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.


Nerd Q&A: How Do I Know?

Modified Version of Andrew Filer's The Physics Lab

How do I know if I'm an authentic nerd or geek?

This question concerns me.

While I don't think the person asking intends the subtext I'm reading, the question implies that there's some official measurement, or perhaps a governing body, to determine a person's nerd quotient, and this idea has caused a lot of grief in nerd circles, particularly for female nerds who get accused of faking their nerdiness. I never thought I'd see a day when people were accused of false nerd credentials, but here we are.

Yes, there are nerd and geek tests that score how big of a nerd/geek you are, but these are memes similar to the "which Harry Potter wand are you" quizzes, and aren't in any way a reliable method of determining if a person is or is not a nerd.

I'm going to take the scenic route to answer this question because it's important to understand that cultural authenticity is subjective, particularly when talking about arbitrary social labels like geek and nerd, or even jock, goth, emo, etc. Who decides what criteria add up to an authentic geek? Who approves membership to the nerd club?

No one.

And everyone.

Geek and nerd are just words. We--society as a whole--give them meaning, and those meanings have changed drastically over the decades, becoming progressively less derogatory as time passes. This mellowing of meaning is great, but it also means the nerd club has lost some of its exclusivity, which I think is a good thing but some nerds are more territorial.

I don't like being elitist, so if someone popular and attractive and socially adept says something like, "I'm such a grammar geek," that's OK with me. I realize though that there are other people who will cringe or even go on a verbal tirade about how unfair it is that popular people have co-opted the culture of less popular people who suffered years of torment and ostracization because their personal entertainment choices, fashion sense, or physical limitations were considered un-cool not very long ago.

I think the anger is misplaced. It's our (nerds' and geeks') fault for showing the rest of the world how great nerdy things are. If we didn't want to turn the popular people of the world into nerds, we shouldn't have taken control and made everyone want to emulate us.

Getting to an answer: you know if you're an authentic geek/nerd if you self identify with your own definition for one or both of those groups, and/or if other people regularly classify you under their own definition of geek/nerd.

That's as specific as I'm willing to get.

If you still feel like you need some kind of indicators by which you can measure your level of nerdiness, I suggest taking one of the aforementioned nerd/geek tests, and I can recommend the Original Geek Test. It won't validate your geekiness, but it gives you a place to start assessing where you sit on the geek spectrum.

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