"nerd" etymythology

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jul 17 17:41:03 UTC 2011

Don't take this too seriously as the comments below are really off-topic.

Something that's NOT in the OED--"Nerd" was the Anglicized name of an old
Persian backgammon-like game. Some references appear in print in the 19th
century (I found 1801-1890), but then disappears. This is not related to
"nerd", but perhaps it should be in the dictionary--the more common modern
spelling is "Nard", but OED doesn't have that either. The game is identified
in Ancient Greek histories and in the Babylonian Talmud. The rules differ
from backgammon and the game is still being played in former Soviet
territories (and perhaps elsewhere). The modern Russian name is "nardy"
which is likely derived from Georgian ([nardi]).

Another unrelated "Nerd" is a variant spelling of one of Germanic deities
(Nirð, Niörth, Nerthus, Njörðr, Njor). Thor seems to be the only Norse deity
to make the OED, although a note on Wednesday is quite extensive. Is it fair
to assume that the omissions were deliberate or are they hiding under some
very unusual spelling?

On a different note, "knur" and "knurred" may be worth looking into. But
that's just speculation, as these have been out of circulation for some


On Sun, Jul 17, 2011 at 9:36 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>wrote:

> >
> The Dr. Seuss origin seems plausible.  As for John Barry, my faith in his
> etymological prowess is somewhat compromised by his tentatively advanced
> support for a source invoking the French word “noeud” (because it’s used for
> 'a diskless node’ that occupies 'a subservient position on the net’, as well
> as meaning ‘glitch’ or ‘snag’).  The problem is with his phonology, in
> particular the claim that the French word ‘is pronounced approximately like
> a New Englander’s pronunciation of “nerd”’, which he renders as “nuud”.  I
> assume this is at best [noed] where oe is (approximately) a mid-front
> rounded vowel.  Let’s give him the vowel—the problem is that there’s no [d]
> in the French pronunciation of “noeud”, and [nø:], as a French phonetician
> would render it (that’s supposed to be a long o with a diagonal line through
> it, a lower-case empty set symbol), sounds nothing like any (New)
> Englander’s rendering of “nerd”, rhotic or non.
> LH

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list