So You’re A Nerd… Thoughts of An Expert’s Deskmate

Today I want to talk to you about nerds*.

I was eating lunch with several colleagues (almost all PhDs in some sort of biomedical science) and one mentioned a moose (for the life of me, I can’t remember the context). When I used the word “meese” to describe more than one moose, everyone laughed.

“Is that a word? Meese?” Someone asked.

“I don’t know, but I like it**,” I responded. “I love plural forms of words.”

That profession was accompanied by another round of laughter and some weird looks. “I’m a different kind of nerd than all of you,” I said.

This got me thinking. The idea of a “nerd” is so comparable to the technical concept of a “subject matter expert” (SME). Often people use phrases like “I’m a science nerd” or “I’m a Lord of the Rings nerd” or even “I’m a weight-lifting nerd.” For me, I am a word-nerd (This word combination also rhymes. I love rhymes and alliteration, further solidifying my status as a word-nerd.).

Depending on the subjects you’ve studied extensively – whether in the form of an intense PhD program in science or a lifelong obsession with various Lord of the Rings media, you’ll likely consider yourself an SME, a nerd.

I think this is particularly interesting because as kids, if you were a “nerd,” that was a bad thing. You weren’t cool. But I think having a PhD in foods and nutrition is awesome. I think having (both!) an MS in in food policy and nutrition and an MPH in health communications is so impressive. And I think poring over extended editions of Lord of the Rings DVDs and re-reading long, detailed fantasy novels is inspiring. I love nerds because you can learn all sorts of things from them, and the information is delivered so enthusiastically because as nerds, we love the things we know a lot about.

*Note: I wasn’t sure where this post was going to go when I started, but in recent months/years I’ve realized that I am a particularly introspective and inquisitive person. And because this is my blog, I can post all the musings about the world that I want to! Ha!

**Note: The plural form of “moose” is just “moose.” A blog post from Oxford Dictionaries points out the obvious association between goose/geese and moose/meese, so why does the goose/geese rule not apply to moose/meese? The same blog post explains that because “moose” is a “loanword” (taken from the Native American Algonquian language and adpated into English in the early 17th century by British settlers of North America), the plural ending of the noun is identical to the single form. Loanwords either follow this trend, take the standard plural ending (add an “s”), or adopt the plural ending of its original language.

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