June 17, 2013, 5:16 PM — Many people use the words "geek" and "nerd" interchangeably, but while these two labels have a few similarities, they're also not exactly the same thing. To demonstrate, data scientist and physicist Burr Settles ran the numbers on the words most commonly associated with these two concepts to find the dividing lines.
He analyzed two sources of Twitter data for the coocurrence of the words "geek" and "nerd" (using pointwise mutual information or PMI, for those nerds/geeks interested). What he got was this:
As you can see, cultural or pop culture words such as "webcomic," "ipod," and "sneaker" tend to be more associated with geeks, while more serious or studious terms tend to be more nerdy: "harvard," "physics," and "salary." Of course, there are some fine lines too. Zelda and Star Trek could be considered pop culture, just as Raspberri Pi and "computers" could be nerdy. These words are more closely straddling the diagonal line dividing the two terms.
Settles describes "geeks" as those who are enthusiasts of a specific topic or field: obsessed with collecting the newest, coolest, and trendiest things for that subject. "Nerds" are more achievement-focused and collect knowledge more than trivia. Both are intensely dedicated to their subjects. And, indeed, you can be both a geek and a nerd.
This analysis itself is pretty nerdy (read more about it here). But the next time someone mislabels you as a nerd rather than a geek (or vice versa), you can have a long, geeky discussion about it.
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