shrink away from that goal of achievement if they are being identified as a nerd. However, I decided to test the definitions by asking other peers in my class on their definitions of both nerd and smart.

E: So how would you define a nerd?
S: I picture the usual stereotype nerd; the big glasses, the bad outfits, however, their intelligence is not guaranteed.
E: And how do you define smart?
S: Well, someone who is intelligent, good at school, and have good grades, however, not necessarily socially inept.
E: So how would you define a nerd?
J: Someone with a talking disorder, big glasses, (Steve Urkel), weird childish obsessions, maybe smart, and either an A or B average.
E: So how would you define smart?
J: Very high A's, A+, clever, good sense of humor, and also has a life.
E: So how would you define a nerd?
I: Someone who has no balance between social and school life.
E: And how would you define smart?
I: A gifted person, above average, and has a social life.
E: How would you define a nerd?
T: Someone who plays "Dungeons & Dragons," extremely smart, and works extremely hard on school stuff.
E: And what about smart?
T: Someone with a high IQ, but their social status is not a given.
Buzz Killington:
E: How would you define a nerd?
B: Someone who is antisocial, smart, and unattractive.
E: What about the condition of being smart?
B: Someone who gets good grades, "street smart," but their social status is not given.
E: How would you define a nerd?
C: Basically the stereotypical nerd.
E: And perhaps someone who is smart?
C: Someone who is knowledgeable, but their social status is possible.
E: How would you define a nerd?
P: Someone who tries to be intelligent through studying.
E: And what about someone who is smart?
P: Someone who is naturally gifted, and yes they have a social definition.

Through this survey, we can see that the stereotypical definition seemed to show up in two of the people; so about 2/7 or about 29% have a stereotypical view, which is not surprising. After all, this view has been embedded in our brains through commercials, jokes, cartoons, and T.V. shows. It is quite astonishing to see that people will do and publish just about anything, whether it?s right or wrong, just to make money. Money can?t buy the sense to tell between right and wrong, nor can it make choices for you. From the data, just about everyone agreed that someone who is smart either has a definite social life or a given social life. However, the data findings split when they defined intelligence, because some defined it as having a high IQ, or being naturally smart, or being ?street ?smart.? Another split that occurs between the surveyors was whether or not being a nerd was ?smart.? About 57% said that their intellectual ability was possible, while the rest, 43%, said that it was ?mandatory? to fill the nerd picture. Therefore, we can see the effect of media broadcasting can have on people?s views of words that have a solid definition, and from the majority of survey, we can see that being smart, does not mean that you don?t have a social life. So don?t assume.
In conclusion, does smart mean nerdy? No; they are two different words separated by a positive meaning and a derogatory meaning. I believe that the terms nerd and smart should not be confused. It is one thing that the victim of the naming has to handle pressure from trying to reach his or her goals, but the negative terms that are being thrown at them are inequitable. What interests me the most, however, is the ability of time and media, to change the meanings of some words. Also, the fact that people use words that they don't fully comprehend is quite ignorant of them, and yet the result could be detrimental to a person's school life and later to declining their social health. Even the simplest words can bring emotions to life, and often these words can cause burns to the heart, thus creating a plunge of academic interest or even social interest. Even when you?re about to call someone a nerd instead of calling him or her the derogatory term why not call him or her intelligent? However, when you want to call someone a nerd, remember this:

"Being smart in a dumb world is like being tall in a short world. A tall person doesn't look at himself as tall; he looks at everyone else as short. And he has to duck through doorways so as to not knock his head on things. We are tired of listening to stupid ideas that if you are smart, then you must be deficient somewhere else. We are tired of being accused of bragging,
when we are only thinking" (Nerd Liberation Movement par. 1).

The author's comments:
I hope that the readers will be able to relate to this piece because it can happen to anyone. I wrote this piece as an awareness piece and to clarify this "myth."

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