Nerd, Dorks, Dr. Seuss, and I got an A+

Did you know that Dr. Seuss is credited with inventing the word nerd? I didn't know this; I discovered it last night while perusing my dictionary, something I like to do. (I think it was Steven Wright who said he reads the dictionary because he figures all the books he wants to read are in there.) Standard advice for writers is to avoid using slang because it becomes dated; remember when everyone was saying, "She's a Betty, she's a Veronica"? Then there's that really dated stuff like groovy, outta sight, and far out (or "farm out," as my friend K. likes to say). Watch The Brady Bunch and you'll hear all of these.

Some words resist the sands of time. I feel safe using the word "cool," which has been in use since at least the 1930s. Other words with staying power: dork (1967), uptight (1934), jock (1963), and nerd (1951).

Nerds have excellent characteristics, according to all the dictionaries I read this morning. They are intellectual, possess above-average IQs, and are single-minded and accomplished at technical and scientific pursuits--who wouldn't want to be a nerd? How did this word come to mean an awkward person, a socially inept dork--a loser? I picture a guy with thick black glasses; you probably see the same guy, he's such a stereotype.

In any case, when I read the etymology of nerd, I mistakenly thought it referred to my favorite book from the Cat in the Hat line, Put Me In the Zoo. I loved this book when I was a kid. In second grade, I wrote a passionate book report lauding the pathos and conflict in the story. I even illustrated my report:



Now I know what you're all thinking: How can I get Danette to illustrate all my books? Well, my friends, I hung up my drawing sticks after a serious mishap involving off-brand crayons. (You know what I'm talking about--when your mom thinks you won't notice the difference and she buys those store brand crayons and it's like drawing with candles--all wax, no color.)

Going back to the book report, here's what the teacher wrote:



Second grade, people! (And did you notice my really good cursive?) I have a single-minded pursuit--writing. I love it. I am a nerd. And I am not ashamed.

17 comments:

Christy Lenzi said...

Viva la nerds! I'd never heard that Dr. Seuss was the genius behind the term, either. He was such a Veronica.

Danette Haworth said...

Haha! Yes, he was!

Kathleen Frassrand said...

Great post! I am a geek and a nerd! It is so funny how words change over the years. It used to be that geek was not a good thing to be. Now, true geekdom is admired. Thank goodness. I think I am finally in fashion! WooHoo!

BTW - absolutely LOVE your drawing. Nice work!

Decaf, please said...

No, I didn't know about "nerd" and Dr. Seuss. How cool. Very nice drawing.

Danette Haworth said...

Kathleen,

Welcome, fellow nerd/geek! Geekdom is definitely THE fashion--heavy rectangular glasses are all the rage!

Decaf,
Yes, I found the word origin interesting as well. I remember reading that "Vanessa" wasn't a name until a writer made it up for his play.

And the second-grade me thanks both of you for saying nice things about my drawing!

Anonymous said...

Great picture!!! ;)

Lilfix said...

Danette...

Great drawing and what great cursive...Did you really know you wanted to be a writer at that young an age...

I use to have to "fake" my "A's"...I couldn't even tell you how many "F's" ended up "A's" before getting the report card home to mom and dad...grin...

I'm an ol' south paw, so my handwriting looks like something from outer space at times...grin...

Danette Haworth said...

I always wanted to be a writer. Hence the volumes of poetry and Peter Pan comics I created in grade school.

I also think I draw great stick men, but there's not much of a market for that.

courtney said...

You learn something new every day (if you're lucky!). I had no idea Dr. Seuss invented the word nerd but he gets 10,000+ cool points of doing so. It's weird which slang words never really age and which ones become hopelessly dated. I don't hear too many people saying 'groovy' anymore. Anyway. I wish I could see the pictures you posted!! They're showing up as a red x for me. :/ (ah the joys of the internet)

elysabeth said...

Danette,

Cool pic and great posting - I think the origin of words is just as interesting as the words we writers choose to use in our stories. Sometimes those outdated words make a comeback and sometimes they don't. They say everything in fashion comes back around every 30 years. So things popular in 1977 would be making a comeback now. Go figure -

my phrases that I use abundantly are - cool beans (heard it a while back, close to 10 years now and like it), no way, awesome (has now taken on a whole other meaning I think)- these are the ones I tend to use a lot when writing and speaking to folks. Sorry ya'll - I can't help it - oh well, see you all in the postings - E :)

courtney said...

! I can see the pictures now. Well worth the wait. :) It's so great (& your cursive was great, if mine was that readable when I was in the second grade, my teacher would've been much happier, I think).

LindaBudz said...

Nerds rule.

And, I do remember those crayons. Also the cheap chalk ... the ones that crumbled when you tried to use them. Ah, the joys of having "thrifty" parents.

Danette Haworth said...

Courtney and E,
Yes, the word origins are definitely interesting.

Courtney, I've seen your wonderful photos, so I couldn't help but smile when you said my drawing was great! Again, the second-grade Danette thanks you and believes you! Haha!

Linda,
Haha! Thrifty parents, yes, that would be the diplomatic term!

Ello said...

Cute post! I never knew about the origin of nerd. But then again, Dr. Seuss was the king of making up words. Thanks for stopping by my blog! I like yours alot! Especially it's title.

Danette Haworth said...

Thank you, Ello. Yes, Dr. Seuss was THE king of making up words. That's part of the reason he received scathing rejection letters when trying to market his first book, some kind of alphabet book. Then a friend took a chance on him and published And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street. After that, it didn't matter what the critics said about his words--people loved his work.

Ello said...

I did not know that! See, I need friends like that!

Church Lady said...

This is great!! Love the drawing! And kudos for that good grade in writing :-) All I ever did in second grade was talk.