The L-Space Web: The Timelines: The Holy Anorankh

The Holy Anorankh


One of's better moments arrived in May 1994 when the "Holy Anorankh" thread blossomed. What started as a silly mistake in someone's article evolved into a discussion about train-spotters, Eskimos and fertility symbols, and eventually ended in the commercial design of a highly popular piece of Discworld jewelry, which dozens, if not hundreds of people have been buying without knowing the full story behind it, or perhaps without even knowing that there is a story.

In another attempt to save some of a.f.p.'s more worthwhile episodes from the gaping vacuum maws of Usenet history (god, I love that phrase) I've searched through my log files, rescued the relevant postings, and started pruning, slicing, dicing, leaving out, editing, rearranging and formatting.

Behold the fruits of my labour...


Occasional comments from the editor are in colour

From: Andrew Eacott

>> Have you noticed how the Internet is suddenly THE thing to mention on a TV
>> programme.

> I've not noticed it on U.S. TV (maybe 'cuz I don't watch much), but last week it was
> mentioned in the TV Guide magazine. And Newsweek. And Playboy.
> And (wait for it) Vogue.

Vogue? That would have been interesting. Did it have anything to do with what colour anorak was the latest fashion among the net community?Just out of interest, does the anorak have the same stigma attached to it in the US or is it a UK-only phenomenon?

From: CABMath

Most merkins wouldn't even know what an anorak is.

From: Andrew Eacott

This is probably a rather stupid question but what is a merkin ? [ Oops, sorry -- wrong thread! :-)]

From: Martin Walser

> Just out of interest, does the *anorak* have the same stigma attached to it in the

> US or is it a UK-only phenomenon ?

Actually, I don't think the word is used at all. Though I'm not quite clear about the meaning... it seems to have more than one that I've seen here: 1) a geeky fan-type person (be it Trek, Fantasy/SciFi or whatever) 2) an ancient egyptian religious symbol of a cross with a looped top


Like that. Sometimes they're worn by hard-core "alternative" fantasy fans (you know... the ones who are *really* into Tarot/Mother Goddess/whatever). Am I way off? As for the first definition, geek/nerd tend to suffice though their usage seems to have fallen lately. The word for the second definition in American english is "Ankh" surprisingly enough. (ahh-nk).

Careful readers will notice that Martin's gaffe is actually not at all as incredibly stupid as later retellings of the story have made it out to be. And neither was he a totally clueless female newbie, as Terry once said in an interview. Martin was an American, though - that part of the legend is true :-)

From: Patric S. Toms

The word for the symbol you drew is "ankh" in British English as well. Dunno where you got the idea that it was called an anorak from. It is an ancient egyptian symbol of life from which are derived the male and female symbols of circle-with-cross (male) and circle-with-arrow (female). It's modern day image is supposedly representative of someone who is ready, willing and able at the drop of a hat (there we go again).

From: Robin Parkinson

> 2) an ancient egyptian religious symbol of a cross with a looped top

No - that's an ankh over here as well - I've never heard it called an anorak, but the possibilities are mind-boggling [7].

[7] "Elementary, my dear Watson. I could tell Lady Stephanie had been seduced by the dark cult of Isis as she wore an anorak around her neck."

First mention of the anorak as something to wear...

From: Simon E Spero

So the Discworld's great metropolis is really "Anorak-Morpork". And Gaiman's Death can easily be recognised by the way she always wears an anorak. The bind moggles.

From: Terry Pratchett

From now on the ancient Egyptian symbol will always be an anorak to me. I just can't wait to try this one out on the next black-clad necronerd...

From: Laura Johnson

I can picture it now: a Kirby cover of some sort; off in the corner, a Djelibeybian priest, wearing the mystical symbol of the anorak round his neck...

At this point in time, it begins to dawn on poor Martin that his error is not going to be allowed to be forgotten...

From: Martin Walser

Oh dear, I hope I haven't started something here...

I'm not sure where I got the idea that ankh anorak but it must have been some context assumption mix-up. (ahh the perils of translating American English to Queen's English)

From: Rocky Frisco

> a Djelibeybian priest, wearing the mystical symbol of the anorak round his neck......

Well . . . actually . . . it DOES look like a stick-figure with its little legs together, wearing a hood. Hmmmmmm. (mumble) Ankhorak? . . . Anorankh? Ancient Egyptian Eskimos? They don't like to be called Eskimos. they call themselves Inuit. Egyptian deities representing Heaven and Earth: Hadit and Nuit. . . ???

Holy Sh*t, I think we're ONTO SOMETHING!!!! ;)

Rocky's article contains the first recorded mention of the word "anorankh", though several others independently re-invented the pun later on

From: Terry Pratchett

Subject: The Holy Anorak

I like the idea too much to let it pass. Folks, I have now commissioned a small silver anorak that I can wear on a chain.

