Nerd: Slang 1. A foolish, inept, or unattractive person. 2. A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.
Etymology: Perhaps after Nerd, a character in If I Ran the Zoo, by Theodor Seuss Geisel.
Word History: The word nerd, undefined but illustrated, first appeared in 1950 in Dr. Seuss's If I Ran the Zoo: “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!” (The nerd is a small humanoid creature looking comically angry, like a thin, cross Chester A. Arthur.)
Nerd next appears, with a gloss, in the February 10, 1957, issue of the Glasgow, Scotland, Sunday Mail in a regular column entitled “ABC for SQUARES”: “Nerd—a square, any explanation needed?” Many of the terms defined in this “ABC” are unmistakable Americanisms, such as hep, ick, and jazzy, as is the gloss “square,” the current meaning of nerd.
The third appearance of nerd in print is back in the
Authorities disagree on whether the two nerds—Dr. Seuss's small creature and the teenage slang term in the Glasgow Sunday Mail—are the same word. Some experts claim there is no semantic connection and the identity of the words is fortuitous. Others maintain that Dr. Seuss is the true originator of nerd and that the word nerd (“comically unpleasant creature”) was picked up by the five- and six-year-olds of 1950 and passed on to their older siblings, who by 1957, as teenagers, had restricted and specified the meaning to the most comically obnoxious creature of their own class, a “square.”
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