"Inkhorn"; or, Did Nerds Have a Renaissance?
|So, this whole vaguely nerdy enterprise, along with some navel-gazing contemplation of my chosen blog handle, has led me to a question: is "inkhorn" the Renaissance equivalent of "nerdy"? Is there some other word? And, more importantly, were there nerds in the Renaissance? Can we find them in Renaissance drama? (Or poetry, but that seems less likely: not in epic, I'm guessing, and not very likely in lyric either. Unless maybe Fulke Greville? He's sort of Sidney's nerdy, studious, over-serious friend... But even if he's morosely conscious of his own lack of sparkle, I'm not sure he intends to perform nerdiness in any real way).|
Is the nerd an exclusively late twentieth / early twenty-first century phenomenon? Do you have to have video games and JRR Tolkien to have nerds? What about Gabriel Harvey? The scholars in Love's Labor's Lost are too much the fancy-pants aristocrats to fit the bill ... And anyway, once some ladies pass through, they forget about their books pretty quickly.
There are a lot of ways of being socially outré in Renaissance drama, but I'm not sure I can think of anything that quite qualifies as nerdiness.
(I was very happy once to notice a nail parlor in U.S. City, where I live, that called itself "Outré.")
A little time with the OED seems to indicate that "inkhorn" appears exclusively in the phrase "inkhorn terms" -- which was my own association with it -- and therefore isn't applicable to people. In other words, "nerdiness" was an activity, not an identity, in the Renaissance. (To paraphrase the old argument about "sodometry"). The only exception that I can find is 1 Henry VI, 3.1.101 (in Bevington), where the Third Servingman refers to Winchester as "an inkhorn mate," presumably because he's a member of the clergy. But I'm not sure that gets us very far at all.