Recent events have made me re-examine my self proclaimed Geekness, or Geekocity. To me, a Geek is someone who is proud of their obsessions and choices to the point of being chic and trendy but without losing their self awareness. A Nerd is the same person who doesn't care about anything but their obsession.
To illustrate this, have some random and unstudied examples.
A Math Geek appreciates mathematics as a universal language, probably knows a bit of calculus, might have the quadratic equation tattooed on his or her back. A Math Nerd wouldn't have the tattoo and probably teaches a masters calculus course at MIT.
An Art Geek (not to be confused with Artist Geek) will have a favorite artist or three as well as a favorite movement. They know who the founders of dadaism were, can tell the difference between Klimt and Kandinsky and might have something Geiger drew as a tattoo. An Art Nerd has memorized the birthdates of all the Impressionists and doesn't have a tattoo.
A Music Geek (not musician) would be up on the latest music but would listen to none of it of their own volition. They would scour the local scene and only listen to unsigned or self promoting artists that you've never heard of and you feel stupid for not knowing who they are because they're "phenomenal." A Music Nerd might play a clarinet in a city orchestra as well as teach music theory.
A Tech Geek would have an account on slashdot but never use it. They'd have at least one gaming system, work IT somewhere and knows enough about computers and networking to keep their parents guessing as to what they actually do for a living. They might have a favorite cartoon or sci-fi character as a tattoo. A Tech Nerd is an Alpha Geek. They are the top of their field and are more than likely programmers after studying math in college. They don't like new software as much because nothing can be as elegant as what they have now.
The list can go on and on for any field or pastime you can think of. There will always be those who love it and those who live it.
With this in mind I got to thinking about me being a Geek or a Nerd. While I'm aware of comic books, I don't have a collection and I'm currently not reading them. While I read science fiction and fantasy and can usually tell what's good and what's filler, I'm not a LARPer nor do I write short stories for Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. While I'd rather play video games than go outside and play freeze tag, I can count on one hand the number of PC games I have. We have a Wii with three games, the kids play it more than I do. In fact, nothing that I do really qualifies me for even Geek status. I'm Geeky, Geekish, Geeklike, but I do not think I'm in fact a Geek.
Just because I have 95 space and Star Wars Lego sets, have a tattoo of a catperson alien drawing that I did, was first in line to see Serenity and can't find anyone to play Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, doesn't mean I'm a Geek.
But hey, at least I'm not a Nerd, they don't have tattoos.
(All kidding aside, this reminded me of something we used to do in High School. There were a group of kids that I can only loosely call friends because there was this rivalry between most of us and I'm not sure were it came from, but we disliked each other as much if not more than we liked our actual friends. In Elementary School and most of Jr. High we were all friends, but then something happened and some kids became cooler and some either didn't become cool or went the opposite way. Whatever the reason, by the time we hit high school we rarely spoke to each other. What's also lost is how the Nerds vs. Jocks semi-annual football game came to pass. The irony not lost on me now was that the Nerds, all my friends, actually boasted a couple of athletes. I know two of us were on the football team and one was on the soccer team. The Jocks, however, I don't remember if they were or not. I know one guy was a tennis player and another played football at least one year, and another guy ran track. But whatever the match ups, we were the Nerds because we weren't as cool, they were the Jocks because they were cooler. I think the Nerds only one once, maybe twice and we'd played a dozen or so times. Weird.)