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Monday, June 5, 2017

Crown Prince of Anorak

I got a nice email yesterday from one of my oldest friends, Pat, an Englishman a Scot who lives in East Sussex. Truly wonderful guy. Nothing earthshaking, I don't suppose that he will mind me publishing it.
Rob, I agree with Max. An obsession with nature can surely only be a good thing. If more people had it then our planet would not be in such a sorry state. Also nothing wrong with an anorak. We need people to obsess over all kinds of things to keep the world diverse.
I'm driving to Marseilles to install a booth at a medical congress. Not too big 18 square meters. Currently just south of Lyon. Never been to Mars so looking forward to a day off on Thursday.
Now as many of you know, I am a word guy. And notwithstanding the nice intentions of his note, my mind raced to the salient heart of this post, the fact that I didn't have the foggiest idea what an anorak was. These sorts of literary omissions really strike my oversized ego to the core and I decided I better find out what he was talking about, post haste.

And here we have it. An anorak is a jacket.

But why on god's earth did he bring a jacket up, there must be something else to this anorak business? I couldn't lose the thought that there must be something else, why would my comrade interrupt a soliloquy on the sorry state of our globe and bring up a polar jacket? I kept digging...

Anorak is also apparently a british slang turn, one that has not yet made its voyage back across the pond. From Wiki:
"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.
A strong, if not obsessive interest in niche subjects? Hmmm, sounds right down my wheelhouse.

Wiki goes on to say that a connection has been made between Anoraks and high functioning autistics. And furnishes a pathway to the work of pioneering developmental parapsychologist Simon Baron Cohen, a Cambridge professor who created the autism spectrum quotient and has also mapped and studied synesthesia, amongst other things.

Another definition of Anorak, from Urban Dictionary:

You look at the U.D. link and there are a lot of references to train spotting, which is another track altogether. And who can fail to note the clear reference to the information obsessed dressing funny?

I just wonder how I missed the Anorak boat? Was it on some Seinfeld episode, during the twenty five year dark period I was off of the tele? Am I, once again, the last guy to know?

I guess, considering the subject, I should run the topic into the ground. Etymology time. The term Anorak or parka originally came from the Aleutians.
The word anorak comes from the Kalaallisut word annoraaq. It did not appear in English until 1924; an early definition is "a beaded item worn by Greenland women or brides in the 1930s". In the early 1950s it was made from nylon, but changed to poplin by 1959, when it was featured in Vogue magazine as a fashion item. In 1984, The Observer used the term to refer to the type of people who wore it and subsequently, in the United Kingdom, it is sometimes used as a mildly derogatory term.[1]
Yours in obsession.


Anonymous said...

My understanding of the origins is that trainspotters used to wear anoraks which were a cheap naff jacket from the 70s. Quilted nylon with hood. Really really naff and you wouldn't be seen dead wearing one but train spotters were judged not to have any style. Similarly judged I suppose to the shell suits of the 80s.
Nowadays we use it for any obsession and it's not so derogatory.
I myself have a number of anoraks I put on from time to time. Mostly hi fi and records. I also regularly wear the nature one. My girlfriend has a huge plant anorak that she never takes off!
Ps. I'm actually Scottish and you know there is no greater offence to a Scotsman etc etc.....

Blue Heron said...

I read Jane Porter's 1804 tome The Scottish Kings and the Campbell clan didn't have a lot of friends back home, did they?

Ken Seals said...

I get it now, being an anorak and just realizing it must be a shock :-)

Blue Heron said...

Not an anorak, THE anorak...

Anonymous said...

anorak=man bitch.