Usually, nerds are associated with high intelligence especially when it comes to technical skills.
So does nerd mean smart? No, a nerd is defined as very passionate about or obsessed with a nonsocial hobby. So because of his or her passion, the nerd is very good at this specific task but depending on what it is (e.g. gaming, watching movies) there might not be intelligence involved and sometimes people are just called nerds because of their appearance.
So why are nerds usually considered smart?
The reason nerds are often very smart
First, let’s take a look at the definition from dictionary.com:
a person considered to be socially awkward, boring, unstylish, etc.
an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit:a computer nerd.dictionary.com
You can see that there are 2 definitions, one referencing the term computer-nerd which is associated with intelligence. People who are good with computers (or even using them more than the average person) are considered to be smart (and often they are just because of the amount of time they spent with it). This is basically true for most skills, the more you use them the better you get and the nerdier you might appear.
The reason the “Does nerd mean smart” question needs to be answered with no is that nerds are often simply judged by their appearance, a crazy hairstyle, big glasses or clothes from another century.
Nerds were originally nutcases
Yes, that’s right. The Online Etymology Dictionary states that the term originated in the 1940s from the word “nert” which has the meaning “stupid” or “crazy person”. This itself is a modification of the word “nut” hence “nutcase”.
How nerds became smart
The term nerd went through quite a development over the years. While being a nerd was once considered a bad thing because of the awkward and unpleasant appearance they are nowadays considered highly effective computer wizards (which they usually are). Over the year a certain kind of nerd pride movement developed. Just take a look at my article about “10 nerdy design riddles” to get an idea of how nerds like to challenge others by wearing t-shirts that not everyone might understand.
Nowadays nerds are seen as superior to others. The quote ” Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one” by Charles J.Sykes says it all (no, this was not Bill Gates, another nerdy thing to know).
Attributes of the stereotype nerd
Nerds are not only associated with intelligence but also with the following other characteristics:
- Glasses, usually black with a bold frame
- Pants worn high at the waist
- Either overweight or skinny
- Computer wizards
- Often gamers
- Lacking social skills
- Obsessed with something
As you can see, there are many items on that list that you cannot just assume to be true when someone calls him- or herself a nerd. The modern nerd movement largely tries to get rid of the negative aspects of this stereotype and emphasizes the value a nerd brings to the tables, often in a funny way like in the picture below.
See, being a nerd or having a nerdy friend is not bad after all. And in the end, we are all nerdy about something, even if it does not involve intelligence.
Still not convinced? Do you think you are a know-it-all nerd yourself? Take a look at my nerd riddles or 100 nerd jokes and be honest with yourself if you really get them all. You will probably find out that some of these are completely out of your grasp. Nobody knows everything.