Eminem and the emergence of ‘stan’
Stan. It seems like such an unassuming word, perhaps even the name of a relative or friend. But in today’s day and age, it has taken on a new slang meaning which was first (albeit unwittingly) introduced to the world by rapper Eminem on 4 December 2000. Featuring the vocals of British singer Dido, Stan is the four verse story of an obsessive fan that emulates Eminem. Stan writes letters to Eminem begging him for his approval, friendship, and acknowledgement after his love for Eminem distorted his entire reality. When he receives no response, his letters become increasingly hostile. Eventually he finds himself so angry from (what he perceives as) his idol’s dismissal of him that he commits suicide by driving a car off a bridge… with his pregnant girlfriend in the trunk.
Critically acclaimed, the song is often hailed as one of Eminem’s best. Given the dark subject matter of the song, you might be surprised to learn that the song has led to the ironic trend of devoted fans referring to themselves as stans, who ‘stan for’ or ‘stan’ celebrities, often popular musical artists or groups. Fandoms unite stans far and wide, giving them monikers to be known as, such as Lady Gaga’s ‘Little Monsters’, One Direction’s ‘Directioners’, and Taylor Swift’s ‘Swifties’. Giving a group of people a name unites individuals around the globe and has paved the way for stan related hashtags on Twitter and even Stan Wars websites where rival fandoms fight to prove who reigns supreme.
Fans, groupies, and freaks
Stans have existed throughout history as normal fans—a shortening of the word fanatic with similarly negative origins also depicting obsessive individuals. In truth, Stan was probably the easy name for Eminem to pick for his song’s main character because it rhymes with fan, but also because the word stan serves as a kind of portmanteau of ‘stalker’ and ‘fan’. Groupie is another word historically used to describe fans in a negative fashion: it started as a way to describe people who hover at the edge of a famous person’s group, and transformed into a way to describe female fans that follow around celebrities with the hope of starting a sexual relationship. Similarly, freak has taken on a negative fan meaning when used to describe an aficionado of a certain person or activity, like a ‘Taylor Swift freak’ or general ‘music freak’.
What’s the future of the word stan?
Widespread and easy access to the Internet allows for fans to become stans because it allows fan bases to build strong communication with each other, and to communicate with the celebrities in question on social media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr. Nowadays, diehard fans come hand-in-hand with the development of any large-scale fandom and the emergence of the overzealous stans is not only natural but necessary to help a celebrity’s name enter mainstream media. Eminem’s creation of the term depicts an extremely obsessive stan that struggles with separating his love for Eminem from reality, but the term has taken on a more lighthearted, ‘super-fan’ connotation today. There are hundreds of examples of the word in the New Monitor Corpus and it makes appearances all over Twitter.
@whylanabanana Rihanna can’t even sing well live… Don’t let stanning Katy make you a sad delusional stan
— Jason Del Rey (@jsuhn) July 13, 2015
Stan has even appeared on mainstream websites like Vulture when it ran an article about a poem Tilda Swinton wrote for her friend, comedian Amy Schumer, where they referenced Swinton as Schumer’s ‘ultimate stan’. The word has also found its way to Buzzfeed’s popular Can We Guess What Pop Queen You Stan For? quiz.
EDIT: As of an early 2016 dictionary update, the word stan has been added to OxfordDictionaries.com.
Photo credit: Mikael ‘Mika’ Väisänen, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0