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Nerd probably came from a term at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute from the origin of Knurd (which is drunk spelled backwards). Unlike the drunk, the ‘knurd’ drinks heavily of knowledge and does practically everything opposite of the ‘drunk.’
But have you noticed how some things are considered ‘nerd’ while other things are not? And, even stranger, these things change over time.
If something is ‘nerdish,’ then that means most businesses cannot profit from that activity.
Take books. Books are considered ‘nerdish.’ However, television is full of advertising. So it makes sense that marketing would portray television as “mainstream” and books as “nerd.” They want television to appear ‘cool’ so they can make money.
Take staying at home for the evening. This is considered ‘nerdish.’ However, if you go to a fancy club, restaurant, or something else, this is marketed as ‘mainstream’ and ‘cool.’ No one makes money if you stay at home for the evening so no wonder they will belittle it.
Take music. Classical music is ‘nerdish.’ However, pop-culture music is marketed as ‘mainstream’ and ‘cool.’ The reason is because they make money off the ‘hip-hop.’ How can they make money off of Beethoven and Bach?
Take clothes. Keeping care of your clothes and having them last a while is ‘nerdish.’ However, ‘sticking with the fashions’ is marketed as mainstream and cool. The reason is because they make money when you keep changing fashions. They make no money if you stick with your clothes. I think you are seeing the point. Now, let us look at how some of the ‘nerd’ things change.
Take the Internet. The Internet was a haven for nerds. But as soon as companies could make money off the Internet, then the Internet became ‘awesome’ and ‘mainstream.’ Companies that treat the Internet as a threat, such as newspapers and certain colleges, still try to paint the image that the Internet is for “unsocial nerdish quacking misfits.”
Take video games. In the eighties, video games were seen for ‘nerds.’ However, as soon as gigantic companies such as Sony and Microsoft moved in, they produced marketing that says, “Hey, gaming is now mainstream! Gaming is hip and cool!” Most video game players have bought this hook, line, and sinker. If you account for population growth and multiple console ownership, gaming has not really grown. In fact, it has even decreased in some areas. (A steady decline over ten years in Japan reversed with the DS phenomenon currently over there. In America, the trend has been downward for a couple of years.) As soon as the major companies moved in, they put out the marketing that it is ‘mainstream’ and ‘cool’ because they want your money. It is that simple.
Another video-game example would be the recent invention of the word “hardcore gamer.” This used to be the ‘nerd.’ But they call them ‘hardcore gamers’ because they can now make money off of you. This is similar to Hollywood calling those who watch movies all day to be ‘greatly cultured’ when you could easily call those same people dorks. (Hollywood won’t say that because they make money off them, obviously.)
So any time you see the ‘nerd’ versus ‘cool’ mantra, follow the money. Anything in society that people cannot make much money off of is going to be condemned as ‘nerdish.’ Just be who you are, follow your own interests, and ignore this advertising imagery that drapes society.