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Q:

What, if anything, is the difference between a wonk, a geek, a nerd and an anorak?

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Terry Norman, Ammanford, Wales • In the US there are significant differences between these words. A "wonk" is an expert on a practical matter, especially in government, as in "policy wonk". A "nerd" is knowledgeable about arcane matters such as science and computers but has social skills. A "geek" is a nerd with no social skills. Bill Gates was a notorious geek, with unwashed hair and ugly clothes. Now he has an attractive wife and gives away money by the the carload. He's now a nerd. In the US, anorak is a rarely used word for a pullover parka. The word isn't used to identify trainspotters (called "railfans") and their like. David Null, Claremont, California, USA • In the underrated Robertson Davies' book 'Fifth Business' one of the characters spends time in a romanticised circus, where a 'geek' is an uncivilised person in the 'freakshow' given to biting off chicken's heads and the like. Michael Clark, Bristol, UK • In the 1947 film "Nightmare Alley", the Geek is a kind of freakshow ... more
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