The poll emerged from a few questions I was going to ask about which Indiana Jones chick is the hottest--a topic touched upon during Wednesday Night Nerding, which made me think of a moment later in the evening when one of the Nerds, with exceptional comic timing, busted out with some coordinates of the Death Star. I knew what they were when I heard them, but I could never spout them out like that, and I can't even remember what they are now. It got me thinking: this guy is clearly a bigger Star Wars Nerd than I am. And so came the poll.
Since posting, the nerdiness of some of these categories has been put under speculation. As have the jarring disparities between the respondents' Overall Nerd Quotients and the averages of their other responses. It begs the questions: How do you qualify yourself as a nerd in a particular category? What is Nerdy? Is nerdiness cumulative or do we all think we're bigger dorks than we really are?
It started with a few questionable scores. Sparky, a confident 10th Level Comic Book Nerd, scoffed at a few similarly high scores. And yet he dwelled happily in his glass house as a self-proclaimed 10 Indie Music Nerd. "But I love Indie Music!" He pleaded. Perhaps, but mere fondness of a genre does not a Nerd make. One may love many things, but there it takes a special devotion to rank Nerd in it.
He and I then discussed how we ranked ourselves. Sparky ranked himself against the general public; I tended to rank myself against other Nerds. To use the example above: I'm pretty confident in my Star Wars Nerdery; I gave myself an 8. But that guy with the Death Star coordinates is a 10. I'm no 10. Sure, among the entire U.S. population I may be in the 95th percentile of Star Wars knowledge, but among nerds, I'm just medium potatoes. Sparky contested that the guy from Nerd Night (whom Sparky knows better than I do) is beyond a 10--he's transcended the 1-10 ranking of the General Public and is truly only quantifyable against other gigantic nerds. Hence: the 11. Other 11's came to mind: Gamer is an 11 Video Game...r; Berman, while modestly giving himself a 9, is an 11 Indie Music Nerd; and one of Sparky's friends, whose monthly comic book spending exceeds $300 and when he comments to comic book boards regarding particular books, often receives responses from the authors of those books in awe of his insights. That, my friends, is an 11.
What, then, makes a nerd? Both Sparky and Gamer challenged the inclusion of seemingly mainstream categories in the poll, such as cars and The Simpsons. I made the poll with the thinking that Nerdliness can stem from anything someone can "nerd out" on. For example, in the comments, Helen Marie dubbed herself a "market research nerd". Not a traditional nerd persuit, and yet something she can nerdily obsess over.
Gamer held strong with the oldskool nerd qualifiers, the types of things associated with pocket protectors, highwater pants and hornrimmed glasses. While the nerd of the 80's has slowly transmogrified into today's dirty black jeans/hiking boots/wolf T-Shirt Nerds, most of the core traits remain: Star Wars/Trek, comic books, D&D...even post-80's nerdly things like Animae and trading card games.
Sparky's definition managed to score the happy medium: Nerd is someone who is involved in any hobby or intrest that can subject the participant to scorn. Sounds good, but the "Hip to be Square" effect tampers with it. Being a nerd is cooler than it ever has been. Apparently, some of the lovely boyhunks of the O.C. have formed a comic book club, and thanks to the success of Lord of the Rings, the average moviegoer knows the difference between an elf and a dwarf; an orc and a troll. Sure, Dungeons and Dragons is as nerdy as ever. Having read LOTR? Not as much.
Does that make Lord of the Rings less nerdy? Hell no. But it lends credence to the Car Nerd, Baseball Stats Nerd, James Bond Nerd--nerdly obsessions for nonnerdy things. Does ranking nerd in a traditionaly nerdy thing make you more of a nerd? Is the Baseball Nerd aspect of one's character worth less Nerd cred than, say the D&D Player in the same guy? Are mega-nerdy things, such as Magic The Gathering, worth double-nerd Score? Does lending credence to nerdiness in nonnerdy things soften nerddom? Or is it a pander to the hipification of squaritude?
Only one of the respondents gave themselves a lower Overall Nerd Quotient score than the average of their individual nerd totals. Most Overall Scores were self-ranked at least one point higher than the respondent's average. And yet, the two answers with the highest number of 10's were Computers/Coding and Video Games, traditional Nerdings; yet Star Wars got only one 10, and Trading Card games got 0. Is it because of the accessibility of computers and video games we feel confidently nerdy with them? Is it truly nerding if you get paid for what you nerd on? Is Star Wars such a vast Nerddom what with all those books and stuff, few can confidently give themselves a 10? And is a true 10th Level Trading Card nerd only to be found in the bowels of Warhammer stores?
Perhaps it is cumulative. Perhaps I'm overestimating the public as I tend to do. To me, a basic knowledge of nerdy things is just part and parcel with life. How, really, could a person carry on a conversation without a fundamental nerd grasp of The Simpsons? Is it possible that 50, 60, even 70 percent of the general population doesn't know why someone would gravel up their voice to say "it's a trap!"?
Livejournal as microcosm has proven misleading before; Am I so misguided to think this is the norm? If I were to show this to Joe Average, would he be stunned to see 35 people so willing to fess up to Dungeons and Dragons knowledge, let alone rate themselves as nerds? And if I'm right, are we nerd enough? If nerdiness is in, and it's in to be out, is being a nerd cool or nerdy? And if nerd is cool, is nerd nerd?