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Pauline Lerner

Revenge of the nerds

December 20, 2005 at 9:04 AM

I gave myself the night off from doing my work and relaxed. I read, ate some ice cream, listened to music, played my violin, took photographs, and cruised around the Internet. I have loved doing these things since I was a kid, except for photography and the Internet. I didn’t own a camera, and the Internet hadn’t been invented yet. My mother always gave me a hard time for my solitary pursuits, especially reading. To her, reading was an antisocial crime. “You’ve always got your nose stuck in a book,” she’d tell me. “You’re going to be an egghead just like your father!” That was serious. She didn’t like my father, and saying that I resembled him was the worst insult she could give me. I know now that reading probably preserved my sanity. It was my escape from an unpleasant reality, and it prevented me from becoming hateful like her.

I was a nerd long before the word was invented. I just looked the word up to see where it comes from, and I was pleasantly surprised. It comes from a Dr. Seuss book, If I Ran the Zoo, published in 1950. "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!" Dr. Seuss didn’t define the word, but the picture of the nerd in his book was a “comically unpleasant creature.” The word nerd was defined years later as “a square,” “someone with objectionable habits or traits,” or “an uninteresting person.” I was all those things. I read a lot; I got good grades; I played the violin; and, eventually, I majored in chemistry. In recent years, though, we nerds have acquired a somewhat better image. We are people who like quiet time, enter almost any profession we want, and shamelessly admit that we play the violin. There is a community of over 3000 registered users on, and probably many more who just lurk and read. We read, and we write, and we become each other’s friends.

Aaaaah, it feels so good to come out of the closet. Thank you, v.commies.

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