But Actually ...
The exact definition of the word "nerd" has always been a point of contention, but we can probably assume it has roots in '80s pop culture somewhere, right? Actually, try the '50s, and try children's author Dr. Seuss, whose book If I Ran the Zoo includes the first known appearance of the word. And it didn't refer to a mathematically inclined poindexter, but to an angry-looking imaginary creature:
"Wearing no pants is a choice I must do to prevent wedgies from Things 1 and 2."
Yes, the same guy who came up with animals such as the wumbus, the flunnel, and the floob-boober-bab-boober-bub is responsible for the nerd as well. The only difference is that nobody debates the definition of any of those other things.
How exactly this Seussian animal became the catch-all term for some bespectacled know-it-all is anyone's guess, but the word came into vogue right after Seuss' book was published, so popular opinion is that pop culture probably caught onto it as a neat four-letter word that was easily transformed into a ubiquitous insult. Still, doesn't that guy look like he's just aching to tell you all about how you're wrong about the latest episode of Game of Thrones? Or how your position on the debate between string theory and loop quantum gravity is all upside down? Shit, in an alternate universe where humans are Muppets, he could have been a character on the Big Bang Theory.
"Tricking Out" Your Stuff Dates Back to the 1800s
If you're going to "trick out" your car, it's only a less gangster way of saying that you're "pimping your ride" -- that is, adding a bunch of garish shit to make it stylish. It sounds like hip-hop slang from the '90s that filtered into the mainstream to the point that we're now talking about how to "trick out" our goddamned iPhones.
Which is sadly a step up from our goddamn genitals.
But Actually ...
Try 1823. And yes, it definitely followed the current meaning of ornamenting something excessively, specifically for the purpose of getting laid. The first man to use the term "trick out" was author, poet, advocate, and judge Sir Walter Scott. In his letters dated between 1821 and 1823, Scott apparently felt that he was lacking a certain panache, especially when it came to everything about him.
"I have so little that is fanciful or poetical about my own individu [sic] that I must trick out my dwelling with something fantastical otherwise the Coerulean Nymphs and swains will hold me nothing worth."
"And I tire of me having to hold me."
Now, we're not exactly experts on 19th century poets, so we're not totally sure, but we think this may be the first ever episode of MTV's Cribs. He's even referring to his "tricked out" house as the best way to impress his friends, although we're awfully glad that his term for "ladies" didn't catch on in modern slang. This is the earliest published example of someone "tricking out" his possessions in terms of adding bling to them, although "bling" isn't exactly the term that he used. Presumably, though, this letter was followed up with another entry declaring, "And then I'm going to pimp the shit out of mine buggy, verily."
So if there's one lesson that's become apparent here, it's that words move in and out of fashion in the English language, sometimes over the course of centuries. Of course, that also means that, somewhere in the distant but foreseeable future, teenagers might start using "fo' shizzle" again with a completely straight face.
But at least we'll all be dead by then.
Brenna Crotty is a nerd in most senses of the word at NerdyTVRants.com. She also supports the use of satirical humor in music with her brother's album, Broseph.
And be sure to check out 33 Useful Words the English Language Needs to Add and expand your vocabulary.
Related Reading: While we're on the subject of ridiculous slang, have you heard the wondrous Australian term 'flat out like a lizard drunk'? And did you know the term tip used to mean paying a man not to beat you? Oh, and the term 'OMG' was invented by an elderly British admiral.