Anorak (slang)

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"Anorak" /ˈænəræk/ is a British slang which refers to a person who has a very strong interest, perhaps obsessive, in niche subjects. This interest may be unacknowledged or not understood by the general public. The term is sometimes used synonymously with "geek" or "nerd", or the Japanese term "otaku", albeit referring to different niches.


In 1984 the Observer newspaper used the term as an alternative term for the prototype group interested in detailed trivia, the trainspotters,[1][2] as members of this group often wore unfashionable but warm coats called anoraks when standing for hours on station platforms or along railway tracks, noting down details of passing trains.

The first use of the phrase to describe an obsessive fan has also been credited to the radio presenter Andy Archer, who used the term in the early 1970s for fans of offshore radio, who would charter boats to come out to sea to visit the radio ships.[3]

Examples of use[edit]

  • Roy Cropper, a character from the popular British soap opera Coronation Street, is a stereotypical portrayal of an "anorak."
  • Former British Prime Minister John Major, derided by many for perceived dullness, was described by Anthony Seldon as an "obsessive political anorak."[4]
  • Indie pop band Another Sunny Day released a single called "Anorak City" in 1988 on Sarah Records. The "anoraks" described in the lyrics are independent pop fans.
  • Marillion titled their twelfth studio album Anoraknophobia, referring to the long running in-joke that Marillion fans are sometimes called freaks or anoraks. The album cover, tour edition releases, and related press materials feature cartoon graphics of a boy wearing a rain parka, and holding a wire coat hanger by its hook.[5] Inside the liner notes for the deluxe edition of the album, there is a photograph of each of the band members posed in a similar manner, and standing near a telephone box.
  • In the 2011 Ernest Cline novel Ready Player One, "Anorak" is the name of James Halliday's avatar.[6]
  • The 2006 BBC TV detective drama series Mayo featured a crime scene expert nicknamed Anorak. Her character combined relish for her work with a quick flippancy. This provided a gentle balance with the electric repartee of her three colleagues, including (especially) the pedantic, sardonic Mayo. Mayo was an anorak in a different field - grammar.
  • Anorak of Fire is a 1998 TV movie about a teenaged trainspotter.[7]


French steam anoraks in jackets

Michaela Simon saw a close connection between geeks ("anoraks") and high-functioning autism. Simon's article exhibits one of the rare uses of "anorak" as a synonym of nerd or spotter in the German language.[8] Tony Attwood went as far as to write a book called Confessions of an Autism Anorak, stating his own obsession with the topic. He explains further connections between autism as such and the anorak status in general,[9] based on the extreme male brain theory of Simon Baron-Cohen.[10]


  1. ^ Games, Alex (2007), Balderdash & piffle : one sandwich short of a dog's dinner, London: BBC, ISBN 978-1-84607-235-2 
  2. ^ Oxford Dictionaries: anorak, definition 2 Retrieved 2011-06-05
  3. ^ Skues, Keith (2009). Pop Went the Pirates II. Horning: Lambs' Meadow Publications. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-907398-05-9. 
  4. ^ Seldon, Anthony. John Major: A Political Life. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998.
  5. ^ Marillion, Anoraknophobia. Racket Records, 2001.
  6. ^ Cline, Ernest (2011). Ready Player One. Random House. p. 54. ISBN 978-0307887443
  7. ^ "Anorak of Fire (1998)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Die Geek-Autismus-Connection, Michaela Simon 25.03.2002 Telepolis, given synomyms in the german text comprise "Nerd, anorak, train-spotter, space-cadet, card-board, cut-out, geek, oddball, weirdo, bufty"
  9. ^ Autism, Access and Inclusion on the Front Line: Confessions of an Autism Anorak Anthony Attwood, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 24.03.2006
  10. ^ Trends Cogn Sci. 2002 Jun 1;6(6):248-254., The extreme male brain theory of autism. Baron-Cohen