Are the Big Bang Theory Characters Geeks or Nerds?


The Big Bang Theory features characters with scientific interest as well as interest in comic books, superheroes, Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and other things that many people would call “nerdy”.  While many people may think nothing of this description, people of the nerd and geek culture may argue that it is incorrect.  That’s right, I said nerds and geeks.  The two terms, while having many similarities, are distinctly different.  The real question is: are the characters in The Big Bang Theory nerds, or are they geeks?

The Data

While it really is hard to scientifically prove the meaning of these terms associated with geeks and nerds, software engineer Burr Settles did an experiment on Twitter that was collected from 2.6 million Tweets.  His experiment paired certain hashtags with the hashtags of nerd or geek and then did some math to sort them into a graph.  The graph shown below shows how society categorizes each of the terms.

A graph characterizing how geeky or nerdy society sees each of these words
A graph characterizing how geeky or nerdy society sees each of these words

The higher a word is, whether in blue or orange, the geekier.  The further to the right it is, the nerdier.  Blue words tend to be nerdier while orange tends to be geekier.  The words right on the edge are very close to both.  As we can see, gamer is in the upper right-hand corner, making it both very geeky and very nerdy.

The Nerd

One of the biggest characteristics of a nerd is their inclination toward academics and studies.  They typically will be well-educated and prefer to focus on achievements and acquiring information rather than accumulating things.  Knowledge and skill are highly valued to nerds.  The nerd is a practitioner.  Typically words associated with nerds include gamer, books, quieter, and Star Trek.  There is a stereotype that nerds only fall in love with other nerds, although this is hard to prove one way or another.

The Geek

A geek tends to be an enthusiast or a specialist in a specific topic or topics.  They know everything there is to know about that topic, are not afraid to talk about it, and typically focus on collecting items and memorabilia about said topic.  The newer and trendier, the better.  Geeks are known to be early adapters of new technology and tend to stay up-to-date on the latest tech news. They also tend to gravitate toward specific brands and typically talk specifically about a brand.  Unlike nerds, geeks can fall in love with anyone whether a geek, nerd or otherwise.  A fun little statistic is that 66% of millennials believe that it is a compliment to be called a geek.

Who is a Nerd and Who is a Geek?

Sheldon can be placed just slightly over the nerd line.  He is a gamer, and he loves his geeky toys.  However he is much more inclined toward Physics than his toys.

Amy we can place as a solid nerd, neuroscience being almost completely geek and not having too many geeky tendencies to sway her over.

Leonard is a geek due to his infatuation with Star Wars and the fact that he is the most social of the group, comfortable with dating Penny, who is not a nerd.

What do you think?

While the two have different distinctions, much of the time people can be both.  Which side do you identify most with?