2015年考研暑假必读文章:Who's a Nerd, Anyway?

来源:新东方 2019-03-28

Who's a Nerd, Anyway?

What is a nerd? Mary Bucholtz, a linguist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has been working on the question for the last 12 years. She has gone to high schools and colleges, mainly in California, and asked students from different crowds to think about the idea of nerdiness and who among their peers should be considered a nerd; students have also "reported" themselves. Nerdiness, she has conducted, is largely a matter of racially tinged behavior. People who are considered nerds tend to act in ways that are, as she puts it, "hyperwhite".

While the word "nerd" has been used since the 1950s, its origin remains elusive. Nerds, however, are easy to find everywhere. Being a nerd has become a widely accepted and even proud identity, and nerds have carved out a comfortable niche in popular culture; "nerdcore" rappers, who wear pocket protectors and write paeans to computer routing devicesare in vogue, and TV networks continue to run shows with titles likeBeauty and the Geek". As a linguist, Bucholtz understands nerdiness first and foremost as a way of using language. In a 2001 paper, “The Whiteness of Nerds: Superstandard English and Racial Markedness'', and other works, including a book in progress, Bucholtz notes that the "hegemonic" "cool white" kids use a limited amount of African-American vernacular English; they may sayblood" in lieu of "friend," or drop theginplaying”.

But the nerds she has interviewed, mostly white kids, punctiliously adhere to Standard English. They often favor Greco-Latinate words over Germanic ones ("it's my observation" instead of "I think”),a preference that lends an air of scientific detachment. They're aware they speak distinctively and they use language as a badge of membership in their cliques. One nerd girl Bucholtz observed performed a typically nerdy feat when asked to discuss "blood" as a slang term; she replied: “B-I-O-O-D. The word is blood," evoking the format of a spelling bee. She went on, "That's the stuff which is inside of your veins," humorously using a literal definition Nerds are not simply victims of the prevailing social codes about what's appropriate and what's cool; they actively shape their own identities and put those codes in question.

Though Bucholtz uses the termhyperwhite" to describe nerd language in particular, she claims that the "symbolic resources of an extreme whiteness" can be used elsewhere. After all, trends in music, dance, fashion, sports and language in a variety of youth subcultures are often traceable to an African-American source, but unlike the styles of cool European American students, in nerdiness, African-American culture and language do not play even a covert role. Certainly, "hyperwhite" seems a good word for the sartorial choices of paradigmatic nerds. While a stereotypical black youth, from the zoot-suit era through the bling years, wears flashy clothes, chosen for their aesthetic value, nerdy clothing is purely practical: pocket protectors, belt sheaths for gadgets, short shorts for excessive heat, etc. Indeed, "hyperwhite" works as a description for nearly everything we intuitively associate with nerds, which is why Hollywood has long traded in jokes that try to capitalize on the emotional dissonance of nerds acting black (Eugene Levy saying, "You got me straight trippin, boo”) and black people being nerds(the characters Urkel and Carlton in the sitcoms "Family Matters" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”).

By cultivating an identity perceived as white to the point of excess, nerds deny themselves the aura of normality that is usually one of the perks of being white. Bucholtz sees something to admire here. In declining to appropriate African-American youth culture, thereby "refusing to exercise the racial privilege upon which white youth cultures are founded," she writes, nerds may even be viewed as "traitors to whiteness." You might say they know that a culture based on theft is a culture not worth having. On the other hand, the code of conspicuous intellectualism in the nerd cliques Bucholtz observed may shut out "black students who chose not to openly display their abilities.” This is especially disturbing at a time when African-American students can be stigmatized by other African-American students if they're too obviously diligent about school .Even more problematic, "Nerds' dismissal of black cultural practices often led them to discount the possibility of friendship with black students," even if the nerds were involved in political activities like protesting against the dismantling of affirmative action in California schools. If nerdiness, as Bucholtz suggests, can be a rebellion against the cool white kids and their use of black culture, its a rebellion with a limited membership.


elusive /iiju:siv/

【大纲全义】adj.最先的;最初的;主要的 adv.首要的


【大纲全义】v. (to)黏着;坚持,遵宁;依附,追随



feat /fi:t/



【大纲全义】n.血管;静脉;叶脉;纹理;情绪 v.使成脉络


aesthetic / i:s'θetik /

tinged adj.有些许的 rapper n.交谈者 paean n.凯歌
vogue n.时髦 vernacular n.本国语 clique n.集团
bling n.绚丽的珠宝 sheath n.外皮 dissonance n.不一致


但是她所采访的书呆子大多数都是来自美国白人家庭的孩子,而且一丝不苟地坚持使用标准英语。相对于日耳曼语系的单词他们往往更青睐古典拉丁文字(用it's my observation取代I think),这种偏爱导致了学术分离。他们意识到他们的发音与众不同,而且他们还将语言作为进人群体身份的象征。一个接受布霍尔特兹研究的书呆子女生曾表演了一个典型的书呆子壮举,当她被要求去讨论俚语中的“blood”时,她答道:“B-L-O-O-D。这个单词就是“blood”。从而引发了一场拼字比赛。她幽默地使用单词的字面含义继续说:“这就是你身体血管中流淌着的液体。”盛行的社会准则规定什么是受欢迎的,什么是不受欢迎的,书呆子不仅仅只是这些准则的受害者,而且他们还积极塑造自我形象并质疑这些社会准则。