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The fangirl glossary

3 Sep

Wow, September’s off to a good start this year. That clear, fresh sunlight, that glorious almost-chill in the morning – for about the next three weeks, anyway, until winter and disaster strike, and darkness surrounds us for five months like a blanket. But at least it means that the cultural desert of summer TV is almost past, to be replaced by the gigantic creative and technical labour of the autumn drama schedule.

If you’re a writer or work with writers, it’s heartening to look at the networks’ Fall “sizzle reels” and calculate just how many creative writing jobs there must be in the US entertainment industry. If you’re dazzled by cinematography and editing, or wonder anew every year at how actors do it,  you know what’s about to come will be orders of magnitude better than what you’ve been watching since May. And If you’re a fangirl or fanboy – someone heavily emotionally invested in the characters in a particular series – this must be the most exciting time of the year.

Can’t imagine what it’s like myself, of course, but with the advent of social media, a fanbase can give you a good idea of how it feels. In the weeks leading up to the premieres, and then throughout the season, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr are awash with speculation, exclamations, fan art, animated GIFs, complaints, criticisms, hopes and fears. And everybody gets to take part – there are gifted amateur critics out there on the fansites, some of them semi-officially recognised by the networks and included in preview screenings, but Twitter is there for everyone when something unexpected happens at the end of the season premiere.

It’s not aways easy to know what to say: art is difficult to write about, and words can be hard to find when you’re right in the grip of the drama. Social media is audio- and video-capable, of course, and visual memes often work better when words are failing you: Spongebob and Patrick’s facial expressions, for example, bespeak emotion in a way that eludes even the broadest vocabularies.

But if you’re live in a chat forum or on your phone, it’s not always convenient to get a picture organised. So what’s emerged is a collection of forms, memes and idioms that, rather than avoiding the inarticulacy, actually relish it, so that the inexpressibility becomes part of the enjoyment. They start in English, but move easily into other languages, sometimes untranslated, as popular shows spread around the globe.  They do need a bit of translating, though, for people – such as myself – who like to keep a cool and objective distance from the work they are appraising. So here’s a primer:

*_* (starry-eyed) Emoticon indicating adoration

XD (huge smile) Emoticon sometimes indicating laughter, but often used in fandom communications to indicate delight – the X representing eyes closed in ecstasy and the D representing a large grin (note for older readers: some emoticons are best viewed sideways on). Can be emphasised further by adding extra smiles: XDD


Air, what is? Expression used to indicate that the correspondent is suffering from hyperventilation

OMG they’re holding hands WHAT IS AIR???

BRB crying I’ll be right back, I’m in tears: used to excuse oneself from a forum when things have got too much watching the latest episode; also often used rhetorically in discussions after the event

BYE! Broadly equivalent to I’m dead or BRB crying; also in French as ADIEU

Dr Gardner saying ‘I love you’? Nurse Penny leading him by the hand into the medicine cupboard? … BYE!

OMD ses yeux verts au-dessus de ses lunettes ADIEU

Can you not Please stop torturing me with spoilers/leaks/alarming speculation about my favourite show. Not to be confused with I just can’t or Lost the ability to can

‘Two major characters will experience life-altering moments as the cable car stops in midair – Variety’ CAN YOU NOT :-0

I just can’t Expression of wordless admiration at the gifts of favourite actors or triumphs of favourite writers after a particular dramatic highlight. Translates well to German as Ich kann es nicht. A complete sentence in itself; never takes an infinitive, can be used with an indirect object preceded by “with”. See also Lost the ability to can and the semantically distinct Can you not?

