FANBOY.

Those of you who spend any time on sites where technology is discussed will doubtless be familiar with the term fanboy, meaning ‘someone so emotionally attached to a tech product or company that any perceived attack will send them into a defensive frenzy.’ (The company involved is frequently Apple, for doubtless complicated historical reasons that I’m happy to say I’m ignorant of.) Harry McCracken of Technologizer has done some digging and come up with Fanboy! The Strange True Story of the Tech World’s Favorite Put-Down, and since I always enjoy a good etymological investigation, I’m sharing it here. The gist of it is that although the OED has a cite from 1919 (Decatur Rev. 2 Oct. 6/2 “It was a shock to the fan boys when Cincinnati.. beat the Chicago White Sox”), its current use dates from a 1973 fanzine created by “two fans who took Marvel Comics, the work of Frank Frazetta, and other matters a wee bit too seriously,” called Fanboy. McCracken also points out that the Merriam-Webster definition, “a boy who is an enthusiastic devotee (as of comics or movies),” is incorrect, since a fanboy is not necessarily a boy (the OED has it right: “a male fan (in later use chiefly of comics, film, music, or science fiction), esp. an obsessive one”). Don’t miss the comment by Jack, who points out that McCracken has overemphasized the priority of the fanzine and has other sensible things to say (“All language is spoken. The written word is the extremely temporary capturing of language”). Hat tip to Dave Wilton at Wordorigins.org.

Comments

  1. “Apple fanboys” are people known for their (perceived) willingness to defend any decision made by Apple, no matter how user unfriendly or ridiculous, as The Only Right Thing To Do. Notable examples include various properties of iPhone OS, such as the lack of Copy/Paste functionality in early versions. Jobs’ stubborn refusal to include support for Flash is, contrary to popular opinion, a much more complicated matter.
    One would have to do a thorough check of teh intertoobz, but I suspect a great uptake in the usage of the term fanboy, especially as applied to consumers of Apple products, immediately preceding and/or following the introduction of the iPhone. If I’m reading it right, Google Trends seems to agree.

  2. rootlesscosmo says:

    Hm! When I called myself “a stone Argerich fanboy” on the Civic Center blog, Mike Strickland, the blogger, acknowledged being one too, and I sort of thought there would be many more–not Argerich admirers (who are numerous) but self-described fanboys. But a search on that string returned exactly two hits: my comment and his reply. I think I need to order up a t-shirt.

  3. You write: “OED has it right: ‘a male fan…”
    Really? McCracken wrote, and has it right, I think: “Fanboys come in all ages, and fanboyism isn’t the exclusive preserve of males.”
    Obsessive, yes. Male, not necessarily, although probably predominantly.

  4. The term fangirl also exists, though the implicature is somewhat different: fangirls prototypically don’t debate, they squeee.

  5. Male, not necessarily
    I defer to your judgment; to me, as an interested but decidedly alien onlooker, it definitely implies “male.”

  6. Rembrandt Q. Einstein says:

    Male, not necessarily, although probably predominantly.
    In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I strongly suspect that “fanboy” is never used to refer to females. It’s not a word like “lumberjack”, where there isn’t an unambiguous feminine equivalent. “Fangirl” is, if anything, a more popular term than “fanboy”, especially in some circles (like anime fandom).

  7. The website Fanboy.com prefers fangurl, FWIW.

    And Why Shouldn’t You Use the Sexist Term Fangirl?
    For the record at Fanboy.com we like to refer to fanboys of the opposite sex as fangurls rather than fangirls. This term comes more out of punk and fanzine circles and was popularized a bit later n the 90s. It has a slight bit of a feminist buzz to it as well, which to our editorial point captures the more enlightened spirit of being a fanboy.

  8. mollymooly says:

    Why not “fangrrrl”?
    I had assumed “fanboy” was originally Japlish, like “walkman”.

  9. I certainly fangirl over more things than I fanboy over (yes, it works as a verb, too).

  10. I do like fangrrrlfangurl looks like it has something to do with a vampire website.

  11. Christophe Strobbe says:

    The comments have petered out. Pitty, I was hoping for a malamanteau.

  12. The malamanteaux would be in the German threads.

  13. As for the subject of this article, I have seen it only as a noun, usually coupled with the Russian slang rendering of “sucks”, as in “Виндоус – масдай и суксь” (google would provide many examples of this). For what it’s worth, I have never seen the verb form – “масдаить”.
    Personally, I like “суксь” better: it sounds like certain Russian nouns (“спесь”, “смесь”…) and reminds one of the Russian word for “а bitch” (all these have nothing to do with the meaning, of course).

  14. Sorry LH and everybody – my previous comment was actually for the previous article, under the title “MASDAIT”.

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