My linguistics textbook is talking about the formation of the words “shipping” and “shippers”. I kid you not.
Our fandom, filling lexical gaps, making sociolinguistic history. Is anyone else tearing up a little?
"…To take another example, if you participate on a posting board dedicated to a popular television show, say The X-Files, you might have expressed on the board (a foreclipping, by the way) your desire that someday Mulder and Scully would become romantically involved, would have a relationship. In that case, you would be a Mulder/Scully shipper. Shipper is an innovative clipping from relationshipper. Note that the root of the word is relationship, not relation or shipper. As it turns out, your hopes for Mulder and Scully were at least partially realized. And shipper is an excellent example of a word formed to fill a lexical gap. Can you think of any other word that expresses the concept ‘one who hopes that two people (actual or fictional) will develop a romantic relationship’?”
Something I find interesting about this is that, if I’m reading right, shipper came first, which would make both the noun and verb versions of ship back formations. Intuitively, just looking at usage, you’d expect that the verb came first- “I ship them, therefore I’m a shipper”- but instead it was the reverse. And it makes sense, because in the X-Files fandom, the major distinction wasn’t between ships, but between interpretations of THE ship. Shipper referred to people who wanted Mulder and Scully to get together, distinct from noromos who didn’t, and fans who were into other pairings either didn’t have names for themselves or used labels that didn’t make it into fandom vernacular- as, indeed, shipper wouldn’t have if it hadn’t acquired a much broader meaning- the one provided by the text. Now, if you say you’re a shipper, the natural response is “what do you ship?” The verb ship is almost always transitive, a usage that would have made no sense in the original context because there was only one possible direct object -the good ship MSR.