Apparently the word "nerd" is not a pejorative these days -- it is rather a compliment of the highest degree. So says my 15 yo son, who patiently explained recently that "nerd" "geek" and "dork" are not interchangeable words.
Nerd, according to him, is a label you have to earn. You have to actually be knowledgeable and smart while living and breathing science or engineering or computers. Geek is a close second, but it is more of a wannabe level. Both nerds and geeks enjoy the same gadgets but geeks can't reach nerd status without earning some cred. Dorks are just idiots -- there is no hope.
My son has been working hard on his nerd cred. He has the geek level down pat -- Rubik's Cubes, logic puzzles, World of Warcraft level 80. He loves his USB missle turret that he has programmed to target anyone who passes too close to his work space. He makes bad puns referencing Lord of the Rings.
But he is making progress towards being a bona fide nerd. He built this from a kit, which to him means any fool could do it, but I think it is pretty cool and nerdy. It is an old fashioned Pong game:
What really cemented his nerd status in my mind, though, was how much fun he was having yesterday in learning how to use his new TI 83 calculator. He spent hours with it, and was ready to move on to new math topics so he could explore new functions on the calculator. It reeks of nerdom!