Sunday, 1 January 2017

Ponyisms – and why they're a good thing

There is a slice of this community that really, really dislikes the use of ponyisms outside a strictly Equestrian context. By this I mean things like saying "everypony" or "on the other hoof" when talking to other fans. I'll nail my colours to the mast right now and say that I don't really understand what the fuss is about. Actually, I'd go further: I think it's an actively good thing for people to use these terms – provided they keep them within the fandom.

A while back, former IDW comic artist Ben Bates posted in the EQD comments. He started his post with "Hello, everypony!" and was almost instantly shot down by another commenter with "Please don't do that." Why on earth not? The chances of people taking part in an EQD discussion, many of whom use pony avatars, usernames and so on, not understanding the term are pretty much zero. What harm does it do anyone if Mr Bates wants to be a little silly to a brony audience?

I used the word "brony" just now, and that's a term a large chunk of fans don't use, for a variety of reasons. I don't, much, although I don't have a problem with making exceptions when it's simply a convenient shorthand, such as in the blog description down there. Mind you, it doesn't get the vitriol poured over it that does "pegasister" – a very silly word, sure, but one that some female fans even now prefer. And why shouldn't they?

Another, much smaller, fandom of mine is that for Watership Down. One of the Lapine words invented by Richard Adams is "hraka", meaning "droppings" and used by rabbits as a moderate swearword. Guess what? I use it myself. In real life. Not in front of people who I'd have to explain it to, but when I'm on my own and drop something on my foot? Sure. It's actually quite a satisfying word to growl out in those circumstances.

There are a few ponyisms that I can't really see being used in the way that they are on the show. The infamous "flying feather" (though a term with only a single canon appearance) is one: its clear meaning is too strong to be used casually, yet the term is clearly too silly to be used in a genuinely heated argument. If someone did so, I'd probably suspect they were winding me up and that they weren't really that angry at all.

Nor am I really too keen on "bucking" being used to curse in public, since it just sounds too close to the word it rhymes with. On the other hoof, I'm really not sure why the very sight of the word in a story winds some people up to an almost hilarious degree. I don't use it myself, but I can take it in some kinds of fic. Sure, it's silly, but really: is it any sillier than "everypony" or indeed some of the canon ponies' actual names? Nope.

Silliness in the fandom is fundamentally good. Look: we are (mostly) adult fans of a kids' cartoon which exists to sell plastic toys and which centres on a bunch of multicoloured talking horses. There is no way to be such a thing and not be silly. I would suggest that it's far better to embrace the silliness than to try to somehow stand above the fray, and that being too irritated about it is actually worse than overdoing it a little...

...with one important caveat. I don't like it when people carry this sort of thing outside the fandom and start using these terms to non-fans. That's just impolite, and risks making it sound as though you're affecting an air of superiority just because you're a brony. This is not really any better than when furries refer to non-furries as "mundanes". Keep the fandom vocabulary within the fandom, people.

But for Celestia's sake, let's not get het up about people sprinkling a few ponyisms into their conversation when simply chatting to other MLP fans. It's not only harmless, it's actually a good thing. If you can't deal with someone saying "Morning, fillies and gentlecolts" without getting annoyed, then maybe the one taking the fandom too seriously isn't the speaker. Maybe it's you.


  1. Lendril? E nah plith a embleer lendril!

  2. Ponyisms are great; kinda makes me feel like I'm part of some kind of exclusive, secret society when I use them within the fandom. ;)

    Best not to use them outside though; would just attract unwanted attention. I have been known to use one or two accidentally, but it went unnoticed. Thankfully.

    'Brony' to me just seems kinda.. old? The fandom came up with it because they needed a name for it, back when it was new and exciting. Sort of redundant now.

    1. "Brony" is an odd one. It dates from the very, very early days on 4chan, and does feel slightly outworn at times now. Having said that, I do find it useful sometimes, as there are occasions when "fan" just isn't strong enough.

  3. Furries that refer to non-furries as "Mundanes" make me roll my eyes so hard.

    I have no issues with ponyisms in the correct context. BronyCon, for example, is the correct context. In the mall, speaking with your cashier, isn't. I mean, if that's how you want to get down, then go ahead, I guess, but it's kind of annoying for everyone else.

    But more than anything else, what bothers me is people running as fast as possible away from what the idea of a brony was right after the explosion. The whole reason I really JOINED the fandom rather than just watched the show was that there seemed to be a lot of people honestly trying to be better than they were before and to create a positive internet culture. Then at around the end of season three, it was like there was a war against this whole idea. I guess the 4chan crowd got tired of playing nice because all of a sudden anyone brought up the idea of love and toleration, the value of friendship, etc., all of these people would jump in deriding the whole thing.

    I used to argue for keeping the dream going, but after a while I realized that I seemed like the only one. Now I feel like this is just any old fandom. That makes me sad. It seemed like bronies were really having an impact for a hot minute, but we let people talk us out of it, or maybe we got bored. I dunno, but I feel like our moment passed.

    1. Speaking as a semi-lapsed furry myself, I'm right with you on that one.

      It's hard for me to comment about the early days of the fandom, since I wasn't in it until almost the end of S2. I do remember the Twilicorn stuff, of course. That wasn't a great deal of fun, though it probably hardened me up enough that today's arguments about whether Starlight is amazing, or terrible, or occasionally even both at the same time, rather bounce off me.

      I have thought from time to time about doing an "Is this fandom really anything special?" post here. I might get round to it this year if I have some spare time. For what it's worth, my one-line answer would probably be: "Yes, but not as much as some people seem to think it is."

    2. Gah, pressed "Publish" too soon. Meant to add: if we've had one lasting effect, it's that nobody can ever again say that a kids' cartoon with a female-dominant main cast can't have wide appeal.