Should 'nerd' and 'geek' be condemned?

A Bennington College professor believes the terms are emotionally damaging and need to be eradicated from our vocabulary. Are they really that bad?

In the tech industry, the terms "nerds" and "geeks" are thrown around a lot. For some, those terms are offensive. For others, they're endearing. And for some they are simply accurate descriptors for who they are. But a professor from Bennington College, who was recently profiled by The New York Times, believes that those two words need to be avoided at all cost.

How would Steve Jobs feel about the title, King of Nerds?

According to David Anderegg, using terms like nerd and geek "perpetuate the stereotype" that nerds are "socially inept" and geeks are people with a "special expertise." They are so damaging, the Times reported, that Anderegg believes that "much like racial epithets, he says, [they] should be avoided."

The problem, the professor contends, is that those words are not used to define "cool" people. Instead, they are often times associated with "math, science, and computer science." He told the Times that because of that negative association, young people who consider themselves geeks and nerds "sabotage themselves in these fields, and the nation's work force is suffering."

Of course, Anderegg has a solution. He believes that "the best way to combat [those issues] is put it to bed." He wants nerd and geek removed from the public lexicon, like other unacceptable epithets.

It's an interesting take. For some, being a geek is a badge of honor. It means that the respective person is part of a group of folks that have similar interests and expertise in a field. Others might say the same about nerds.

But perhaps what's most puzzling about Anderegg's opinion is the title of a book he wrote about this very topic. He called it, "Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them."

As someone who wants to eliminate the use of the words geek and nerd, isn't it surprising that he would use nerd in the title of his book?

Regardless, it's an interesting topic. Do you believe nerd and geek are damaging terms that should be avoided? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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