To Be (a nerd), Or Not To Be (a nerd)…

…that is the question… that I am posing today.

Way back when I was at school, nerds were the really intelligent kids (not me!), who were excellent at Maths and Science in particular. They couldn’t throw, or kick, a ball, they shied away from crowds, cool kids, hockey sticks, pubs, clubs and bars, even their own shadow at times. Nerds were, well, nerdy!

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Then along came this other word – Geek – it infiltrated to the UK from the ‘good ole US of A’. And we were confused, so this geek was like a nerd but had something to do with technology, both intelligent in academic ways, but stupid socially, neither had any dress sense (many wore spectacles) and you certainly did NOT want to get trapped with one who then regaled you with their favourite topic, no sir!

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For older readers, the difference between nerds and geeks is purely a matter of lexical semantics – they’re both weird. For younger readers, there is a whole pile of difference , and don’t you dare call me a nerd when I’m a geek!!! And then they stomp off to read their comics (because, as we all know, nerds/geeks read comics, don’t they?)

So let us have a little stroll through the history, and meaning, of the world of Nerds and Geeks. Got your notebook and mismatched attire? Then let’s go…

A nerd is a person seen as overly intellectual, obsessive, or lacking social skills. Such a person may spend inordinate amounts of time on unpopular, little known, or non-mainstream activities, which are generally either highly technical, abstract, or relating to topics of fiction or fantasy, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities. Additionally, many so-called nerds are described as being shy, quirky, pedantic, and unattractive, and may have difficulty participating in, or even following, sports.

Though originally derogatory, nerd is a stereotypical term, but as with other pejoratives, it has been reclaimed and redefined by some as a term of pride and group identity.

The first documented appearance of the word nerd is as the name of a creature in Dr. Seuss‘s book If I Ran the Zoo (1950), in which the narrator Gerald McGrew claims that he would collect “a Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too” for his imaginary zoo.The slang meaning of the term dates to the next year, 1951, when Newsweek magazine reported on its popular use as a synonym for drip or square in Detroit, Michigan.  By the early 1960s, usage of the term had spread throughout the United States, and even as far as Scotland. At some point, the word took on connotations of bookishness and social ineptitude

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerd

The word geek is a slang term originally used to describe eccentric or non-mainstream people; in current use, the word typically connotes an expert or enthusiast or a person obsessed with a hobby or intellectual pursuit, with a general pejorative meaning of a “peculiar person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intellectual, unfashionable, or socially awkward”.

Although often considered as a pejorative, the term is also used self-referentially without malice or as a source of pride. Its meaning has evolved to refer to “someone who is interested in a subject (usually intellectual or complex) for its own sake”.

This word comes from English dialect geek or geck (meaning a “fool” or “freak“; from Middle Low German Geck). “Geck” is a standard term in modern German and means “fool” or “fop”.The root also survives in the Dutch and Afrikaans adjective gek (“crazy”), as well as some German dialects, and in the Alsatian word Gickeleshut (“jester‘s hat”; used during carnival).[1] In 18th century Austria, Gecken were freaks on display in some circuses. In 19th century North America, the term geek referred to a performer in a geek show in a circus, traveling carnival or travelling funfair sideshows (see also freak show). The 1976 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary included only the definition regarding geek shows. This variation of the term was used to comic effect in an episode of popular 1970s TV show Sanford & Son. Professional wrestling manager “Classy” Freddie Blassie recorded a song in the 1970s called “Pencil-Necked Geek”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geek

Hang on, let’s pause here – so nerds are shy – so fucking what!? Most shy people I know are also the most strong-minded individuals I have ever met. They read fantasy fiction? Co-o-o-l.  And geeks are enthusiasts? Where would we be without people who are enthusiastic about something, anything? Aren’t creative types enthusiastic to the point of obsession? William Turner, Auguste Rodin, Frida Kahlo, Barbara Hepworth, H P Lovecraft, Prince!? They would never have produced the paintings, sculpture, books or music that they did, without having at least a hint of geekiness/nerdiness.

So what happened?

Lets see if we can identify the ‘accusers’ and the ‘supporters’…

1974: The Fonz, a character on an American TV show; Happy Days, referred to socially awkward kids interested in science and math as nerds. The world gave him a big thumbs up and nerds a big thumbs down. NB: this was a guy in his late twenties(at least!) who seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging out with teen schoolkids!!! *J’accuse The Fonz.

1978: Eugene Felsnic, a character in Grease was shrill voice, had poor social skills, thick glasses, and was generally considered embarrassing. He was the butt of a lot of jokes. poo Eugene was just overly keen. *J’accuse the T-Birds, The Pink Ladies and Producers,  Allan Carr and Robert Stigwood.

1984: The movie, Revenge of the Nerds was released, and amazingly,people delighted in a movie where the nerds get to win. The film does not actually portray nerds positively, but they were the stars! “We have news for the beautiful people. There’s a lot more of us then there are of you!” Nerd appreciation went up slightly. *Kudos to Director Jeff Kanew.

