I hypothesized that users who had been in fandom for a very long time (more than ten years according to my usage bin) would have a different perception of the words wank and squick and even make a distinction between the use of these words and the use of discourse and trigger. After all, wank and squick are fandom terms that have been in use since LiveJournal, whereas discourse and trigger seemed to have been co-opted from academia and are more used by fans who are relatively new to online fandom.

Indeed, when I narrowed down the focus to Tumblr and Dreamwidth fandom, I found out that the Dreamwidth user base on average associated wank with “objectionable fan behavior,” whereas the Tumblr user base preferred “written or spoken communication or debate,” which was also their average definition for the word discourse. Similarly, for the word squick the average definition from a user on Tumblr was “something I dislike.” Its treatment of the word trigger as either “a deep-seated visceral turnoff” or “something I am uncomfortable creating or consuming” is similar to the Dreamwidth definitions of the word squick. Finally, the preference questions on the survey showed statistically significant differences in the lexical choices for each platform, as Tumblr on average preferred discourse and trigger over wank and squick, and Dreamwidth preferred it vice versa.

This significant lexical difference between Tumblr and Dreamwidth users seems to support the theory of a cultural shift between old and new fandom.

Winterwood, Lily. “Discourse Is the New Wank: A Reflection on Linguistic Change in Fandom.” In “Tumblr and Fandom,” edited by Lori Morimoto and Louisa Ellen Stein, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 27.
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