What's the difference between a nerd and geek?

Sometimes at work I stop and think, "This is so nerdy" and share that observation with some coworkers who also do nerdy work, and agree that radio can be quite nerdy because we have to deal with audio and obscure information (especially in talk radio). When I used the word "nerd" with a couple of engineers (one who has pens in his pocket sans pocket protector), they got all annoyed and said, "We're geeks, not nerds." Which made me wonder what the difference is between a geek and a nerd.

They said a geek is someone who is intense about a subject, but other definitions I've read say the same thing. And the other day, a couple of nerdy types told me that a geek is a practical nerd, but a nerd is intellectual: ie, a nerd might know the layout of a starship, but a geek would know how to build one.

I like that definition, but I prefer the sound of the word "nerd" better, so that's what I use. What's funny is when I'm discussing Japanese or ideas or language or audio with someone who's also into such stuff, and I'll stop and say, "This is so nerdy," and then they'll give me an example of something else they're doing that's nerdy as well.

I found a test which I took, and I'm mostly nerdy, with some dorkiness and geekiness mixed in. I think at this point, my work life is definitely nerdy, and my non-work life is mostly that as well. Which means I'm quite different than what I used to be.


Peter Zelchenko said...

I always liked the dictionary definition of geek, a carnival character who bites the heads off of live chickens. It made me wonder where the word derived from: American Heritage says perhaps from dialectal geck or geek, fool, < MLG geck, unknown origin.

Margaret Larkin said...

It's something I should look up--I'm sure a language geek/nerd out there knows something :D