Fanfiction: Watching a New Language Emerge


Language: The human ability to acquire and and use complex systems of communication and a language is a specific example of such a system.  That is the common simple definition of what a language is, but in truth it’s so much more complicated than that.  New languages are emerging all the time and in this technology laden society they’ve emerged even faster than in the past.  We have meme speak, chatspeak and all kinds of different social media languages with their own syntax and rules.  We quickly learn these rules and learn to abide by them even as they change, and we learn to adapt to the changes.  It’s a fascinating time and a fascinating subject.

There was a time when I believed, as most of us do, that language was static.  A word has a particular meaning, sentences are structured a certain way, we all agree on the rules and regulations of language by way of learning them from our parents.  But, I have since learned the truth.  Language is fluid, it changes as word meanings change, writing changes, how we speak to each other changes and it is happening all of the time.  A few short years ago I took an amazing course at Glendale Community College in Glendale California, a small suburb of Los Angeles.  It was being taught by one of my favorite professors, Dr. Wendy Fonorow.  She helped to open my eyes to what language truly is and that if we really look and listen  around us our language is changing on a daily basis.  It is changed by technology, by art, by new societal norms and agreed upon definitions of new emerging words, society and social media have all helped to shape our language.

So, what does this have to do with fanfiction?  It has everything to do with fanfiction.  Take the word slash.  The emergence of the meaning of this word is actually quite fascinating.  Back in the early years of the internet were things called newgroups.  Now I know they still exist, but at one time these were the “chatrooms” of the early days of the net.  This was the birthplace of fanfiction.  The most prolific of the stories were stories about the gay pairing of Kirk and Spock.  Now when posting on newsgroups there was a limit on how many letters the titles could be so many titles would show up as Kirk/Spock.  Translation, Kirk slash Spock.  Slash, then started to mean a gay pairing of two characters, to which it still means to this day.  But, now it has evolved even further to include femslash, for female lesbian pairings and I have also seen lesslash, though that is rare. We, as fanficiton writers, even put warnings like; warning slash pairing, and everyone automatically knows what you mean.  On the opposite end heterosexual couplings are reduced to het couple, and yet another example of a new word.

What I am trying to say is that in fanfiction a whole new language is emerging and it is fascinating to watch.  And no part of this new language is more complex than the idea of ships.  Now, when general society hears the word ship their brain automatically goes to the big boats that people use to navigate our worlds waterways.  But, say ships in fanfiction and it elicits any number of emotional reactions.  From giddyness to sadness because ships is essentially short for relationships.  Now, under ships you have otp’s, which means one true pairing.  This is where most fanfiction writers, and I included myself in this, get really passionate.  Say otp on any facebook, tumblr, twitter or anywhere fanfiction authors are and you will surely elicit the gamut of emotions that this acronym will bring up.  And ultimately isn’t that the power of words in general?  Can’t words, used properly, play with our emotions?  And, isn’t that what we as writers try to do?  Use language to bring out those emotional responses?  No where is it more prevalent than when talking about our ships.

There is another fascinating aspect to the emerging language in fanfiction and that is the smashing together of two names.  This often goes hand-in-hand with  ships.  Some of the more common ones are Drarry, the pairing of Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter in the very prolific Harry Potter fanfiction.  Spirk, the Spock and Kirk pairing, JohnLock is the Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, pairing from, most specifically the new BBC production of Sherlock.  Destiel is Dean Winchester and Castiel from Supernatural, I could go on but you get the idea.  Now some call this lazy, but I see the fascination in it.  I believe that writers want to get close to their ships and smashing the two names together in this way is a sign to the writer that these two characters are soulmates, that they are so intertwined that they are like one person, hence the condensation of the two names into one.

Then there is the emergence of fanfiction crossover stories.  A crossover involving Supernatural, Doctor Who and Sherlock is called SuperWhoLock and people in this fandom say they are SuperWhoLocked.  And, the crossover’s are as varied as the writers of fanfiction.  The more famous the crossover the more likely it is that it will get a new word emerging to describe it.  Then there are words like crackfic, this is where a pairing, story or crossover is so far out there that it is cracked.  Mostly this refers to humorous stories and crossovers to which no one would ever associate with each other.  But, they aren’t always humorous.  I actually came across a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Criminal Minds crossover.  This is an example of a crackfic.  My Little Pony is a cartoon about ponies and it is geared towards little girls, and Criminal Minds is a police procedural that often takes a terrifying look at serial killers.  Now the author did an amazing job of pairing the two, but it still is considered crackfic, yet another new word.

I could go on and I still couldn’t scratch the surface of this emerging language because it is literally changing all of the time.  I am finding it fascinating to watch and I know the more I get into this artistic medium that eventually I could create a new word, and isn’t that something wonderful to look forward to?

Holly Keas

Cracked fanficition writer who is obsessed with her ships.


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