The question of whether or not there's a word for "nerd" in Chinese has recently come up, in Mark Liberman's "'Your passport has just been stamped for entry into the Land of Bullshit'".
Mark quotes Tom Scocca, who cites three terms: fáwèi de rén 乏味的人 ("a dull and tasteless person"), diànnǎomí 电脑迷 ("someone excessively enthusiastic about computers"), and shūdāizi 书呆子 ("bookworm; pedant").
But none of these expressions comes close to functioning the way "nerd" does in contemporary American society. The first, fáwèi de rén, is a makeshift, ad hoc dictionary definition that explains a small part of what "nerd" signifies, but is not a set term that has the social-intellectual resonance and reach of "nerd". The second, diànnǎomí, is simply incorrect as even a translation of "nerd", since some people have called me a nerd, but I am absolutely terrified of computers (all of my good friends know that very well), though it might serve as a partial definition-explanation of "geek" (more about that below). The third, shūdāizi, is often invoked as a Chinese functional equivalent of "nerd", but even many of the people who mention it do so a bit sheepishly and admit that it's not really the same thing as "nerd", whereas most people (myself included) will say that it's not even remotely equivalent to "nerd".
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