I have plenty of problems with Tumblr fandom. It often feels like you have to wade through a bunch of immature, hyperbolic posts before you get to anything worthwhile. And as someone who was part of the original Firefly fandom and knows what it is to love a show or celebrity that other people judge you for, it’s difficult to see kids who follow mainstream stuff like Glee calling themselves “nerds” and “fans” in the same way. However! Tumblr brings an incredibly important factor to fandom that never existed when I was online in the early 2000s: Their own language, supplemented with incredible .gifs that instantly get to the heart of what they’re trying to say.
There are so many times I scroll through certain Tumblr tag pages for Crushable, or see .gif communities pop up on my personal dashboard, and I’m continually impressed and astounded by how universal these little moving images are. Especially when they’re utilized to communicate Tumblr lingo. In just a few years, these users have created an endless list of slang—catchphrases and abbreviations that sum up their reactions to heartbreaking TV twists and swoon-worthy celebrities in addictive shorthand. I keep running into little phrases and have been cataloging them for a feature just such as this. So without further ado, here are my ten favorite pieces of Tumblr lingo.
SO MANY FEELS
This is probably the phrase I see most often, regardless of which fandom or celebrity tags page I’m searching. As you might’ve guessed, “feels” is an abbreviation of “feelings”—likely because it was just more convenient to make it one syllable. Rarely do I see .gifs of just that one word, however; it’s folded into larger phrases like all the feels or right in the feels, as you an see in the Avengers .gif above. (Fun fact: Someone followed up that specific .gif with one of Clark Gregg‘s character Agent Coulson, or right in the Pheels.)
Perhaps the most onomatopoeic piece of lingo, “hnng” and “unf” are the sex noises you make when you encounter some smoldering creature—usually a celebrity, and usually a guy, though the noises are just as applicable to ladies and regular folks that you simply find hot. More than anything else, these words signify the shift in how bold fans are about expressing their sexuality online, especially considering that many Tumblr users are teenagers who are usually shielded from anything vaguely sexual.
Careful when you search this one, because in addition to silly .gifs you’ll get nude photos and even some offerings from online exhibitionists.
via iCarly wiki
This phrase definitely existed when I was in fandom, but it was more of a response than anything else: You’d see something upsetting or disturbing and just peace out of the conversation with “I can’t.” As in, “I can’t deal with this” or “I can’t have the patience for the rest of you.” But now people use it to start discussions, along the lines of “I can’t deal with this, but what about the rest of you?”
This one made me laugh out loud in disbelief the first time I came across it, because it’s just that outrageous and… well, on the nose. Considering that fandom is still majority female, this pretty adequately sums up our reactions when we come across some devastatingly handsome guy. But whoever actually decided to introduce the uncomfortable mental image of our ovaries blowing up like the Death Star… bravo, lady.
ALL THE FUCKS I GIVE
I love, love this classic piece of lingo. No, it didn’t originate with Tumblr, but thanks to .gifs there are so many ways you can express the anger, bitterness, exasperation, and excitement of not giving a fuck. I could dedicate an entire post to what I’d find after just quick search. They’re just so ridiculous! (Related: IDGAF, or “I don’t give a fuck.”)
Of course the members of any online community won’t always agree with each other. And since Tumblr is the meeting place for so many fandoms — often opposing — we need a way to express disagreement or disdain. Plus, making it look like the celebrities or characters someone loves has turned on them, is a pretty effective way of intimidating someone.
MY BODY IS READY
This meme originated from the awkward phrasing of a Nintendo exec in 2007 but has now taken on a decidedly sexual (or at least hedonistic) meaning. Basically, if you’re excited about anything coming to you, you use this. The best part of the two .gifs above is that Emma Stone is imitating the Snape .gif that has become one of the most famous associated with the phrase because of how damn well it works.
STOP BEING PERFECT/FLAWLESS
The whole use of “flawless” is another larger post I’m going to write in the future. I first encountered it on ONTD, with posters overusing the word for every person they wrote about. Somehow this specific word “flawless” has become the ultimate compliment, but whereas it describes whoever you’re a fan of, the other piece of lingo I’ve found on Tumblr is the fan’s response, a weird command/plea in “stop being perfect.”
DEH GONNA FUCK
Again with the horny kids! This phrase comes in handy when you’re reading a fanfic — or something like Fifty Shades of Grey, I guess — and you just know that the outcome is gonna be sexytimes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any specific .gifs to match this, so I went with the larger realm of ‘shippers: People who worship fictional relationships in fandom. (I don’t know which one inspired the term, but I assume it’s one of them.)
WHAT IS AIR
This one is simple and lovely: It’s what you say when you’re laughing so hard you can’t breathe.
Share your favorite pieces of Tumblr lingo and accompanying .gifs in the comments!