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A glossary of geek, from nerdrage to fandom

What's this called? Read on...
What's this called? Read on...
Danielle Lirette

Like any subculture, geek culture has its own terminology. A lot of it is self-explanatory, but some of it requires some foreknowledge or insight to really understand. Naturally, most geeks reading this will have that terminology on lockdown, but for the merely geek-curious, it can all be a bit confusing. In hopes of clearing up at least some of that confusion -- there's a lot of geek slang out there, and covering it all would be impossible -- a glossary of geek speak seemed in order. Read on, and learn to speak the language of my people.

See also: There are no fake geeks! Welcome, all self-proclaimed nerds!

Geek/Nerd: Most people agree the terms are interchangeable and have a mild, largely arbitrary preference for one or the other. A small, but militant, group of nerds and geeks will tell you they are most definitely not interchangeable, even though none of them can agree on the difference. If you find yourself in the presence of one of these people, it's best to just express mild agreement with whichever definition they prefer, lest they spend the next hour passionately trying to convince you they're right.

Fandom: A term for any grouping of geeks based on what they like, such as Dr. Who or role-playing games. It's possible, almost inevitable, to belong to multiple fandoms, and for them to overlap or even contain one another (e.g. Star Trek fandom is a subset of science-fiction fandom). Also the collective noun for geeks, as in, "Hey, look, it's a fandom of geeks next to that herd of cows. One of them will be able to lend us a ten-sided die."

Fanboy/Fangirl: Someone whose love for a specific fandom has reached a level of irrational exuberance and/or blind allegiance. Be careful expressing criticism of whatever their favorite thing is or they may become agitated, even violent, and/or force you to engage in a marathon session of that activity to "show you what you're missing." Actually, be careful of praising it, too, for basically the same reasons.

Keep reading for more key geek terms  

Let the nerdrage flow!
Let the nerdrage flow!

Nerdrage: The explosive, incoherent anger of a geek, frequently directed at perceived disrespect of one of their fandoms. Nerdrage is especially likely when that perceived disrespect comes in the form of a mainstream reboot or remake of the thing they love (e.g. Michael Bay's Transformers movies sent old-school Transformers fanboys into spasms of nerdrage). Frequently expressed in vitriolic, hyperbolic screeds on Reddit (see below) or elsewhere online.

Reddit: The favored social network of many geeks, it's basically a giant link exchange. Sure, much like Mos Eisley, the place is a wretched hive of scum and villainy, but it's also a great place to keep up with the latest on whatever your flavor of fandom is, to indulge in periodic fits of nerdrage and share your love with others with the same interests. Surely being exposed to the worst the Internet has to offer is a small price to pay for that?

Cosplay: A subset of fandom dedicated to dressing up as characters from their favorite pop-culture media. You'll see dozens, even hundreds, of them at any con (see below), representing everything from Spider-Man to obscure characters from twenty-year-old fighting games. Some cosplayers are living monuments to the work they put into their costumes, showing off incredibly convincing and elaborate outfits correct even down to the smallest details. Others just have the confidence to pull off "Fat Wolverine" in a borrowed unitard and some toy-store claws.

Con: Short for convention, a con is a large gathering of nerds. Some focus on one or a few areas of fandom, others cover many, or even most of them. All of them offer a range of activities such as cosplay, gaming and panels on various elements of fandom. It's kind of like Coachella, only for people who play Dungeons & Dragons (to name just one example) instead of Pitchfork readers. Also, usually a lot less drugs and public nudity. Usually.

Find me on Twitter, where I tweet about geeky stuff and waste an inordinate amount of time: @casciato.



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