Students give meaning to ‘nerd,’ ‘geek,’ ‘dork’

The terms “nerd,” “geek” and “dork” are thrown around by many, but there is some ambiguity as to what the differences among these terms are, or if they are merely synonyms.

Dr. Seuss is credited with the first distinction of “nerd” in If I Ran the Zoo:

“And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Ka-Troo And Bring Back an It-Kutch a Preep and a Proo A Nerkle a Nerd and a Seersucker, too!”

Students around campus have various opinions as to what these common name-calling-nouns actually mean.

“A nerd is really smart, studies all the time and wears glasses,” said first-year Dan Ulrich.

“A nerd has friends, and they as a group don’t fit in the cultural norms,” added junior Pete Hoglund.

Hoglund claimed that geeks and dorks differ in their relationships to other people.

“A geek acts like a nerd, except he isn’t smart. And a dork is extremely goofy. I am none of these three,” Ulrich said.

“A geek is someone who is a computer junkie,” said junor Liz Hatch. “A dork can be anyone, and a nerd studies a lot.”

Sophomore Steve Miller said that the difference lies in the appearance.

“A geek has pulled-up pants and a pocket protector. A nerd wears glasses with tape.”

Sophmore Chris Mensch added, “a geek is smart, and dresses like it. A dork is clumsy, and is generally stupid and absent-minded.”

Sophomore Dan Katyl and Caleb Haslett, two roommates in Gough, disagree.

“Geeks are the uncoolest of the three. They are the least intelligent and aren’t good at most things. A dork is a frame of mind, someone who does dorky things. Nerds are us; kind of smart, good at stuff and play video games, Dungeon and Dragons, etc.”

According to, a nerd is either “a foolish, inept, or unattractive person” or “a person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.”

“The nerd is a small humanoid creature looking comically angry, like a thin, cross Chester A. Arthur,” said of Seuss’s illustration of a nerd. said that a geek could also be “a person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits, but is felt to be socially inept.”

However, another definition of geek is “a person regarded as foolish, inept, or clumsy,” as opposed to the “foolish, inept, or unattractive” nerd. A geek can also be “a carnival performer whose show consists of bizarre acts, such as biting the head off a live chicken.”

According to the online dictionary, a dork, similar to the geek and the nerd, is “a stupid, inept, or foolish person,” though a dork could also be “a dull, stupid, fatuous person.” The word can also be used as vulgar slang for the male reproductive organ.

But to first-year Tim Reynolds, all three terms refer basically to the same thing.

“They’re all nerdy dorks who are geeks. There’s no real difference in how smart they are.”

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