About the Manual

The Nerd Manual is meant to be both a useful resource for nerds and a guide for the people involved with nerds. If you're a nerd you can find information here that will help you improve your life and perhaps better understand yourself. If you're close friends with, dating, or married to a nerd, I want to give you insight into things nerds do that a lot of people have difficulty understanding.

I hope to avoid offending anyone--either nerd or non-nerd--but please understand that the manual will get into some sensitive topics, stray into contentious territories, and even use stereotypes to illustrate points. It's OK to disagree with something, but keep your comments civil.


Nerdism: One of us. One of us.

Still from Tod Browning's Freaks
It can be a little creepy to find yourself surrounded by a table full of nerds clacking their cutlery and chanting “one of us” but this eerie ritual is usually intended as a sign of acceptance, a way for the group to embrace a new member.

While it’s entirely benign, when done properly the chant should raise goosebumps, for good reason. It originates from the bizarre 1932 horror film Freaks, a movie that illustrates the gaping chasm separating the beautiful people from the weirdos. Which explains why nerds have co-opted the mantra. 

The film stars a cadre of real life side-show performers who portray an ersatz family of circus freaks. When the beautiful trapeze artist Cleo marries one of the circus midgets, the rest of the freaks welcome her into their midst during an unforgettable wedding banquet scene. The freaks begin tapping their knives and forks on the table and chanting
One of us, one of us.
Unfortunately, Cleo doesn’t want to be a freak and throws a glass of champagne at them.

(It’s probably best if you don’t follow her example.)

If you want to impress your companions, chant along:
One of us, one of us.
Gooble gobble, Gooble gobble.
We accept her, we accept her.
One of us, one of us.
The chant has shown up repeatedly in popular culture, finding its way into The Simpsons, South Park, Orange is the New Black and even The Wolf of Wall Street, so  you might have seen it in passing, but now you know its secret origins.

One of us…