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A Taxonomy of Nerds

Posted by Josh Rothman  October 25, 2010 12:30 PM

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Remember when men were men, women were women, and nerds were nerds? Unfortunately things aren't so simple nowadays. The novelist (and nerd) Benjamin Hale has created a "nerd graph" which he says identifies the "four distinct subspecies of nerds" - geeks, dorks, creeps, and losers:


Hale's article, "A Taxonomy of the Nerd," has been leisurely making the academic rounds, for the obvious reason that professors are nerds, and hope desperately to discover the nerds among their students (one of them might even become the next nerd president). It's slightly mean-spirited, and plainly biased in favor of the geek subspecies; this isn't too upsetting, since infighting is an inescapable part of the nerd universe. But Hale's analysis is also surprisingly useful, and even moving. Who hasn't wondered about that high school friend who's drifted inexorably from geekdom to loserdom, or marveled at another's Gatsby-like transformation from creep to geek? Perhaps Hale's best insight: if you display even "remote interest" in his chart, then you are almost certainly a nerd.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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