Nerd – an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit: a computer nerd.
I am sure many of us “Old Schoolers” (and some of the younger generations as well) have been called a Nerd at one point or another life. Some of us (myself and my Microsoft Tattoo included) wear the moniker with pride.
But do you know where the word first came from? Why none other than Children’s literary icon – Dr. Seuss.
Dr. Theodore Geisel, known by millions of kids as Dr. Seuss, was an artist, veteran, academy award winner and of course children’s book writer. His whimsical writing including the use of made up words – words to fit the rhyming style of his stories. When one thinks of all the words he wrote – its hard to imagine that his most famous is not commonly attributed to him. The word I refer to is (due to the title) is NERD.
The first appearance of the word Nerd is attributed to the Dr. Seuss book – If I Ran The Zoo in 1950. In the book, Gerlard McGrew visits the zoo and find all the animals “not good enough”. He proceeds to give his take on how (after letting all the zoo animals free) he would find new, unusual and exotic animals to take their places.
It is there that we get the following exert…and a Nerd is born.
“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!”
I personally find it funny that a Nerd looks so grumpy. Maybe he knows that he is about to be associated with being unpopular the rest of his life – but I like to think he just taking on the persona of a Systems Admin somewhere? To me, that is especially fitting, considering many of us think that running IT can be a bit of a “Zoo” at times.
Of course, Dr. Seuss didn’t do it all on his own. Slang later took hold of the word in 1951 – where Newsweek reported its use for someone deemed to be a “Drip” or “Square” in Detroit Michigan. From there Popularity seemed to take off.
So there you have it – the birth of a word, and of a culture. If you are thinking of getting one of your tech friends a gift for Christmas – maybe a copy of “If I Ran The Zoo” would be a good choice. When they look at you quizzically….just tell them to enjoy it and see if they can spot the birth of a word.