1985: Movie; Weird Science by John Hughes came out, (also Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). Hughes humanized the nerds that audiences had made fun of before. Audiences were made to understand that nerds have feelings too. They were no longer the butt of jokes. Nerd appreciation was beginning to climb. *Kudos to Director John Hughes.

1991: Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, was a fairly accurate stereotype, and though an enjoyable character, he does not help the cause of geeks and nerds. Ever. Not sure if he was appreciated or jeered. *Nada.

1999: Star Wars: Episode I was released. And so began the biggest nerd growth in the history of mankind. Nerds were popping up all over the show; watching the films, talking about the films, buying merchandise that appeared in those comic shops that started popping up everywhere. (Being a cynic, I am apt to believe the supreme marketing of this franchise is what has created a cycle of movie-nerd-merchandise-tie ins-geek-movie-nerd ad infinitum.) However, the profile, appreciation/acceptance of nerds and geeks has risen tenfold. *Kudos  to creator George Lucas.

2007: The Big Bang Theory, American TV show arrived. It has been and continues to be, a massive hit. It portrays nerds/geeks as being not only super intelligent but, know-it-alls’ who are indeed socially adept, who are terrified of women, often pedantic and in one instance (Sheldon) possibly lean towards Asperger’s. What initially appear to be stereotypes, and to a degree they are, they also reflect what the vast majority have concerns with; friendship, work, and problems with both. The first nerds to get their very own show! Hurrah! *Kudos to writers, Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady, Maria Ferrari, Steven Molaro and the rest.

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2010: It wasn’t enough anymore, to visit comic book shops, sit on the side-line and discuss girls who would never look at you, it was time to get physical – enter Kick-Ass, the movie! This was a nerd who was mad as hell and he wasn’t going to take it anymore! This was the skinny, ‘little’ guy who no-one looked at, the guy who hung out with his two equally nerdy pals and spent too much time with comics – it is an homage to the comic superhero, stop just reading about it, and do something. Kick-Ass hailed the rise of a new nerd – Super-Hero-Nerd! *Kudos to writers/Director Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman.

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Well there you have it. Or do we?

Before you go, can you see anything missing from this picture so far?????

Notice an absence from the list???

Still not got it??

I’ll give you a clue – what is the gender of the writer of this blog?!

Where are the women?! It is an odd thing, females have been noticeably missing from the nerd/geek history. If you type female nerd into your search engine, you will more than likely get an image of a ‘sexy’ woman in tight shirt and spectacles that she probably doesn’t wear in her ‘real’ life!

1995: Hackers starred Angelina Jolie as a young hacker alongside Jonny Lee Miller. It wasn’t a terrifically good film and did little for nerds and geeks, even though their IT skills were at the cutting edge! *Nada.

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1996: Saw Matilda making a hit, (with children and some parents). Matilda was not only very well read and intelligent, she got the better of her bullying teacher; Miss Trunchbull. It was cool in the playground for a short while, then the boys came back with their footballs and sense of entitlement. *Kudos to Roald Dahl (and Director Danny De Vito for trying.)

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1997: J.K. Rowling brought us the best girl-nerd ever! Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, was published. Then it was made into a film! It was a HUGE success. She wrote 6 more! We got more films! Hermione Granger was the new hero of young women and girls right across the planet, she had to fight extreme prejudice from, not only classmates, but teachers. She is from a Muggle family, she is well-read, she is intelligent(more than any of the other characters), she is brave, she is loyal – she is the driving force behind Harry and Ron and without her, I believe, Lord Voldemort would have won!!

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Girl nerds are just as cool as boy nerds, perhaps more so, as they have to work harder. In what way, I hear you ask? Well, if you’re a boy, and a nerd, it can still be a battle to get respect from people. If you’re a girl nerd, you not only have that battle, but another with the boy nerds, who are just like the rest of their species when it come to females!

To Be (a nerd), Or Not To Be (a nerd)…that was the question. Or are you a geek?

I have decided I am a mix of both. It needs a new word, I propose NEEK!

Why you should play Dungeons and Dragons.

There has been a lot said about this fantasy table top role playing game (RPG) over the decades, from the 80’s when it was deemed ‘anti-Christian’, to the 90’s when it became ‘Satanical’ and into the 00’s  when it was played by ‘nerds’. Now I want a go…

A little background…

The game was originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR)

Regarding the view that it promotes anti or irreligious feeling, influences teens to be drawn to commit suicide or even murder, I strongly object. If you look at statistics showing deaths as a result of ‘religious wars’, you find the numbers reach into the thousands, even millions. The Crusades alone were accountable for up to 9 million deaths (according to some sources).

