The Other N-Word

I have a problem with some words. Word’s that are pejoratives outside of certain circles while badges of honor with-in those specific circles. Like “The N-Word” for people of color. If one person of color calls another the “N-Word” then in most cases it’s a term of endearment. If a white person uses the “N-Word” then that person’s way of life or personal well-being can be destroyed.

Just ask Paula Dean.

Then there’s the other “N-Word.” Nerd.

If my fellow nerds call me our “N-Word,” it’s like a badge of honor. If a non-nerd calls me our “N-Word,” it’s a pejorative.
If I’m talking to you guys about how I’m taking my father-in-law’s discarded XP machine and gutting it of optical drives and cables and putting them in my Gateway 7210 server to optimize it’s original potential before I install Windows Server 2003 and hook it up to the local network so I can install SCSI drives in the Hot-Swap Bay’s and dedicate each one to different clients and/or projects MAYBE I might have earned the mantle of “geek” or “nerd” in a positive way, but only from my fellow computer aficionados.
If I was a 17 year old loser and weighted 98 pound at 5’8” and I tell you about the Star Trek convention when I met this nerdy girl and how I got to third base (she let me hold her hand while telling me what was her favorite episode of The Original Series) then maybe I might have it coming as a put-down.

It’s all about who’s using the word, in what context and what our established relationship is; A stranger who calls me a “geek” or a “nerd” because “I’m good with computers” might be in for a fight or heated argument.
What got me started was a post on a Facebook group that I belonged to when a woman was soliciting free work by saying; “I was wondering if some geek or nerd type would like to do a sort of …” doesn’t even matter what the rest of the request was because she lost me. To call a true, professional graphic designer a geek or a nerd and not a graphic designer is cause for concern. If she doesn’t respect you as a true craftsman then there’s no way in hell she’s going to appreciate the craftsmanship of the finished product.

My response; “Gee… No. I’m sorry I’m not a geek or nerd type. I’m a graphic designer with my own equipment and software. Darn… Good luck with your search.”

I can’t see myself working with this woman regardless of how deep her pockets are and how green her greenbacks are. To ask someone to work for them while calling that person or nerd or a geek right off the bat isn’t any different than going to a diner and saying to one of the waitresses behind the counter: “I’m wondering if some bitch or whore type could fetch me a menu.”

Don’t be surprised if someone urinates in your coffee mug before you’re served.
There are some words of endearment that belong just to those groups, and those same words can be used to demonize, diminish or erode someone’s sense of self. Nobody gets to call my sister a bitch except her friends and family because it’s a term of endearment and we all know how bossy she can get. Call my sister a bitch when you don’t even know her… we’ll have words out in the parking lot.

I can’t believe that in this day and age, in the age of political correctness I have to spell it out to some people that there’s some behavior that’s unacceptable. There are some people who have worked too hard in their professions to be called certain things; to call the plumber fixing your sink or the mechanic fixing your breaks a “wrench monkey” is begging someone to do a half-assed job. Or worse, that “wrench monkey” might knock out some of your front teeth with whatever tool he has in his hand at the time.

I’ve worked too hard to become a graphic designer to have some old bat call me a “nerd or geek type” while she’s soliciting pro-bono work. I’ve worked too hard to become a graphic designer to do work for free, period. I would like to think that I’m at the point where I can command a little more respect and a lot more money for what I do.