The opposite of ‘nerd’ is ‘sportsman’, and since I was a sportsman at university, I assumed I wasn’t a nerd. But like greatness, can you have nerdiness thrust upon you? Or, after having lived an unnerdy life, could you then turn into a nerd? Plato had no answers for this, and neither do I.

There are about as many arguments for labeling me a nerd as there are for declaring I am not one. For example, I read books, especially on history, biography, criticism and science. Thus, nerd. On the other hand, I don’t drive, I am easily embarrassed by computers and cell phones and have no idea which button to press on the microwave. Not a nerd, then.

True nerds are easily recognised not just by the glasses they wear, but the type of glasses. They prefer thick, dark frames like those on Renaissance paintings. Or maybe I am thinking of pre-Raphaelite paintings. Only a nerd would know the difference.

In school, nerds are objects of fun, much imitated and allowed to mix with non-nerds only after substantial bribes. In college, things begin to change a bit. Everybody wants to have a nerdy friend who translates some of the passages from science textbooks into regular English. In return, nerds receive lessons in how to attract girls. Even nerdy girls prefer non-nerdy boys; this is one of the mysteries of existence. 

All non-nerds develop friendships with nerds in adult life; they need someone who can fix computers in the office, retrieve stuff that disappears from the screen, and help with ordering the right cell phones online.

Nerds ask for only one thing in return – acceptance, so they can erase from their minds the traumatic experiences at school. Nerd, as someone pointed out, maybe a four-letter word, but it is a future six-figure salary. Be nice to nerds, the great nerd Bill Gates once advised, “for soon you will be working for one”.

Nerds are into Star Wars and Star Trek, as television series tell us. But even here, I am told there are two types of nerds. If you begin a sentence with “May the force be…”, one type will end it thus “….with you.” The other would respond: “….equal to mass times acceleration.” A third, slightly hard of hearing may finish that sentence with ‘‘…..hit twice every over.” This last is known as a pseudo-nerd with sporting blood.

All of the above – the glasses, the non-sportiness, the social awkwardness, the craving for acceptance – are clichés, of course. But they became clichés because they happen to be true.

At one time nerds and geeks meant the same thing. But no longer. A nerd reads books. A geek reads e-books.

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