Star Trek Taxonomy

Trekkie or Trekker? Does it matter? What’s the scoop? SFX blogger Laura McConnell looks at the age-old Trek fan nomenclature debate

The other day, the official Star Trek Twitter account ( @StarTrek ) posed that age-old question: “Are you a Trekkie or a Trekker?” I answered an immediate “Trekkie.” I’ve always preferred that term, but I’d never really thought about why, and my curiosity about this drove me to look into this nomenclature phenomenon a bit more. What I learned was interesting, if not quite what Mister Spock would call “fascinating.”

On one hand, there is a bit of bias in the fandom against “Trekkies.” This word seems to be associated with 40-year-old single men who live in their mom’s basements and never see the light of day. These mythological fellows know every line of dialogue from every Trek series. Star Trek is their life in every way. They carry their obsession more than a bit too far. According to many internet sites I found, that’s a “Trekkie,” whereas a “Trekker” is just someone who watches the show and enjoys it.

On the other hand, other sites postulate that “Trekker” is a term that is very full of itself, and that fans who prefer this nickname are people who consider themselves too good to wallow down in the dirt with the common “Trekkies.” Fans who prefer to be called “Trekkers” want it to be clear that they don’t want to be parodied on Saturday Night Live and be told to “get a life” by William Shatner, and they seem almost embarrassed of their geekhood.

To be honest, I can see both sides of this coin. I can understand Trek fans who want to distance themselves from the stereotypical scary “Trekkie” described above, even though we all know he is just that – a stereotype. However, I can also see how “Trekker” does seem pretentious, as if it takes itself way too seriously for its own good. (I also see that guy from Fanboys , who insists upon “Trekker,” but who makes this argument for me even while managing to be the guy in the basement.)

Therefore, my own opinion was no help here. So I looked to the experts. It seems that Leonard Nimoy prefers “Trekker,” but Gene Roddenberry himself supposedly favored “Trekkie.” Kate Mulgrew differentiates the groups in the opposite way from the fansites, saying that “Trekkers” take an active role in fandom by “walking with us” while “Trekkies” just watch the show.

Interesting. It seems the definitions of the terms are very broad and even conflicting. There seems to be no agreement on which name fits which fans. So I looked at age of fans and the times at which the terms came into use to see if I could spot an actual difference in meaning. “Trekkie” seems to be the older term, but even some hard-core fans from back in the day prefer “Trekker,” so a fan’s age isn’t a determining factor here, either.

In the end, I was left with personal preference being the only deciding issue in this debate. This was my suspicion from the outset, but I thought I’d try to prove it. And while I found no definitive answers, that in and of itself proves that this is purely a matter of semantics. Everyone has their preference, but that’s all it is.

For me, it’s “Trekkie” simply because that’s what I heard first. I never heard of a “Trekker” until long after I’d been labeled a “Trekkie.” I’m rather proud of this. I like being associated with the early days, and I, for one, find the Shatner Saturday Night Live skit hysterical. I don’t take my Trek seriously enough to get offended by parody. So I’ll stay with “Trekkie,” like I have for 30 years, and move on.

But I’m curious, even after all of this. Let’s have our own unofficial poll right here in the comments. Which side do you choose? Do you think there’s any meaning at all to this crazy debate?