“THE BOYS”: This is how all boy band fans refer to their favorite group. If they’re feeling assertive, it becomes “my boys.” When communicating with another die-hard devotee, it’s “our boys.”
EASTER EGG: In popular culture, an Easter egg is a hidden message, joke, reference, or image in a body of work meant for fans to decode or crack. For example, New Kids on the Block wearing updated versions of their “Hanging Tough” outfits in the video for their “Boys in the Band” single thirty years after the original track is an Easter egg. It’s unlikely a non-NKOTB fan would pick up on it.
FAN FICTION (FAN FIC FOR SHORT): This one is pretty self-explanatory, but fan fiction is fiction based on real people or characters from a separate, original work. There can be Harry Potter fan fiction, and there can be fan fic about befriending New Kids on the Block. If they so happen to travel to space and land on a planet that does not exist in our limited understanding of the great beyond, or enter some other setting that differs from their canonical history, that’s referred to as AU, or fan fiction set in “alternative universes.” Online, there are self-publishing databases dedicated to fan fiction, the largest one being Wattpad. You might remember Fanfiction.net.
FANDOM (AND FANDOM NAME): Fandom is used to describe both a community of fans and the experience of being a fan. Etymologically, it is the combination of fan- and the suffix -dom, likely referring to “kingdom,” or a condition, found in the word “wisdom.” In the latter interpretation, “fandom” is the state of being a fan. Every big boy band, and those groups who aspire to one day become a big boy band, name their fandoms. It’s a simple idea: give your loyal followers a sense of community and identity by tagging them in the same way Democratic and Republican party affiliations unite people with similar politics. Contrary to popular belief, fandom names are not a trend that began in the social media age to rally those populations. They have been around for decades: the Beatles had their Beatlemaniacs, the Bay City Rollers had Rollermaniacs, New Kids on the Block fans are called Blockheads, Direction has its Directioners, BTS simply calls their group ARMY, like KISS fans referred to themselves in the zenith of ’80s hair metal.
FAVE(S): Your favorite band, bands, member, celebrities, whatever. It is not a proper noun, but the internet does not care much for grammar or the limitations of language, so get used to it. Example: Big Bang’s G-Dragon is my fave.
INSIDER: A term used to describe the most loyal and active members of an online fan account who have access to privileged information, like the whereabouts of a boy band beyond their publicized appearances. These include: the hotels they’re staying at, where they were spotted in the last hour, their flight numbers, and so on. This should not be confused with the way “insider” is used at gossip publications, where it means a private source close to a celebrity. These insiders are fans who’ve done their homework and should probably become spies later in life.
SHIP: While this may sound nautical to the uninitiated, “ship” is closer to “relationship” than “pirate ship.” It’s an active verb. When a fan ships, they encourage and/or root for a relationship between two celebs and/or fictional characters. This is anything from hoping Harry Potter and Hermione Granger would become an item to wishing boy band members would date one another. Shipping plays a crucial role in celebrity gossip and in the homosocial experiences of fans who, say, want One Direction’s Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson to date. In fact, romantically positioning two objects of affection in queer relationships is common in boy band spaces. For many young women interested in the boys, it would be heartbreaking to see them with another girl, but with another member of the group—someone she also fancies—it’s accessible eroticism. In that way, shipping deserves a lot of thought: Is it that these girls see queer relationships as somehow less legitimate than straight ones, and therefore this does nothing toward furthering sexual equality? That Harry and Louis together means they could never “cheat” on a female fan? Or is it that fans are open to the idea of polyamory and bi/pansexual identity at an early age? Or are they simply horny?
SHIP NAME: When you ship a pair, it’s likely that others do, too. That results in a sub-fandom for those relationships, regardless of whether or not they are real. To return to the previous example: Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson shippers are known as Larries, in reference to “Larry Stylinson,” a combination of both boys’ names. When Styles was dating Taylor Swift, a public relationship, their ship name was “Haylor.”