Nerds and geeks are typically lumped together as one and the same, but they are eons apart. This is primarily due to the fact that these characteristics typically come to light around pubescence—a time when socialization seriously begins to define who we are, who we hang out with and why. Because nerds and geeks are usually not considered “cool” in their teens and twenties, they are viewed on the same scale, but it’s a bit more nuanced than that.
Most commonly, a nerd is a socially awkward person which may have some single-minded intelligence in one area or another, but doesn’t necessarily display an aptitude for any creative genius. Nerds tend to only be facile—if at all—in areas already discovered, whereas a geek is capable of treading new pathways in unchartered territories.
Because nerds tend to have an abnormal capacity for being repositories of unpopular information, they tend to make great statisticians, critics, accountants or teachers. They are very good with retaining and regurgitating; however, don’t seem to exhibit any talent on their own.
That said, it’s very possible to be a relatively dumb nerd. Nerds are high on information, but rank low intuitively. While intelligence is preeminent in Western thought, it doesn’t often yield excellence in fields where originality is required. Geeks, like nerds, are pushed to the periphery of society but are exceptionally skilled from a more instinctual point of view. This visceral grain in the geek is not to be mistaken for a lack of knowledge; to the contrary, it just speaks to the space from which inspiration flows. The geek’s strength is primarily based on an internal mechanism as opposed to the nerd whose functions are fundamentally factoid based.
Whereas at one point of their lives, geeks and nerds may find themselves to be social outcasts, may see that—as time progresses—they are wildly accepted at another. The difference being that the nerd’s acceptance is based on how popular their field of expertise becomes once their peer group matures, unlike the geek, who is accepted into the fold for their boldly authentic inventiveness—like the Steve Jobses or the Bill Gateses of the world.
Which recalls one of my favorite flicks of the ’80s: Revenge of The Nerds. To me, it would have more aptly been titled, Revenge of The Geeks. Most of these cats possessed natural gifts that gave them insights much deeper than what general perception could possibly comprehend at face value—with the exception of maybe Booger who I don’t recall doing anything but belching, picking his nose and other gross indulgences.
This brings to mind that one scene the so-called nerd “Lewis” turned-out the hot cheerleader in the Moonbounce. She never would have thought that Old Boy could bring it like that. If he were simply a nerd, he would have probably been too nervous or self-conscious to throw down like that, but because he’s actually a geek, he possessed an otherworldly understanding about the nature of how things operate. The geeky mindset is universally applicable where the nerdy insight is specialized.
Geeks are actually more akin to freaks than nerds. That said, don’t sleep on geeks, there’s more than meets the eye; sleep with them.
– Nicholas Payton aka The Savior of Archaic Pop