The Crusades were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period, especially the campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean with the aim of capturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Islamic rule, to recapture Christian territory and defend Christian pilgrims. The term “crusades” is also applied to other campaigns sanctioned by the Church.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades

 

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This is a section of an image of the Death Toll Comparison Breakdown from Wait But Why site is a fascinating accumulation of statistics. http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/08/the-death-toll-comparison-breakdown.html

 

So it seems that war in the name of God was, and is acceptable, and by default, so are those deaths.  My research led me to discover a total of 130 deaths attributed to D and D – the large majority of these were suicides. I am not taking away the fact that it is always tragic when a young person takes his or her own life- and over 90% of these were male, but looking deeper we will find that there was an emotional even mental health issue at play here.

130 is a long, long way from 9 million, so should we ask ourselves, if people played games instead of following a religion, might we not have less death on our hands?

The view that Dungeons and Dragons (or D & D) leads young players to become involved in Satanism and Satanic rituals is also unfounded nonsense. Many members of Christian churches were up in arms about D & D in the 90’s as it was deemed a ‘gateway’ to the ‘darker’ side. The vast majority of these concerned parents were American. Reading some of the comments, or news reports of the time reminded me of those black and white info films they used to show of the dangers of smoking cannabis – ‘Reefer Madness’ is a fine example,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbjHOBJzhb0

and is laughably naive to anyone today who  views it today. The knee-jerk reaction must have been invented by the Americans, as anything that they cannot comprehend immediately, or that does not fit into their clean living, white picket fenced world is deemed evil.

I’d like you to take a look at what others have said about playing D and D, don’t just take my word for it – after all, I’m one of those ker-razy people who play it!

Craig Hallam is an English writer. I have met him on a couple of occasions, and I can tell you that he is a very lovely man; kind of word, polite and friendly; he used to be a nurse – how decent can you get. He plays D and D. Visit his page “How D&D helped my writing – I’ve found it’s a massive help to maintaining creativity. When my books are stumbling… and I can’t get my Auth-on, D&D has been exactly what I’ve needed.” https://craighallam.wordpress.com/tag/dungeons-and-dragons/

Ethan Gilsdorf is an American writer, poet, editor, critic, journalist and teacher – second decent human career. He plays, or played D and D. And can explain a lot better than me, why you should play the game. I GAVE A TEDX TALK “WHY DUNGEONS & DRAGONS IS GOOD FOR YOU (IN REAL LIFE)” Ethan Gilsdorf explains the positives, for himself, of playing the game, and why it can be good for you too. http://www.ethangilsdorf.com/ethanfreak-blog/2016/5/25/igave-a-tedx-talkwhy-dungeons-dragons-is-good-for-you-in-rea.html

Playing D and D, I have learnt about so many things I did not learn in school. My knowledge base has expanded. Why? Because when you are the DM; Dungeon Master, or in my case Mistress, you are tasked with writing a scenario, or story if you will, that will not only fit the players, but challenge and entertain them, not for a couple of hours, but possibly for weeks on end! And if you veer away from the ‘traditional’, rule toting aspect; like we did, you better find something to keep your players playing.

Research, research, research.

I reckon I could teach university students a thing or two about how to research.  Because we moved from the original themes of dwarves, elves, wizards, dungeons and, er, dragons, we have to work with each other – collaborate – on what we all wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the experiment doesn’t work, but mostly, it is still fun. In fact, now I come to think of it, in over 25 years of playing (Yes, you read that correctly TWENTY FIVE YEARS), we have to my knowledge only had 3 games with dragons in them!

Where/when have we played?

By this, I do not mean what time and what room in the house, I am referring to game scenarios. After the traditional scenario/setting, we have played; an all Dwarven world, post-apocalyptic Mad Max style world, 12th century Damascus, World War II, the future ( space, cyberpunk, extra-terrestrials), Discworld influenced landscapes, Time Bandits influenced game, horror film influenced games, pensioners, demi-gods, siblings, postmen!! The variations go on and on.

You can see how the imagination is tried and tested – excellent for an author.

So, to me and my ‘team’; some of this might surprise the sceptics amongst you:

We’re all of us, over 50 years of age.

One of us is a professional musician and educator.

One supports the elderly.

One supports students with learning difficulties.

One of us is in the IT sector.

One of us is a support in the community.

One is an artist.

We’re all parents.

And we drink tea at ‘half-time’.

In conclusion, I have nothing against religion per say (you have no clue as to what belief system I follow if any) and I am deeply saddened by the death of anyone under the age of 50. But a table top role playing game is not the reason people fall by the wayside in one form or another. It encourages fair play, comradery, storytelling, imagination, patience, acceptance to name a few aspects. And its great fun!

What about ‘the nerds’, I hear you ask…

…well, that goes without saying.

 

 

10 Good Reasons to Play D&D by AMERON (DEREK MYERS)

http://dungeonsmaster.com/2010/11/10-good-reasons-to-play-dd/