God the love! The character development! I just can’t with this show sometimes

Ich kann es nicht See I just can’t

I’m dead Self-explanatory indicator of cognitive/emotional status after an intense scene or episode. See also We’re f*cked

I’m fine Expression indicating that the correspondent is not fine

Right, so he’s just left the pasta simmering to go and join her in the shower. I’M FINE. NO REALLY

jahsgdjahs jas gsjad fas (spelling optional) Phenomenon known as “keyboard smashing'” in which the power of expression temporarily deserts an overwhelmed correspondent and is replaced with free-form alphabetic composition

Keep Calm and… Ubiquitous British World-War-Two-poster-cum-general-purpose-meme, but particularly appropriate for TV fanbases as season premieres or finales approach, with appropriate adjurations of support or expectation added at the end (Or sometimes not: “Keep calm and … I CAN’T F*CKING KEEP CALM”)

Lost the ability to can/Unable to can Idiom deriving from the absence of an infinitive in the popular expression I just can’t, in which “can” is creatively misread as the main verb in the sentence rather than the modal

Look at the way she looks at him omg CAN’T, SORRY. LOST THE ABILITY TO CAN

OMD French abbreviation for “O Mon Dieu”; apparently in some danger, judging by Twitter searches, of being supplanted in French youth culture by the near-ubiquitous Anglo-Saxon OMG

Single/Taken/… Popular meme in which the simple personality profile tick-box is extended and adapted for more complex emotional states


Squee High-pitched onomatopoeic exclamation representing a delighted squeal; also vb intr (to squee; squee-ing; squee-ed): to make such a noise

tho Etymologically derived from “though”; when used after a celebrity’s name,  indicates the sentiment “… is seriously attractive/has major game/is a total badass”. Often used in conjunction with the starry-eyed emoticon

Bill Walsh tho  *_*

We’re f*cked Expression of complete satisfaction, after viewing a preview, at the prospect of eight more months and 24 more episodes of angst,  heartbeak, cliffhangers, love scenes, rows and zingy exchanges over critically ill patients as the autumn dramas return from their long hiatus to lift and carry their fans all the way through to spring. Man, only three weeks to go now. For them, I mean. Not me.

Omfg, je fangirl

30 Jul

I know how she feels – I’m a Castle fan myself. But, man, you’ve got to feel a bit sorry for the Académie Française. “To fangirl” has scarcely become a verb in English, and now it’s crossed over to France already?

Admittedly, there probably isn’t a sufficiently compact French word meaning “to become breathlessly excited in the manner of a female teenager over an attractive figure in the public eye”, and perhaps the Académie needs to work on that, because it’s none too clear how the youngest French verb on the block is going to function in its new home. It certainly doesn’t seem to conjugate in a regular fashion (nous fangirlons?) – at least not on Twitter – and it’s going to look frankly odd in the past historic (Emma fangirla pendant toute la soirée).

And my heavily corroded French fails at the sight of “complet”, which I always took to be an adjective rather than an adverb. Is it the done thing to shorten “complètement” when you’ve only got 140 characters to play with (in which case, the sense might be “I totally fangirl when Ryan makes references to Castle’s books”)? Or is “complet” a separate, idiomatic indication of surrender, as in the Anglo-Saxon fangirl’s equivalent “I’m done”? Either way, you suspect the lights are going to be burning late at the Palais de l’Institut de France.*

There have been some French incursions into txtspk, for sure, such as QQ1 (“quelqu’un” – someone) and PK? (“pourquoi?” – why?) But for every success, you can easily find a failure:

MDR is “mort de rire” (dying of laughter), the equivalent of LOL (laugh out loud), or, perhaps more closely, ROFLMAO (rolling on the floor laughing my … well, you get the idea). But OMG, with or without intensifiers beginning with f, appears to be as widespread in the francophone Twitterverse as OMD for “O mon Dieu.”

It’s commonplace to mock the Académie for its conservatism, its top-down prescriptivism, its fear of change, its lame insistence on “fin de semaine” instead of “le week-end” and “éblabla” (no, really) for online chat.  It’s customary to point to English’s capacity to absorb and borrow words from everywhere and still retain its power and identity, and enjoy the Palais’s feeble discomfiture over “les air-bags”. But descriptivism is easier when the tide of cultural imperialism is always flowing your way. It must be less funny when it seems that every discussion about youth culture or technology in your home country is more or less taking place in another language, give or take the articles and prepositions. If that was happening to English, I’d be feeling pretty prescriptivist too.

* Not that English-speaking fandoms don’t tune up the language a bit too. One of my favourite expressions, often denoting an inability to sufficiently express one’s admiration at a coup de théatre, is: “I just can’t.” It lacks a participle and an object, but it makes itself felt.