Where Do the Dorks Fit In?

Patton Oswalt offers Wired a nugget of wisdom -

Wired: There's a great line on your new album, Werewolves: "My geekiness is getting in the way of my nerdiness." What's the distinction?

A lot of nerds aren't aware they're nerds. A geek has thrown his hands up to the universe and gone, "I speak Klingon — who am I fooling? You win! I'm just gonna openly like what I like." Geeks tend to be a little happier with themselves.

Wil Wheaton - author of Just a Geek - agrees with Oswalt.

I disagree. I'd rather be called a nerd than a geek. There is some disagreement about the etymology of the word "nerd." The first documented occurrence of the word is in the Dr. Seuss book If I Ran the Zoo, but there's no pinpointing how it came to have its current meaning.

The etymology of "geek," on the other hand, is clear. It originally referred to a circus or carnival performer who performs unusual or disgusting acts, most often biting the heads off of live chickens or snakes. This is in fact the first definition offered by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, before the more recent usage. Though the past of "nerd" is unclear, the word certainly did not at any point refer to a carnival performer.

In modern vernacular, "nerd" and "geek" are essentially interchangeable. Even so, I've never bitten the head off of a chicken, live or dead. I'll stick with "nerd," thanks.