Off topic: the social context of anoraks

Rowland, Jennifer A B jennifer.rowland at
Thu Mar 29 04:46:45 EST 2001

>>   I've been on binge of reading British and Irish books and of listening
>> to BBC4 on the Internet.  In several books or radio plays an otherwise
>> nondescript character is described as wearing an anorak and apparently
>> that works as social shorthand about the character.  

>In the UK, 'Anorak' has become a slang for fannish
>or obsessive behaviour and it derives from the cliche that trainspotters
>(people who collect train numbers as a hobby) all wore anoraks and bobble
>hats, and carried tartan patterned thermos flasks. If I were listening to a
>play that mentioned a character in an anorak I'd immediately suspect him of
>being a Trekkie (Trekker?) than of being economically marginal :-)

Yes- nondescript is quite a good description! Many people wear weatherproof
jackets that could be described as anoraks, but "an anorak" would be someone
with no social skills or fashion sense, a loner, a geek, sombody with an
obsession with something that mainstream society would call boring, like
trains or computers or science fiction. In fact I've heard it used a bit
differently, "He's a bit of an anorak about x" to mean somebody who is
usually "normal" but has a fascination with (and volumes of knowledge of) x
and will bore the pants off you if you let him get started talking about it.
My SO's father is a train, bus and model train anorak (which is handy if you
need to know how to get somewhere obscure.)
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