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Nerds, Geeks and Anoraks
Posted: 20 January 2008 03:14 AM   [ Ignore ]
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The Nerd is passionate about learning; the Geek is passionate about an obscure or difficult area of learning. If it’s an outdoor interest a rightpondian Geek turns into an Anorak. Is there a Lefpondian equivalent?

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Posted: 20 January 2008 06:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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We (here in Leftpondia) wouldn’t make that fine a distinction between nerds and geeks--at least not one that is generally recognized. They are pretty much completely interchangeable in their most common slang senses.

And there is no equivalent for anorak over here. We use the word to refer to the article of clothing only and there is no other word specifically denoting an outdoorsy geek.

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Posted: 20 January 2008 07:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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We use the word to refer to the article of clothing only

We do?  I don’t think I’ve ever heard an American use it unless they were quoting a UK source, but then I’m increasingly out of touch.

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Posted: 20 January 2008 09:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I haven’t heard anorak used by any South Leftpondian either, in any sense, other than lh’s exception of quoting a UK source.  Most of us would probably greet the word with a resounding “Huh?”

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Posted: 20 January 2008 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I wouldn’t say “anorak”, I’d say “parka”. Probably some fashion-conscious persons or clothing experts make a distinction between these. Newspaperarchive search shows 2700 instances of “anorak” since 1950; most of these are US; there are many from the 1990’s; after glancing at about the first 100, I think virtually all refer to clothing (most seem to be in advertisements for clothing) ... so somebody says (or writes) “anorak” in the US after all.

[ Edited: 20 January 2008 09:26 AM by D Wilson ]
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Posted: 20 January 2008 09:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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While certainly not common in conversational usage, I think anorak is well known to those of us who get outdoor clothing catalogs in the mail. I knew it as the article of clothing well before going to the UK and encountering it used to describe a person. I often hear nerd used pretty much interchangeably with something like dork. Geek tends to be used these days, in my experience, as someone into computers. If the interest of the person is other than computers, then it would tend to be “history geek” or “physics geek” or something along those lines. As always, YMMV.

edit: Probably some fashion-conscious persons or clothing experts make a distinction between these.

Or someone into camping and hiking who knows the difference.

[ Edited: 20 January 2008 09:30 AM by happydog ]
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Posted: 20 January 2008 10:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Judging by my daughter’s description of the crowd she hangs out with, nerd seems to be more or less as stated by the OP. However, “passionate” may be hyperbolic in her case regarding actual study. Grudgingly diligent, maybe, except for reading novels. The distinction for me is that while I might be obliged to admit I have nerdlike qualities, I’d resist strenuously a “geek” label.

Oh, and to add to happydog’s list: a word geek.

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Posted: 20 January 2008 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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happydog - 20 January 2008 09:25 AM

I often hear nerd used pretty much interchangeably with something like dork.

I’d describe a dork as someone (possibly a geek or a nerd) who has had a social skills bypass.

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Posted: 20 January 2008 11:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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24450239 - 20 January 2008 03:14 AM

... If it’s an outdoor interest ...

Besides trainspotting, what counts as an “outdoor interest”?  For example, I’m guessing that enthusiasts of sports are not “anoraks”.

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Posted: 21 January 2008 06:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Myridon - 20 January 2008 11:51 AM

24450239 - 20 January 2008 03:14 AM
... If it’s an outdoor interest ...

Besides trainspotting, what counts as an “outdoor interest”?  For example, I’m guessing that enthusiasts of sports are not “anoraks”.

You can be an anorak if you’re heavily into the statistics of sport - this gentleman might be an example. (There isn’t, curiously, afaik, a Rightpondian equivalent of the Leftpondian term “jock”, for “hearty sports enthusiast.")

It seems to me that while “nerd” covers any non-sporty male lacking in social skills and with limited fashion sense, “geek” generally applies specifically to a nerd with obsessive technological interests, often of a practical or money-making application, while “anorak”, as used in Rightpondia, is used of a nerd whose obsessions are frequently arcane and generally of no practical application. Wikipedia is, I think, pretty good on explaining the term.

While “anorak” as an expression seems to have sprung originally from trainspotters (and their close relatives, aircraft spotters), who wore anoraks to protect themslves from the elements, it is used of persons (almost always male) showing obsessive interest in any trivial area of study from beer mat collecting to science fiction, not least because they frequently wear anoraks too, combining the nerd’s desire for the comfortable with his lack of fashion sense.

Sone specific sorts of “anorak” have their own designations: bird-watchers who are obsessive collectors of sightings are called “twitchers”, while persons who obsessively collect tastings of new microbrewery beers are called “tickers” or “scoopers”.

There is, of course, no such thing as a “word nerd”, all persons interested in etymology being thoroughly rounded invididuals with impeccable fashion sense and extremely busy social lives who are naturally highly attractive.

Incidentally, while the anorak - which strictly should be a garment with no front opening, pulled over the head - has never been fashionable, the parka, longer and with a front opening, became a fashion icon because of its association with mods, who wore them to protect their clothes while riding their Vespa or Lambretta scooters - as in the film Quadrophenia

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Posted: 21 January 2008 06:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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There isn’t, curiously, afaik, a Rightpondian equivalent of the Leftpondian term “jock”, for “hearty sports enthusiast.”

In my experience jock isn’t so much used to mean enthusiast, as it is for the athlete himself. (I suppose it could be applied to female athletes, but in my experience it’s used pretty much exclusively with males.)

And, come to think of it, happydog is right. My encounters with anorak over here have pretty much exclusively been in clothing catalogs (L.L. Bean, Lands End, etc.). I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone using the word in speech.

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Posted: 21 January 2008 06:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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There is, of course, no such thing as a “word nerd”

This is ipso facto true, but to be fair I should mention that there was a wordgeek on this board, actually before my time, about whom the commentaries have been many and varied.

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Posted: 21 January 2008 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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There isn’t, curiously, afaik, a Rightpondian equivalent of the Leftpondian term “jock”, for “hearty sports enthusiast.”

There is, of course, “rugger bugger”, which I think has some of the same connotations, but nothing which applies to sports enthusiasts in general.
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Posted: 21 January 2008 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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To clarify: When I said “enthusiasts of sports”, I intended to say athletes while including participants in non-athletic sports and not fans.  I’m attempting to discover if “outdoor interest” is a good or succinct or remotely accurate description of how the word is actually used.

So far, “outdoor interests for anoraks” include
Observing various things and writing them down (trainspotting, aircraft spotting, birdwatching, collecting sports statistics by actually watching the event (my assumption, else why are they outdoors? What do they call people who obsessively collect statistics on indoor sports?)
Drinking beer from microbreweries. (Do all microbreweries have a biergarten or what’s up with that? I’m guessing again that the beer drinkers are keeping records so this could also fall under an expansion of my first category as “observing yourself drink things and then writing it down”.)

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Posted: 22 January 2008 11:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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If I were translating anorak, I’d consider using freak: e.g., train freak, bird freak, baseball freak, word freak.

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Posted: 22 January 2008 11:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Are both “anorak” and “parka” from Inuit?

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