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Summary Article: Nerd from Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

A term of insult for someone thought odd or unprepossessing in some way, or lacking in social skills; also, someone with an obsessive and meticulous interest in some activity or hobby. The word, which emerged in the USA around 1950, is of uncertain origin. It may have been inspired by the name of a character invented by the US children's author Dr SEUSS (Theodore Geisl):

And then, just to show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo

And Bring Back an It-Kutch, a Preep and a Proo,

A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too!

If I Ran the Zoo 1950

It came to the fore in US college slang and among surfers and hot-rodders in the late 1960s.

© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2012

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