Guilty as Charged: I Am a Fake Nerd Conversationalist

By February 8, 2010 culture, language No Comments

A recent read made me aware of a conversational trend to which I have unknowingly succumbed. In An American Nerd: The Story of My People, author Benjamin Nugent describes a dissociative strategy employed by nerdy types attempting to shed some of their nerd quotient.

Nugent defines a nerd as one who is “intellectual in ways that strike people as machinelike” by: (1) being “passionate about some technically sophisticated activity that doesn’t revolve around” felt needs, (2) speaking in Standard English, (3) avoiding physical and emotional confrontation, (4) favoring logic and rational thinking and communication, and (5) enjoying machines more than most people do. (6)

Often nerds who become aware of their nerd behavior acknowledge it to others to thereby decrease its strength. One way to accomplish this is by beginning a fake nerd conversation with others. It’s rather confessional; a statement of recognition, to create some common ground against nerdiness (even your own). It’s sort of like a bait-and-switch strategy, or like implementing a smoke-and-mirror diversion. Here’s how Nugent describes it:

You hear fake nerd conversation. It follows a model. You bring up an “obsession” or “total fascination” with a purportedly unfashionable subject. . . . “Dude, you want to hit an In-N-Out burger? I basically live on their Protein Burgers when I’m in LA.” This is a way of whipping out cultural capital [to say], “I love the things I love because I am guided by some untamed voice within me that causes me to have random obsessions. I will follow my individualized obsessions, not trends, and be transparent about those obsessions, even when those obsessions tell me to like things widely considered ugly and cheap.” It’s the cultural capital of quirk. (123–124)

So I admit it: I have unknowingly implemented this technique. My own hand incriminates me, and my blog keeps account. These fake nerd conversations center upon words and grammar and punctuation. Before launching into my passionate discourses about the English language, I admit my nerdiness in an attempt to acknowledge the oddity. Like all nerds, I assume my interest in language is now perceived as quirky, not bizarre, so I continue discussing my random obsession.

I am guilty of fake nerd conversation.

Now I’m wondering: Is this post just another version of the fake nerd conversation? I talk about my nerdiness to offset my nerdiness that talks about nerdy things . . . oh, boy.

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