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Burning Godzilla
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1930s: The interjection "nerts", used because some consider it vulgar to blurt out "nuts", enjoys some popularity.

1940s: The singular "nert" evolves into a label applied to people, meaning someone who is nutty.

1950: Dr. Seuss tosses off the nonsense word "nerd" for an imaginary animal.

1951: Teen slang in the Detroit area is reported to have adopted "nerd" as the fashionable new term for an uncool unhip person, otherwise known as a "drip" or "square". This usage may or may not predate Dr. Seuss's, but it definitely spread from southeast Michigan.

1965: The spelling "nurd" comes into common use. The word is by now somewhat commonly connected with bookish intellectual types, but is still little known to most of the public. At MIT the spelling "gnurd" catches on. At this time, brainiacs at MIT and similar institutions are known for backward clothing styles and outmoded crewcuts. They also enjoy trashy science fiction.

circa 1972: I hear the word for the first time when my dad (a high IQ pocket-protected engineer who had only recently ceased rocking a crewcut) declares Batman to be a nerd. It briefly becomes my little brother's favorite new word.

1974: Happy Days debuts, and popularizes the term by using it as a piece of period slang, usually applying it not to smart or socially awkward characters, but to those who try to be cool and fail. Usage of the word aming viewers skyrockets.

1975: National Lampoon issues this poster, clarifying what the word will now mean.

1977: Personal computers emerge into the mass market, which results in raising the visibility of computer and electronics experts as a recognizable social class, and over several years, accelerating the association of the word with them in particular. At the same time, Star Wars brings science fiction fandom into mainstream visibility.

1981: By now several computer innovators have achieved wealth and become household names, thereby becoming role models and getting people to start thinking of nerds as winners. This trend will expand steadily until the dot-com crash of 2000.

1984: Revenge Of The Nerds is released. People with technical interests and skills start to use the word as self-description with some regularity, with a "nerd pride" movement becoming visible a few years later.

1993: Professor Gerald Sussman, a former MIT hacker, tells a reporter "I want every child to become a nerd." And it's around this time that one of my nerd friends proclaims "It's our world now and you can't have it back!"

1995: The World Wide Web popularizes mass usage of computer networks. Non-experts start learning web development in large numbers, and produce the beginnings of today's distinct internet culture.

2003: San Diego Comic-Con grows with extreme rapidity, becoming the center of the various fandoms associated with nerds. The public becomes steadily more aware of the breadth of "nerd culture". Some people start to describe themselves as nerds or geeks based on their fandoms rather than on their skills -- that is, they define the label by what they consume rather than what they produce, even as these fandoms increasingly merge into the mainstream.

2007: The Big Bang Theory debuts, bringing the first broad depiction of all facets of nerd culture to a mass audience.

2012: As supposedly nerdy interests such as superheroes and wizards take over pop culture, jock types also move into technical fields. "Brogrammers" are now a thing.

2013: MovieBob Chipman points out that calling oneself a nerd has now become merely a "commodified lifestyle label", saying nothing about your temperament or skills or social history.

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Last edited by supersonic man on Sat Dec 19, 2015 6:03 am, edited 4 times in total.



Thu Dec 17, 2015 9:58 pm
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Looks like you really put a lot of work into this.....quite impressive.


Fri Dec 18, 2015 12:30 am
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Burning Godzilla
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I'm home with a cold, and that's what happens when I lie around doing nothing.

...AHA! I may have found the defining moment in the crystallization of the nerd stereotype.

1975: National Lampoon issues this poster.

OP edited.

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Last edited by supersonic man on Fri Dec 18, 2015 1:12 am, edited 2 times in total.



Fri Dec 18, 2015 12:37 am
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Burning Godzilla
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Very interesting! I admit that I'm guilty of referring to myself as "nerdy" more than a few times in my life, though honestly I don't know if I'd use it today, or what word I'd use. I think "big fan" is an encompassing enough term I guess? I mean, I wouldn't call my mother a nerd by any stretch of the imagination, but she's excited for the new Star Wars, always texting me to explain who's who in Game of Thrones, one of her Christmas gifts is going to be a Walking Dead omnibus, and one Mother's Day she asked to get her all 4 Phantasm movies, so it takes all kinds I guess!

Real nice work there SSM! Hope you feel better soon!

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Fri Dec 18, 2015 12:58 am
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Burning Godzilla
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By the way, among old school true nerds, the correct adjective form isn't "nerdy", it's "nerdly".

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Fri Dec 18, 2015 1:04 am
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supersonic man wrote:
I'm home with a cold, and that's what happens when I lie around doing nothing.

...AHA! I may have found the defining moment in the crystallization of the nerd stereotype.

1975: National Lampoon issues this poster.

OP edited.


I recall that poster, but I swear that I had seen it with "nErd." Nevertheless, if we can count on this kind of meticulous research for new posts, I say stay sick my friend.

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Fri Dec 18, 2015 2:55 pm
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It's interesting to see how words evolve.

Two that spring to mind instantly: "Idiot" once meant "someone who does not follow politics", and "parasite" is from a Greek word meaning "professional dinner guest" (though even then it had the connotation of "someone who leeches off others".

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Fri Dec 18, 2015 6:06 pm
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To call something "awful" used to mean "inspiring wonder" instead of "really bad."

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Fri Dec 18, 2015 7:20 pm
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Burning Godzilla
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Victoria Silverwolf wrote:
To call something "awful" used to mean "inspiring wonder" instead of "really bad."


At least its use describes something of an extreme "badness" appropriate to a prefix of "awe." "Awesome", as you have noted, with appropriate disdain, now describes the meaningless and mundane. I blame California surfer slang.

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Fri Dec 18, 2015 7:30 pm
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That kind of mutation is how language grows. Modern vocabulary has produced tens of thousands of distinct concepts out of a comparatively few root words. A dent in your fender and dental floss share the same root (and the floss part probably evolved from the same root as flax and flag and maybe flogging). "Black" and "blanc" have opposite meanings but the same root.

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Fri Dec 18, 2015 10:34 pm
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I expanded this and gave it a permanent page on my website.

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"This is a Star Trek that pretends to have balls, but continues to prove that those balls are actually rubber prophylactics pretending to be balls." -- Bj

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Mon Dec 21, 2015 10:33 pm
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Burning Godzilla
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supersonic man wrote:
1951: Teen slang in the Detroit area is reported to have adopted "nerd" as the fashionable new term for an uncool unhip person, otherwise known as a "drip" or "square". This usage may or may not predate Dr. Seuss's, but it definitely spread from southeast Michigan.


Stand up and tell 'em you're from Detroit!!! (Said the Queen of the Nerds.) :lol:

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Tue Dec 29, 2015 4:08 pm
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SSM - this is EXACTLY the kind of content George Takei loves to share on his Facebook page. You should send it to him and see what happens.

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Wed Dec 30, 2015 8:59 pm
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From what I've seen, what Takei really likes to share is anything with a cheap laugh.

I added new items for 1968, 1996, and 2000.

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"This is a Star Trek that pretends to have balls, but continues to prove that those balls are actually rubber prophylactics pretending to be balls." -- Bj

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Wed Dec 30, 2015 11:24 pm
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supersonic man wrote:
From what I've seen, what Takei really likes to share is anything with a cheap laugh.

I added new items for 1968, 1996, and 2000.


Yeah, but nerd stuff is right in his wheelhouse. Star Trek nerd stuff is of course the holy grail. But if you formatted the page and added images, I'm convinced he'd share it.

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Thu Dec 31, 2015 4:56 am
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