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.
“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.