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Obviously it was a certain kind of person that was attracted to this "hobby" (it was never going to be an Olympic event). Metaphorically speaking it has become a term to describe weird, nerdy sort of people. For example, "He's a bit of a train spotter".
This is a bit like saying, "He's a bit of an anorak", which was a term used in a similar way, as these people tended to favour the wearing of anoraks.
Please, pleeaase don't let there be a trainspotter on this forum. If there is I've had it.
Just goes to show that sometimes cheap choosers are losers. You snooze, you lose; what more is there to say?
Just looked up the word in the New Shorter Oxford English dictionary, and this is what it says:
anorak n. E.20 [Eskimo (Greenlandic) annoraaq.] A skin or cloth hooded jacket worn by Eskimos and so by others in polar regions; a similar weatherproof garment worn elsewhere.
Eskimo in origin - didn't know that.
Trainspotting: interesting article from Wikipedia [en.wikipedia.org] on the subject. Known in the USA as rail fans, foamers and FRN's apparently!
[edited by: Syzygy at 9:58 am (utc) on Aug. 17, 2008]
As for license plate collecting, that's more something you tell the kids to do to stay occupied when you're driving cross country.
"Trainspotting" was a major movie: