Everything you need to know about 'shipping' - the strange concept that's changing the way teens talk about relationships
If you see someone on Twitter or Tumblr discussing "shipping," don't assume they're talking about mailing a package. The term has taken on new life thanks to people, predominantly teens, using the word to discuss ideal relationships between fictional characters, celebrities, and even their own friends.
Once I start shipping a tv couple or real life partnership/friendship/relationship that it,I'll ship them forever! ?? mine are all perfect!- Nicole (@NicoleKarenM) October 4, 2013
Shipping originated in the world of fandoms, which are groups of hardcore fans of movies, books, and television shows. According to the ridiculousy comprehensive fandom slang guides of the internet, the word derives from "relationshipper," typically shortened to just "shipper." Relationshippers are people who care deeply about the romantic relationships between their favorite characters - and sometimes, celebrities or even the people in their own lives.
So instead of saying, "Romeo and Juliet are a perfect couple," a Shakespeare-loving shipper would say, "I ship Romeo and Juliet."
"To say, 'I ship that couple,' is a short way for someone to say that they believe in a couple, that they're rooting for them to succeed," Michael, my friend's 15-year-old brother who is a high school sophomore from New Jersey, told Tech Insider. "The term has evolved in teenage slang to become a widespread part of our vocabulary."
A quick Twitter search for the phrase "I ship them" will show you just how widespread the term has become, with thousands of people all over the world tweeting about their favorite couples.
"Kids often use the word when talking about [characters from] TV shows and movies, but it's also become a slang term for describing any two people that you want to get together," Michael explained.
In a sense, some people were shipping over 100 years ago, according to Know Your Meme. They just weren't calling it that. In 1913, the book "Old Friends, New Fancies" featured characters from Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" re-imagined in new relationships.
Today, ships have gone digital. Since the mid-aughts, shipping has become common in the world of online fan fiction, where people create stories based on beloved characters from TV shows, movies, and books. A definition for shipping was added to Urban Dictionary in 2005.
Here's the definition.
If you were a fan of the Harry Potter series, for example, "you could say, 'I ship Hermione Granger and Harry Potter,'" Michael explained.
In case you're not a Potter fan, Harry and Hermione don't wind up together at the end of the series. Shippers of the pair believe that the two wizards should have ended up together. There's even an entire Tumblr community devoted listing reasons why Harry and Hermione are meant for each other.
"Ships are all about your imagination, so they could be impossible or completely realistic," Gabby, a childhood friend and high school senior from Massachusetts, told TI.
For example, celebrity couple Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West are one of the hottest "real-life ships" around right now, she says.
As for an "impossible ship," Gabby says one of the most popular at her school is "Larry Stylinson," a fictional coupling of One Direction band members Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles.
Shipping isn't limited to fictional characters and celebrities. Teenagers are also starting to use the verb to talk about each other.
"Fans will still ship more than other teens, but lately I've seen it [shipping] leaking more into normal teenage conversation," Michael told TI.
For Gabby and her classmates, saying "I ship you two" is the teenage equivalent of saying two people would make a great couple.
"My friend used to have a huge crush on a this boy," explained Gabby. "When she said she liked him, I told her, 'OMG I totally ship you two!'"
As for older generations, it doesn't look like moms will be shipping their favorite couples anytime soon.
My mom doesn't understand shipping two people so she thinks it stands for Should Hook up In Person.- Carlyn (@Carlyn_Thomsen) March 27, 2015
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