However, with all the to-do that's been made of this past Saturday's event, I found one aspect a bit odd. Journalists and others are referring to it as the "nerd prom". While I may be making this into a bigger issue than it is - even after saying that the evening doesn't really matter - I'd like to pick on that title. The term "nerd" has some specific connotations in our society. Let's turn to the all-knowing Wikipedia:
Nerd is a derogatory slang term for a person typically described as socially-impaired, obsessive, or overly intellectual. They may spend inordinate amounts of time on unpopular or obscure activities, pursuits, or interests, which are generally either highly technical, or relating to topics of fiction or fantasy, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities. Other nerdy qualities include physical awkwardness, introversion, quirkiness, and unattractiveness. Thus, a nerd is often excluded from physical activity and is a social outsider. In the stereotypical high-school situation, they may be either considered loners by others, or they tend to associate with a small group of like-minded people.
Hmmm, maybe it's not far off in this case. Maybe these folks are "socially-impaired" or "obsessive". In many cases, they do "spend inordinate amounts of time on unpopular or obscure activities" but they generally aren't about highly technical topics so maybe it's the topics of "fiction or fantasy" upon which they focus. Clearly the comparison could go on...but I jest. Sort of.
Nerds, in the American stereotypical sense, are the smart, awkward geeks that tend to focus on computers and electronics or comic books or science fiction and fantasy. They rarely are epitomized as role models. So why would these folks label it as such and use Twitter hashtags like #NerdProm to tag tweets about the event? Maybe they aren't creative enough to come up with a better nickname (although one might ask why "Correspondents' Dinner" or "White House Correspondents' Dinner" doesn't suffice...heck #WHCD was a popular hashtag for the event giving folks 4 more characters in their tweets). Of course, that doesn't bode well for the professional reporters because as we all know - a good headline makes or breaks an article.
Personally, I think nerds - real nerds: programmers, scientists, RPGers, etc. - should call them out on this. Retake and own the #nerd tag and its subsidiaries. The WHCD is no #NerdProm. You want to see a #NerdProm? Have a dinner-dance after the next BlackHat conference or the evening event at the next ComicCon or DragonCon. Speaking as a nerd, we shouldn't let the White House, the press corps or Hollywood abscond with this term. Go use #PolitProm or something else.
* For those who don't get the nerd humor - Wolf B and Chris M, I'm looking at you - click here.