Now that we’re all happily up to our necks in nerd shit, a former national spelling champion has returned to remind us that being a self-avowed nerd wasn’t always cool. In fact, it used to be quite uncool.
In 1999, when she was 14-years-old, Nupur Lala won the 72nd annual Scripps Spelling Bee and became the subject of 2002 documentary Spellbound (the 86th Bee is being held this week, from May 28-30). That was all pretty cool, but, after surveying the vast spellscape now, Lala told CBS News that she’s a little surprised at just how cool nerds have become because there was a day not too long ago that nerds were society’s clownish punching bags. Now, being a nerd, i.e. being smart, well-versed in comics/movies/fantasy novels/referential TV shows, is pretty much the highest thing people can aspire to.
I'm amazed at the sea change. Because when I was a speller, that was one thing you totally hid. I remember like not even wanting to tell people what I was doing over the weekend when I was competing in the regional spelling bee. It was that big of a liability. And now I see that, yeah, people want to be nerds. I think that's great.
Today’s nerds, however ubiquitous, are nowhere near as hardcore as yesteryear’s nerds. Nerding is mainstream now, which means that, pretty soon, the pendulum is going to swing in the opposite direction until nerds enter a new dark age and high school athletes finally get their time to shine.
Image via AP, Mark Wilson