About the Manual

The Nerd Manual is meant to be both a useful resource for nerds and a guide for the people involved with nerds. If you're a nerd you can find information here that will help you improve your life and perhaps better understand yourself. If you're close friends with, dating, or married to a nerd, I want to give you insight into things nerds do that a lot of people have difficulty understanding.


I hope to avoid offending anyone--either nerd or non-nerd--but please understand that the manual will get into some sensitive topics, stray into contentious territories, and even use stereotypes to illustrate points. It's OK to disagree with something, but keep your comments civil.

2015-10-18

Nerd Q&A: What's up with Nerds and Inhalers?

Retinafunk - Inhaler Street Art
Here's an astute question.
Why are nerds in movies and on TV always carrying around inhalers?

I never paid attention to this trope, even though I consider myself a nerd but never had an inhaler, and few of the nerds I've known in life had inhalers either. Based on my personal experience the inhaler=nerd stereotype isn't true, but it still strikes me as believable. Here's why:


I did have childhood asthma, and even though I didn't get an inhaler most kids with asthma do. In the 20th century, and perhaps still today, there was a correlation between asthma and nerdiness. It's not that being a nerd causes asthma, but asthma hinders a person's ability to participate in strenuous physical activities such as sports. Many of my nerdy friends had physical limitations ranging from simple lack of coordination to cerebral palsy, and while none of us had inhalers, we all gravitated toward traditionally nerdy pursuits such as reading a lot, playing tabletop or video games, and developing our mental prowess (perhaps to make up for our physical limitations).

I won't go so far as to say that not playing sports makes a person a nerd, because there are plenty of people who don't enjoy exercise who wouldn't be considered nerds. Nor does intelligence prevent a person from playing and even excelling in sports. I've known many very smart “jocks” who wouldn't be called nerds--not just because of their physique but also due to their social adeptness and lack of interest in nerdy activities. Conversely, I'm friends with plenty of athletic nerds who compete in a range of sports from distance running to Ultimate Frisbee, and also play Dungeons and Dragons and have large collections of science fiction media in their homes.

I suppose this means that stereotypes often have their origin in some form of truth, to the point that even the people they portray will embrace them, but you can't rely on them to accurately judge an entire segment of society.

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