All About Nerds

Step 1

First take this true/false test to see if you have an understanding of nerds. Guess if you are not sure.  Discuss.

______ 1.  Nerds like books or computers, possibly both.
______ 2.  Nerds bump into things and are uncoordinated.
______ 3.  Nerds are cool.
______ 4.  Attractive and popular girls love nerds.
______ 5.  Girls can be nerds.
______ 6.  Nerds would prefer to stay at home and play a video game than go to a really cool jazz club.
______ 7.  Nerds never win.

Step 2. Audio One. What’s a Nerd?

Listen/read to the text, it will supply the answers.

Key (the text):

Chances are, if you watch American films or TV, or if you have any interest in contemporary American mythology, you will run across the word nerd. Nerds are usually, but not always, teens and students. Classic nerd films include Revenge of the NerdsThe Nutty Professor, and Weird Science. Nerds are actually a new type of hero.

So how do we identify a nerd? How do we spot them?

For starters, nerds love computers. Oh, yes. They love computers and electronics, and generally get excited about technical things that most people find really boring. They even like books! Nerds are smart. Very smart. They get good grades.

But they’re clumsy. Nerds bump into things, drop things, are uncoordinated. They’re awkward and bungling, slight or scrawny. Sometimes their socks don’t match. They carry pens in their shirt pockets. They usually wear glasses.

Glasses. Not sunglasses. Which means they are definitely not cool. Their idea of a good time is playing computer games or doing math homework. No way would they go out somewhere like a jazz club. Jazz is cool. If a nerd did like jazz he would need to be nerdy about it, like obsessively collecting old records that no one else cared about (just like Seymour, a 40-year-old nerd in the film Ghost World.)

Nerds have no sense of fashion either. They look funny. They are physically weak. Nerds may think that being a nerd is cool, but other people don’t, especially jocks. Jocks are athletes, the popular guys at the school. They look down upon nerds, who are not at all athletic, and in films jocks can usually be found humiliating a nerd in front of the girl he likes. A popular 1984 film called Revenge of the Nerds showed the triumph of high school nerds over their enemies, the jocks. In this case, the nerds even get the girls.

Generally though, pretty girls don’t go for nerds. Although nerds are book-smart, they are not socially smart. In fact, they have no social skills at all. They simply do not know how to talk to attractive young women.

That is not to say that girls can’t be nerds. It doesn’t happen as often, but it’s possible. To be a nerd, a girl just needs to be smart, computer literate, unpopular, clumsy, and not pretty – UNLESS her prettiness is not yet realized. That is, we can’t see how pretty she is because she wears hideous glasses, no make-up, and clothes that don’t match. While the nerd boy always remains physically nerdy, even when he triumphs, the nerd girl can blossom into a pretty young woman.

Yes, the nerd often triumphs, because he is smart (think of Bill Gates). Nerds are underdogs: unlikely to win, but that’s what makes us root for them. The underdog is an important concept in America: the little guy, the individual, the one who succeeds through hard work against the odds. That’s why we side with nerds. We like to see them get a pretty girl because the possibility is so remote.

And besides, we know deep down that the nerd is a good, decent guy.

Step 3. Audio Two. Nerds in Love Dialog

Though it is said that opposites attract, sometimes a male nerd is attracted to a female nerd, as is the case in the dialog below. The setting is the high school cafeteria.

Eavesdrop on the following dialog and answer these questions.

1. What are their names?
2. What’s Mary Ann studying?
3. Does she have a chemistry class?
4. What kind of pencil does Mary Ann have?
5. What does Albert have a humongous (huge) box of?
6. What does he invite Mary Ann to do?

Key (the text):

Albert: Hey, what are you doing? Eating your lunch?
Mary Ann: I’m studying my chemistry.
Albert: Oh, you’re taking chemistry?
Mary Ann: No.
Albert: Oh. Hey, Mary Ann.
Mary Ann: What?
Albert: I like your pencil. What kind is it?
Mary Ann: It’s a Number Two. I’ve got a whole bunch of them.
Albert: Wow. Hey, Mary Ann, I was wondering… um… um… if…
Mary Ann: What, Albert?
Mary Ann: Hey, I’ve got a humongous box of old computer parts in my garage. I was wondering if you want to build a robot or something.

Step 4

Interview a partner and get his/her opinion on the following questions. Be prepared to report the answers to the whole class.

1. Do you have nerds in your country?

2. Are you nerd yourself? A total nerd? A little bit nerdy? Explain any nerdy qualities you have. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Do you study every day for hours? That’s a nerdy thing in itself.

3. Do you know anybody who’s a little nerdy? Who? Describe their nerdy qualities.

4. State the positive and negative things about being a nerd.


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