From: Rich 'mcmxciibo' Holmes

> I like the idea too much to let it pass. Folks, I have now commissioned a small silver
> anorak that I can wear on a chain.

Big mistake. Not doing it -- telling us you're doing it. Remember what happened when you mentioned the UU scarf?

I'll take three.

Five gazillion "me too!" articles not reproduced. Eventually....

From: Terry Pratchett

> Can I have one too?

Oh, lordy. Look... a friend at Clarecraft is doing it for me (actually it's going to be some kind of pewter, I think). If I like it I'll tell 'em to make some more, okay. And something as small as that should be easy to mail order.

From: Steve DeGroof

> I like the idea too much to let it pass. Folks, I have now commissioned a small silver
> anorak that I can wear on a chain.

I laughed for about 2 minutes straight when I saw this. It'd make a great conversation piece. I mean, you could make up any sort of story to go along with it:

- What's that around your neck?
- It's an anorak.
- What's an anorak?
- It's the ancient Egyptian symbol of involuntary celibacy.
- Really, how interesting.
- Yes, it's usually associated with Nyjil, the Egyptian god of barque-spotting.

From: Rich Holmes

What's really gonna be funny is if in an upcoming issue of Sandman, Death appears wearing an anorak on a chain. Terry, you will mention your anorak to Neil sometime, won't you?

The full magnitude of what he has wrought is finally beginning to dawn on poor Martin:

From: Martin Walser

" You see, it all started because I didn't know an anorak was a bloody parka... "

-- Me, to my therapist 10 years hence

From: Terry Pratchett

Clarecraft say they're expecting the first production run of the Holy Anorak in about a week.

UK/Europe price including post and packing will be around gbp2, rest of the world "probably fifty pence more" - it's down to how much it costs to send an effectively empty small Jiffy bag around the world. They also said 'please don't send anything until we can say we've got them in stock', so watch this space.

This run will be in polished pewter. I nudged them about silver, but they say that, while possible, small run silver is harder and more expensive to arrange, whereas they can take their pick of pewter firms at CMOT prices.

I personally will push for an eventual Golden Anorak.

From: David Wald

> I personally will push for an eventual Golden Anorak.

This sounds like a classification scheme for Pratchett fans. At the most fanatical, we have those who would actually go out and buy a Golden Anorak. Then come the Silver Anorak fans, the Pewter Anoraks, the real Anorak Anoraks (with an American Windbreaker auxiliary), and finally, the "What's an Anorak?" novices.

From: Roger Barnett

" and this year, the Golden Anorak is awarded to..."

I like it !

Meanwhile, Martin's still busy kicking himself....

From: Martin Walser

" The Holy Anorak? Yes... it was me... Stop pointing and laughing!"

From: Terry Pratchett

They are seeing what they can do about precious metals. You've got to remember that, oh, at least 50% of Clarecraft are normal people, and they're not quite used to a world where there is a demand for a little ankh wearing a tiny jacket with a rabbit fur collar. They're having to focus on the idea that people might even like them in gold...

When they made me the gold Death ring they promised they wouldn't make another gold one...

As Terry somewhere wrote, has the attention span of a butterfly on cocaine. Eventually, even before the original Anorak thread had run its course, the first confusion among the newbies was already setting in...

From: Stephen Moore

Hi everyone...

Sorry... Sad newbie question :(

What is the significance of the Holy Anorak? It's almost certainly an FAQ, but I haven't seen it (the FAQ) in ages :((

I think I'll order an HA from Clarecraft, but can someone tell me why? :)

From: Terry Pratchett

> It looks like Clarecraft have decided not to produce a silver anorak.
> I wrote them a letter saying I wanted an anorak but would wait if there was any
> chance of them producing it in silver or gold. This morning a pewter anorak was
> waiting at the post office.

The overwhelming interest in the Holy Anorak has astonished the Clarecraft people, who tell me they're seriously looking for gold/silver casting -- but, while appreciating offers that have been made, these will have to be close to them and willing to do short-run stuff. They've had difficulties in the past with alternative arrangements.

It is about half a million years into the evolution of homo sapiens, I'm a writer of books about a world on the back of a turtle, I'm putting a message on a world-wide computer network for people willing to buy a small image of an Egyptian religious symbol wearing a jacket associated with people who take down train numbers, it's dark, and I'm wearing sunglasses...

From: Terry Pratchett

My silver Holy Anorankh arrived today, which means I will now be safe from vampires unless I want not to be.


Clarecraft eventually caved in under the pressure and made silver anorankhs publically available. For more information, please consult the merchandise FAQ, available from the Pratchett Archives at

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