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Those choosing to wear that eminently practical cold-weather garment the anorak have suffered much opprobrium in Britain in the past couple of decades. It began with trainspotting, a specialised hobby involving much standing at the end of draughty station platforms noting down the numbers of passing engines. Those choosing this hobby were frequently ridiculed as being obsessive about trivia and as having poor social skills. Since trainspotters often wore anoraks, the word came to be a pejorative term describing such a person. From about the late eighties, it has come to refer to any person (almost always male) with an obsessive or excessively enthusiastic interest, particularly one involving the collection of supposedly trivial information or ephemera, and is often applied to someone immersed in some technological field, particularly computers or the Internet. The adjective anorakish has developed from this, as has the group noun anorakdom, the supposed disease anoraksia and the facetious word for a fear of all things techie, anoraknophobia.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 24 May 1997

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 24 May 1997.