Short dictionary of fandom vocab

Sometimes I have to stop in the middle of my internet activities, which usually include looking at yet another Doctor Who photoset or trying to find a story I read three years ago but can’t remember what it’s called, and wonder what does that word I just read mean?

Whether they appear in a tag or used in text like any other normal English word, some of these new linguistic concoctions are a testament to our wonderful internet culture: express as much as possible with minimum effort.

To serve other sometimes confused, often amused interneteers like me, I’ve put together a list of fairly new words and I shall atempt to explain their meaning for people who are not die-hard fanfiction writers or committed readers.

Fandom – I’ve used this word in the title of the post, so I feel compelled to define it first. A fandom is the community of fans of a certain band, TV-show, artist, actor, you name it. Allegedly a bled of ‘fanatic’ and ‘dominion’, a fandom usually acts as a big internet family; this also means they fight at times, usually over ships (see below).

Fanwank – It’s generally used to describe the process in which a fan will make up their own story or explanation in order to justify an error or plothole in the original text. However, I have a feeling this meaning might evolve soon, and I think we can all guess what it may end up describing in the near future.

Headcannon – an idea or story that is not in the original book, but is generally accepted as true and part of the fictional universe by either one individual (personal cannon) or the fandom in general.
Example of Harry Potter headcannon: When Harry and Ginny got married, Mrs Weasley’s gift to them was their own replica of the Weasley Family Clock. More here:

Shipping – The act of willing two characters to be together and have a romantic relationship. A couple is generally referred to as a ship. Ships can be cannon, like Aragorn and Arwen in The Lord of the Rings, or not, like Amy and The Doctor in Doctor Who. Usually ships get cool mash-up names, like Dramione for Draco and Hermione in Harry Potter.

Sometimes a fandom might be blighted by ship-wars, when fans argue a bit too much over which couple should break up and which people should start dating. No one likes that because we’d all rather be reading an in-depth character analysis or look at pictures of cats. Or souffles.

Crack ship – A pairing of two characters who usually come from different fandoms. Although I would call Drapple a crack ship, because I’m sorry Draco but an apple is not a legitimate life partner.

Podfic – Fanfiction in audio format available for download. Click here for a famous example.

Now that we’ve finally reached the world of fan fiction, let’s have a look at some of the labels used to categorise the stories. If you wish to read more about fan fiction in general, check out my previous post. This feature from the Wall Street Journal is also very informative.

AU – Alternative Universe – A story where the author deliberately changes events or settings from the original text to suit their new plot or character development. AU fanfics range from crossovers where two or more fictional universes meet, to placing all characters in high-school just to see how the story develops.

Gender bender – a type of AU fanfic where the gendres of one or more characters are switched. An example would be the new TV show Elementary, based on the Sherlock Holmes series but featuring a female John Watson played by Lucy Liu. Who knew, fan fiction doesn’t have to be limited to various corners of the internet, but it’s in all of our lives whether we like it or not!

Mpreg – Stands for ‘Male Pregnancy’ and that’s pretty self-explanatory.

PWP – “Plot, what plot?” Fanfics that are usually filled with nothing but sexual content.

There are many more out there, but these are some of the words that had me stop and wonder what on earth was I about to click on, and some which are just really useful to know. Depending on how weird my next internet destination will be, I may return with another, longer and more fascinating list.

Image from