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Sweden's nerds seek dictionary revenge

The Local · 2 Nov 2012, 14:53

Published: 02 Nov 2012 14:53 GMT+01:00

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The traditional image of a nerd having big glasses and a bad haircut has long gone in Swedish society, but not according to the dictionary.

The official dictionary of the Swedish Academy, the Svenska Akademiens Ordlista (SAOL), defines a nerd as “A simple-minded and laughable person” ('enkelspårig och löjeväckande person').

But nerds and word enthusiasts in Sweden are appalled at the categorization, and have launched an online petition to get the meaning changed in what many consider to be Sweden's de facto official dictionary.

On the online petition, dubbed Nörduppropet (‘The Nerd Manifesto’), creators have slammed the “bullshit” definition, explaining that today’s nerds are a different breed.

“A nerd is a person with strong interests. A person with enormous drive and engagement. You can be a gaming nerd, a horse nerd, a word nerd, or a study nerd,” they wrote.

“Together we can give a new meaning to the word and give us nerds the status we deserve.”

So far, 3,680 people have signed the petition, each contributing his or her own definition of the word.

The word in Swedish ‘nörd’ comes directly from the English word nerd, and has been used as far back as in the 1984 film Revenge of The Nerds, which in Swedish is called Nödrarna Kommer (‘The Nerds Are Coming’).

Meanwhile, in English, the word nerd first appeared in 1950 referring to an animal in a Dr. Seuss book. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines nerd today as "An unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person."

Back in Sweden, the petition was thought up by the Rodolfo advertising agency, and founder Ludwig Jonsson explained that the idea came after workshops with students suffering a low self-esteem.

“Many considered themselves to be nerds and we thought that they should be able to be proud about it. When we saw SAOL’s definition of the word we made the appeal to give the nerds satisfaction,” he told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper (DN).

The editor of the SAOL dictionary, meanwhile, admitted that the word had perhaps changed in meaning since it first appeared in his dictionary seven years ago.

Story continues below…

“The word’s meaning has surely changed somewhat since 2005 and has become more neutral. We’ll be looking to see if the definition needs to be changed,” editor Sven-Göran Malmgren told DN.

The next edition of the dictionary is due to be published in 2015.

TT/The Local/og

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Your comments about this article

17:00 November 2, 2012 by StephenR
Enkelspårig doesn't translate as simple minded, it translate as single-minded or one-track...
19:12 November 2, 2012 by johan rebel
If you don't like being called a nerd, change your personality or behavior instead of trying to change the meaning of the word.
21:51 November 2, 2012 by yellowbluedemocrat
So some Swedish techies borrow a word from English, decide that it doesn't fit them and then complain to the Swedish Academy that the definition in the ordlista (list of terms) doesn't fit the techies' idea of what a nerd is. StephenR (#1 above) is right in pointing out the mistranslation of "enkelspårig" in the Local article, but that's not really the problem. What's crazy is the whole idea of wanting to change the Swedish definition of an English word, when the originally imported word means pretty much what the Swedish Academy says it means. No, Ludwig Jonsson wants to fundamentally change the meaning so that it is less offensive to self-proclaimed Swedish nerds. Horse nerds? Word nerds? Study nerds? Only in Sweden! How crazy is that: import a word into Swedish because there is no suitable alternative and then petition the Swedsh Academy to change the definition to include uses that would be unrecognizable to an English speaker.
00:07 November 3, 2012 by Glorius
Well that is how languages evolves and has been since humans started talking, when enough people use a word for something new and the new definition sticks it's pretty clear that the new meaning is the one to go by.

So what's the big deal with some wanting to change the meaning of a word they feel is outdated? How does the english meaning and use of the word have any relevance to how it is used in Sweden.

In 1380, if you called someone 'nice' you'd be saying they were fussy.

1405, you'd be calling them dainty.

1500, you'd be calling them careful.

1700's you'd be using the word nice to mean aggreabe.

Aweful used to mean deserving of awe.

Brave meant cowardly.

Girl meant child of either gender

Things evovle and change over time especially languages and words.
10:16 November 3, 2012 by themoron
the moron says:

Those behind the Swedish Academy fit perfectly well into their

own definition.

Nerd is simply an intelligent but single-minded expert in a particular technical field or profession

expert - a person with special knowledge or ability who performs skillfully" from The Free Dictionary.

I was a nerd at school but I was the best student of all the non-nerds.

Now, what is the problem? They want the "Academy" to change its definition of the word?, good for them.
18:58 November 3, 2012 by Flygger
NERD - Not Even Remotely Dorkey
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