You may have noticed I often use "geek" and "nerd" interchangeably throughout my column -- it's mostly for convenience, since saying "nerd" and "nerdy" multiple times per sentence can get kind of redundant.

Trust me, there is definitely a difference between geeks and nerds. And since many of you have been asking me to explain it, I'm going to try my hand at doing just that.

Last week, I defined a "nerd" as someone who is super-passionate about something. Anything. They also usually have a pretty broad range of interests and are more interested in the general ideas and concepts behind their obsession(s) of choice.

A geek, on the other hand, gets way more technical about his passions. Geeks need to know every single intricate detail of something, and they love it. Geeks are more inclined to make things or take apart and rebuild them. For example, looking at the source code for a website is a matter of geekery, but so is being a mechanic.

This attention to technicality and details is why most geeks end up in more technical fields, like engineering and programming. A computer geek is nerdy in that she is passionate about computers, but what makes her a geek is that she is way more interested in the miniscule elements of their functioning than a regular ol' computer nerd.


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But like nerds, geeks can come from all backgrounds. They belong all over campus, not just in the Engineering Center. To better understand what I mean, let's look at a case of nerd vs. geek from the art history world.

I am super nerdy about Jacques-Louis David, a French painter who was originally a revolutionary and later became Napoleon's official court painter. I could spend hours talking your ear off about the messages of David's work, his role in Neoclassicism, and so forth. But someone super geeked-out on David would be able to tell you what kind of paint he used and why, or what dates he painted each of his works, or the names of the people in David's depiction of Napoleon's coronation.

Whether someone is super geeky about cars, paint varieties or computers, geeks' attention to detail helps make the world more intricate and interesting. Geeks are the ones who spend months working on their Comic Con cosplays, who invent the coolest new technologies, and who brew the most interesting beers. I may not be a geek, but I sure am thankful they exist.

Jessica Ryan is a senior media studies major at CU. She writes about nerdy things once a week for the Colorado Daily. On Twitter: @JessicaLRyan.