In British slang an anorak (Template:PronEng) is a person, usually male, who has a very strong interest, perhaps obsessive, in niche subjects. This interest may be unacknowledged or not understood by the general public. The best known explanation of the term, is the use of anoraks (a type of rain jacket) by train spotters, a prototype group for interest in detailed trivia.
Although the term is often used synonymously with geek, it suggests a greater degree of social awkwardness, isolation, and obsessiveness, and may be associated by some with Asperger's Syndrome. The Japanese term otaku, or the American term, "fanboy", are probably closer synonyms.
One explanation is that the usage derives from the weatherproof outer clothing worn by enthusiasts of offshore radio, who would sometimes visit the ships from which their 'outcast heroes' broadcast during the 1964–76 period. The term was, reportedly, coined by Andy Archer, a disc jockey of the time - presumably as the appearance of these enthusiasts made a collective impression - and later became generalized to mean an obsessive enthusiast of other activities. Another origin may well be the groups of train-spotters throughout the UK who often wore anoraks when train-spotting in the cold.
The word can be qualified by the area in which the person takes an excessive interest; a "timetabling anorak" would be someone who finds the process of timetabling classes fascinating.
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."
Fans of the BBC's TV series Doctor Who were regarded as a minority of obsessives and sometimes labeled anoraks - in much the same way as Trekkies. This extended to the inclusion of a character called The Anorak appearing in an anniversary documentary for the programme in 1992, affectionately parodying fan obsessives by spouting trivia about the programme, in a provincial accent, from within his/its seemingly empty zipped-up Parker-anorak coat hood.
Marillion titled their 12th 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. 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.
- Roy Cropper
- Seldon, Anthony. John Major: A Political Life. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998.
- Marillion, Anoraknophobia. Racket Records, 2001. http://www.marillion.com/music/albums/anorak.htm