A Doofus and a Geek walked into a bar…

Many times I have defined myself as a geek.  On occasion,  a nerd.  Not a dork.  Definitely not a dweeb.  And I hope that I would never be perceived as a doofus.

Yet I often see these terms used interchangeably.  I don’t know why, they’re not synonyms.   But lots of folks do seem to lump them all together.

I headed over to the Urban Dictionary.


The people you pick on in high school and wind up working for as an adult.

The term “geek” originally referred to the carnival performers whose act consisted of biting the heads off chickens and eating glass. Over time it came to be applied to anyone who got paid to do work considered odd or bizarre by mainstream society.

The term now enjoys a special status within the technical community, particularly among particularly knowledgeable computer programmers. To identify oneself as a “geek” indicates recognition that most people still consider programming computers to be a bizarre act, along with a certain fierce satisfaction in being very good at their inglorious profession.

That most software geeks now easily earn twice as much as the average laborer just sweetens their defiant embrace of the term.

Note: Unlike the word “nerd,” which is always pejorative, “geek” often carries a positive connotation when used by one of the group. The use of the term by outsiders is considered insulting.

This doesn’t quite fit in with the “Beauty and the Geek” concept…


A person who gains pleasure from amassing large quantities of knowledge about subjects often too detailed or complicated for most other people to be bothered with.

An individual who does not conform to society’s beliefs that all people should follow trends and do what their peers do. Often highly intelligent but socially rejected because of their obsession with a given subject, usually computers.

Non-nerds are often scared of nerds, due to their detailed knowledge, and therefore seemingly high levels of intelligence – and subsequently denigrate them as much as possible as often as possible.

Nerds exist covertly within the fabric of society, often choosing to ‘nerd it up’ in private or in the company of fellow nerds. It is for this reason they are feared the most – unlike geeks, who are easily identified, nerds can only be found out when casual conversation reaches a subject that they like nerding.

Is this really negative?


Dorks are typically more noted for their quirky personality and behavior rather than their interests or IQ which may or may not be on level with traditional geeks or nerds. They tend to be more humorous and extroverted and don’t mind laughing at themselves or with others at themselves, as the case may be.

Someone who does things that are kinda silly and not necessarily cool but often cute.

The character of “Kelso” comes to mind…


An awkward, ineffectual person; specifically connotes physical inadequacy. Often equated with “loser”.


Someone who hasn’t got a clue!

They live in blissful ignorance of the world, fashion, personal hygiene and social skills.

Everything all clear now?

If not, the Great White Snark (Geek Life with Bite) has kindly provided us with a Venn Diagram to explain it all.

(Doofus hasn’t even made the scale…)   He also claims that he is a geek, not a nerd, the difference being that he likes Star Wars, but not Star Trek.

Ahem.  I like both.

What about the obsession part?   Can a geek be obsessed with something other than techie stuff?  Can one be a knitting geek?  Or perhaps a knitting nerd is more appropriate?

Elsewhere on the net I found this hierarchy:


To sum up the above:

To identify oneself as a “geek” indicates recognition that most people still consider [fill in the blank] to be a bizarre act, along with a certain fierce satisfaction in being very good…

[“Nerd”]  An individual who does not conform to society’s beliefs that all people should follow trends and do what their peers do.


Being outside the mainstream.   Not being a muggle.

Hey, I can deal with that.

How about you?


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7 Responses to “A Doofus and a Geek walked into a bar…”

  1. Sara Says:

    I *love* this post!!

    I seem to remember reading somewhere that Dr. Suess coined the term “Nerd” in the book “If I Ran the Zoo.”

    Does knowing that make me a geek, nerd, dork or doofus?

    I’m thinking nerd.

    It makes me kind of sad that nerd is apparently always pejorative.

    • eclecticitee Says:

      The dear Dr. coined an awful lot of words. Many of which I still remember. Hm….and therein lies a new blog post… 😉

  2. Galia Says:

    That’s one of your best posts ever!
    I’m also a geek but not a nerd, and for the exact same ‘starwars vs startrek’ reason. I’m glad someone finally put a finger on that issue…

  3. Roberta Says:

    Love this post too!

    And I seem to be a combination of geek and nerd (not sure what ratio…) with a sprinkle of work on top!

    On a less chirpy note – these are sad times if “pejorative” adjectives are used to describe intelligent people, or people who take an interest in and understand more difficult/esoteric subjects and let others know about it!.

  4. Esther Says:

    Love it!
    I would say I’m a geeky nerd who exhibits dorky behaviour in the company of ‘muggles’ in order to cover up the nerdiness.

    I think the fact that I’m happiest hanging out on Ravelry’s Star Trek/Dr Who forums just about says it all :0)

  5. Roberta Says:

    Haha – I just saw I wrote work instead of dork…

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