Anorak (offensiveness)

Li'l Bull

Senior Member
Spanish (Spain)
Hello.

I would like to know how offensive the word 'anorak' is when it refers to people. If someone we know (maybe not a friend, but rather a co-worker or acquaintance) has an unusual hobby and we tell him/her: 'You're such an anorak!', would he/she take offence, or is it a nice and funny word to use?

Thank you in advance.
 
  • sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I've never heard it in that context, but according to the definition in our dictionary, I think it's self-evident that people would take it as an insult. (even if it weren't marked "derogatory.")

    informal derogatory
    a socially inept person with a hobby considered by most people to be boring

    Edit: I will, of course, defer to those with a more intimate acquaintance with the word and with those to whom it applies
    :rolleyes:

     
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    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don't think it's particularly offensive. In fact, I'm sure many anoraks would happily admit to being an anorak. In this respect they are a bit like nerds.

    Cross-posted.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I think it should be noted, for other English speakers, that this is mainly a BrE term.(from the WRF dictionary: informal derogatory a socially inept person with a hobby considered by most people to be boring). As such, it's an interesting word in English.


    I think the answer to the question will depend on the tone of use and the resilience or personality of the named person. Thus, the question, as posed, may be more of a cultural/ social one rather than a language one.

    edit: Slow typing cross post (please, where do I put hyphens in that expression :eek:)
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    It is very context-sensitive. I would think it more often a derogatory remark than a pleasantry. It all depends on your perspective of train-spotters, who in my youth clustered at the end of railway station platforms wearing anoraks. I checked the entry in the OED and was most surprised to find their first citation dating from as late as 1984.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Born and raised in England and I have never heard this usage. To me, an anorak is just a jacket. I had to click this link when I saw it because the weirdness of calling someone an anorak was just too much for my curiosity. Either it's a bit dated or I just happen to have never encountered the term, either in speech or writing. If I was called an anorak I could only look back at the person with the utmost confusion on my face.

    It all depends on your perspective of train-spotters, who in my youth clustered at the end of railway station platforms wearing anoraks.
    Aha, is that where it's from?
     

    Li'l Bull

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain)
    I think the answer to the question will depend on the tone of use and the resilience or personality of the named person. Thus, the question, as posed, may be more of a cultural/ social one rather than a language one.
    As a non-native speaker of English, learning or understanding a new word is not difficult. What's really difficult and potentially dangerous is using a word such as 'anorak', which is clearly not a swearword or insult, but it makes me wonder how offensive or derogatory it is. The way I see it, using such words in a socially acceptable way is the biggest difficulty that a foreign language poses.

    Edit: By the way, this is a British English slang term. It's really surprising that some British native speakers know the word while others don't, which leads me to the next question: Where in Britain is it used and who is it used by?
     
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    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    As a non-native speaker of English, learning or understanding a new word is not difficult. What's really difficult and potentially dangerous is using a word such as 'anorak', which is clearly not a swearword or insult, but it makes me wonder how offensive or derogatory it is. The way I see it, using such words in a socially acceptable way is the biggest difficulty that a foreign language poses.
    I know exactly what you mean and agree. Unless I have become familiar with how such a word is used when in a non-English situation (I speak several languages at varying levels) I will avoid using it. My language teacher can only identify it as such a (contentious) word, but only cultural or social experience will give me confidence in using it appropriately. The responses above suggest you use caution - in some circumstances the use of the word may create ripples of laughter while in others, a stony silence. A language forum can't provide a whole lot of help in identifying the situations - that was what I meant.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "Anorak" in this sense has made it into the Internet era: this will take you to a website called, humorously/self-deprecatingly, The Wine Anorak. I don't mind saying that I have become a bit of a wine anorak lately, but if anyone other than a friend were to ask me, "Aren't you a bit of a wine anorak?", I would probably take offence :D.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I'd only call it 'mildly offensive' ... or, provided you say it with a smile, 'not really offensive at all'.
    Aha, is that where it's from?
    That's where I've always assumed it's from, Alx. My brother was a trainspotter c. 1973. He used to wear an anorak.

    Mind you, we all wore anoraks in those days:D
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Born and raised in England and I have never heard this usage. To me, an anorak is just a jacket. I had to click this link when I saw it because the weirdness of calling someone an anorak was just too much for my curiosity. Either it's a bit dated or I just happen to have never encountered the term, either in speech or writing. If I was called an anorak I could only look back at the person with the utmost confusion on my face.
    Born and raised in the US, I would say almost the same as Alxmrphi did. It's an Inuit word for a warm, hooded jacket, what we call a parka. (Although technically, the anorak is pulled on over the head, while the usual parka opens in front, I've seen them used interchangeably in marketing.) I usually wear a parka in winter, as do many of the people here. I've never heard of a person being called an anorak.
     

    Sedulia

    Senior Member
    **Literate** American English
    I think most Americans wouldn't even know what an anorak is. It certainly wouldn't be offensive but they wouldn't know what you are talking about. In England, though, I have heard this used as a put-down. But that was a long time ago.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I would say that anorak was still a mild put-down, unlike the word geek, which has been rather reclaimed to function as a term of approval. See here: The kids who spent their high school years outside the popular crowd have come into their own, with a defiant, open-armed embrace of what makes one a geek: love of books, computers, video games, comic books, horror films, technology. It's cool to be smart. It's cool to do what you love -- bonus points if what you love requires exhaustive knowledge of obscure things. http://people.howstuffworks.com/geek-chic1.htm
     
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    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I am surprised that there are Brits who have not noticed the word anorak being used as a mild insult, I would have thought it was very widespread, but then, that is often what people think about their own variation of the language!

    Having had a quick look around - I can find examples of it being used in the national press, so I think it is really wide-spread!
     

    Ann O'Rack

    Senior Member
    UK
    UK English
    This topic resurrected, and I have to add that I am very happy to have my name. My parents must have known that I'd be brilliant at something! ;)

    I think calling a person an "anorak" is a bit like calling them a "propeller-head", though a propeller-head is probably a bit more geeky...
     
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