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Fanspeak is made up of acronyms, blended words, obscure in-jokes, puns, coinages from science fiction novels or films, and archaic or standard English words used in specific ways relevant or amusing to the science fiction community.
Many terms used in fanspeak have spread to members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Renaissance Fair participants, and internet gaming and chat fans, due to the social and contextual intersection between the communities.
Common examples of widespread usages are:
- fen as the plural of fan
- fannish "of or relating to fans and fandom"
- gafiate (verb), an acronym for "getting away from it all" (i.e., leaving fandom, temporarily or permanently)
- fafiate (verb), an acronym for "forced away from it all" (i.e., being forced to leave fandom for personal or professional reasons)
Conversely, some fannish terms have been made obsolete by changes in technology (the decline of the mimeograph has doomed corflu for "correction fluid"), cultural changes (a femmefan' [female fan] is no longer unusual) or the mere passage of time (slan shack for "a house where a bunch of fans live together" has faded, since fewer young fans have read Slan by A. E. van Vogt).
Fanspeak is so interwoven into the fabric of fandom that it is difficult to discuss fandom without resorting to fannish terms such as fanac "fannish activity" or filk music (originally a typo for "folk music").
Other notable terms include:
- BEM "bug-eyed monster"
- BNF "Big Name Fan"
- FIAWOL "fandom is a way of life"
- LOC "letter of comment"
- sercon "serious and constructive" (originally a pejorative; more recently, a non-judgmental term for the more serious end of the fannish spectrum)
- SMOF "Secret Master of Fandom"
(For more terms, see the links to glossaries, below.)
Like other forms of jargon, fanspeak serves as a means of inclusion and exclusion within the fannish community. In the 1970s, the use of traditional fanspeak separated the fanzine and convention-attending subcommunity (sometimes distinguished as trufen or "true fans") from fans of science fiction movies and television shows (mediafen). The division of the community into trufen and others is rejected by many fans as inherently unfannish.
Today, subsets of fanspeak define subcommunities within fandom. For example, ringers for "fans of The Lord of the Rings" is used primarily by fans of the Peter Jackson films (see also Tolkien fandom).
- Fanspeak Dictionary: see entry trufan
- Fancyclopedia I by John Bristol (Jack Speer), the Fantasy Foundation, 1944
- Fancyclopedia II published 1959
- Fancyclopedia III (under construction) Joe Siclari
- Overview of Fanspeak This was originally posted in rec.arts.sf.fandom in 1999 by Cally Soukup, summarizing a talk by speech therapist Karyn Ashburn at Minicon.
- "The Language of Science-Fiction Fan Magazines," Bruce Southard, American Speech, Vol. 57, No. 1. (Spring, 1982), pp. 19-31
- Dr. Gafia's Fan Terms by rich brown
- Fandbook No. 1: A key to the terminology of science-fiction fandom by Donald Franson for the National Fantasy Fan Federation, 1962. A classic glossary that predates laser printers, the internet, and media fandom.
- FanSpeak Dictionary of the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association
- Fanspeak Glossary at ReadersAdvice.com
- Fanspeak Glossary at the NCF Guide
- The Neo-Fan's Guide edited by Bob Tucker (1955) at eFanzines. Another classic glossary that predates laser printers, the internet, and media fandom.
- The Conbledegook File