4.0075 Nerds (59)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Sat, 19 May 90 19:14:35 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0075. Saturday, 19 May 1990.

(1) Date: Fri, 18 May 90 10:48 CDT (6 lines)
From: Michael Ossar <MLO@KSUVM>
Subject: ... [eds] nerds

(2) Date: Friday, 18 May 1990 03:17:55 EDT (7 lines)
From: "Patrick W. Conner" <U47C2@WVNVM>
Subject: ... [eds] Nerds

(3) Date: Fri, 18 May 90 09:30:39 CDT (23 lines)
From: GA0708@SIUCVMB
Subject: dating of "nerds"

(4) Date: Fri, 18 May 90 14:19:03 EDT (23 lines)
From: Richard Ristow <AP430001@BROWNVM>
Subject: Nerd: A citation c. 1960

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 18 May 90 10:48 CDT
From: Michael Ossar <MLO@KSUVM>
Subject: sneaking into bedrooms and nerds

... [eds] On nerds (albeit not in American lit.) we should not omit the
arch nerd of all time, Casaubon in Middlemarch.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------15----
Date: Friday, 18 May 1990 03:17:55 EDT
From: "Patrick W. Conner" <U47C2@WVNVM>
Subject: 4.0064 A Glom and some Nerds (98)

NERD as in nerd of glue is a back-formation or clipping from nerdle, a
dialect variant of nodule. This is great fun. Barry, where is NERD
attested in 1968?
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------28----
Date: Fri, 18 May 90 09:30:39 CDT
From: GA0708@SIUCVMB
Subject: dating of "nerds"

I am ashamed to add more to this incredibly idle chatter on the subject
of nerds, but what the hell . . . . I cannot attest to when the word
first came into usage, but I can declare with absolute certitude that it
did not exist in our language (at least in the northeast U.S.) in 1954
or so. When I was an undergraduate at Cornell University, there was a
fraternity whose only requirement for membership it would seem was
"nerdiness." (They rushed me.) Being subject to the influence of
others, I of course declined to join. However, what we called the
members of this fraternity, and any like them, was "turkeys." Believe
me, if the word "nerd" had been available, we would never have defamed
the "bird." By the way, does anyone want to comment on the
transformation of the word "dork"? One last comment on nerds in
American literature. To Jim Halporn, on his observation about my
candidate for nerds in literature. Whatever Tertan was in "Of this
Time, Of that Place," the initial image we have of him as he enters
Howe's class is, I believe, that of a nerd. Certainly, every student in
the class, had the word been then available, would have thought "nerd."
Herb Donow Southern Illinois University

(4) --------------------------------------------------------------26----
Date: Fri, 18 May 90 14:19:03 EDT
From: Richard Ristow <AP430001@BROWNVM>
Subject: Nerd: A citation c. 1960

Let me date myself, betray my origins, and otherwise get into trouble.
I recall the protagonist of a Hamburg Show (the annual student-produced
burlesque) at Swarthmore College c. 1960 was named Millard Fillmore Nerd
and was a 'nerd' in something resembling, but not identical to, the
present colloquial sense. That is, he was an essentially harmless
individual of no personality, "never getting below a C -- never getting
above a C, either" (for a modern nerd, "A" is more likely); less
self-important than Ichabod Crane, less frustrated than Walter Mitty, a
harmless nothing. (The modern nerd is more likely to have developed the
absence of personality into a particular kind of vivid personality.) If
I'm right, this clearly antedates Happy Days; it is consistent with
Suess as originator, but I join in doubting that. I do not believe the
Swarthmore use could be the word's origin; it seems to have been used as
a term already well understood for such persons.

I know this show by hearsay only, and have no documentation. Any
Humanists at Swarthmore who could check it out in the library's
Swarthmoreana collection? It would almost have to have been in 1959,
1960 or 1961.