My capstone paper at BYU was on online fandom and I had to explain a lot of terms in detail to a professor who wasn’t very well-versed in modern trends. Since graduating, I’ve found out there is a lot more to fandom that I wasn’t even aware of, including terminology and slang. If you use Pinterest and Tumblr or you follow fandom sites on Facebook, the following may be some ideas to be aware of when looking at fan art and reading others’ posts, as well as commonly used slang. The slang terms you can look up in the Urban Dictionary (which is a site I DO NOT recommend for children).

Let’s start with the basics:

Fandom: Fandom is not a kingdom for fans. It is shorthand for “fanatic domain” (can’t find the source, sorry). Fandom is the unofficial culture surrounding books, movies, television series, video games, and so forth (which I will collectively refer to as text).

Fandom (noun) | Community Post: 11 Terms You Need To Know Before Joining Tumblr

Cosplay: shortened form of “costume play.” The art of dressing in costume as original characters or (more commonly in American culture) imitating characters or creatures in science fiction and fantasy. As you know, I am a cosplayer.

Canon: most of you should be familiar with this term. Canon is what actually/officially happens in the text

Feels: A fan’s poignant or emotional reaction to a text, particularly in response to something sad

Morph dissolves into feels - Treasure Planet>>>For all your feels needs!
Disney via Pinterst–Kudos to anyone who remembers this movie!

A Note on Fan Content:

So, those of us who spend (too much) time on the internet know that a lot of fan-generated materials are graphic in terms of violence or sex and nudity or other things that certain people find inappropriate. The fact of the matter is, fandom and fan content—fanfiction, fan art, videos, etc.—are vehicles for exploring human desires, including the very sensual ones. On the other hand, a lot of fandom is about exploring the other aspects of our favorite stories—relationships, action scenes, character development, world building, and so on. Fandom boils down to inserting yourself into the text: your ideas, your needs, your challenges, the issues you face, the things YOU want to see happen. Remember, ‘Your focus determines your reality.’ There is good stuff out there. You can find it.

The Art of Shipping:

Ship: shorthand form of “relationship”. To pair together two or more people in a relationship, usually romantic or sexual. In online fandom every type of sexual orientation is accepted, not limited to asexual/aromantic relationships (meaning no love or sex is involved), or platonic (they don’t want to have sex or be together). Also, ships are not necessarily canon–any two characters can be together. Ships often have shorthand nicknames, for instance Steggy for Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter

Ships often have shorthand nicknames, for instance in the MCU we have “Steggy” for Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter, “Clintasha” for Hawkeye and Black Widow, or “Pepperony” for Tony and Pepper (which IMO is the cutest ship name ever). For non-canon ships fans will bend over backwards to create fan vids and gifsets to depict their favorite pairings together, sometimes using footage from other works the actors have been. 

Of course, the terms “ship” and “canon” lend themselves to lots of nautical puns.


OTP: One True Pairing. The couple you want together more than any other couple. This is my OTP in Star Wars and all other fandoms:

The rule with me is, the more dysfunctional or unlikely the relationship, the harder I ship them.

NOTP: The pairing you absolutely hate. One person’s OTP might be another person’s NOTP.

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BrOTP: A pairing of two people as friends rather than lovers. Also keep in mind one person’s OTP might be another’s BrOTP.


OT3: One True Threesome. In some cases includes a couple who are together with a third wheel. Notable examples include Luke, Han, and Leia in the Star Wars original trilogy and Harry, Ron, and Hermione in Harry Potter.

Harry Potter Wikia

Other terms worth knowing:

Cinnamon Roll: This one has been popular on the internet for pretty much the last year or more. It started with an Onion headline and it got out of control. Basically the term ‘cinnamon roll’ is slang for a character that the fandom loves to death. Certain ‘cinnamon roll’ posts theorize how well a person looks like a cinnamon roll and how likely they are to kill you. There are also variations such as the evil “sinnamon roll” and the stale cinnamon roll.

Snapshot from my Tumblr
Snapshot from my Tumblr

Headcanon: an idea about what could have happened or what really happened in a text. A few headcanons are about actors who have played roles in multiple films actually being the same character. Here’s a fun one: Agent K from Men in Black and Colonel Chester Philips in Captain America: The First Avenger (both played by Tommy Lee Jones) are the same person AND Phil Coulson’s father.

Here’s a Harry Potter headcanon about how George Weasley may have been affected by the death of his twin Fred.

Harry Potter fans also like to write cute headcanons about the Hogwarts houses as well as long meta posts defending/explaining each of them (meta defined below). If you’re a fan of something, you think about it enough that you’re in that world and coming up with ideas about it.

Fanon: A headcanon so widely spread that most of the fandom buys into it. I don’t know if you would call this a fanon but since Jenna-Louise Coleman from Doctor Who appeared in CA:TFA as Bucky’s date a lot of fans assume that Bucky’s date was, in fact, Clara Oswald. I haven’t even seen Doctor Who, but I know enough about the show to see how that is possible, I mean…wibbly wobbly, timey wimey, stuff. Why the heck not?


Fluff: As opposed to smut, fluff is content that is lighter in tone, speculating about characters’ daily activities or certain events that could have happened

AU: Alternate Universe. An AU can be the same as one or two minor changes in plot or character, or as big as putting characters/storylines into a different setting entirely. Fans enjoy changing around the genders or races of characters. An AU could also be a crossover about characters from different stories meeting. For instance, what if Lilo from Lilo and Stitch and Boo from Monsters’ Inc. became friends?

Also, this:


Meta: Discussion about events or people in canon that provides further insight or explanation to the text, most often by the fans and for the fans. A lot of fandom happens in online discussions over sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. People will post their thoughts directly to social media sites rather than directly

Here are some good meta posts about Disney’s Lilo and Stitch and Frozen

How David is the Best Disney “Prince” Ever

Elsa’s Powers Shake Up Diplomacy

I hope you found this article informative and entertaining. Just remember, don’t put down other people’s ideas about what the text SHOULD be or look down on them for shipping certain couples. Remember to be kind and respectful to EVERYONE.

Lizy Cole
Lizy Cole is originally from San Antonio, Texas but also has strong ties to Arizona. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in English. She enjoys reading, writing, and being a fangirl. Her current big fandoms are Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


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