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Bulbagraphic:All About Shipping Names

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All About Shipping Names
There is no excusing the matter that they exist, whether you use them or not. If you are looking in the right places, they are everywhere.
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  • Thursday, September 15, 2011

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This article is brought to you by the National Bulbagraphic. Any opinions expressed are those of the author.
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Shipping names have, for the most part, existed in the fandom before most fans could even call themselves such. It is as intrinsic to the fandom as the anime, the cards, and the meta-game, despite not being wholly appreciated, since if you do not 'ship, you hate it by default, and if you do, you only care to know about ten. But more than ten years later--after 649 Pokémon, 50 relative games, 600+ anime episodes, almost 30 manga series, count the trading cards yourself, innumerable characters from all mediums, and the heart and drive to go further in the coming decade--there are currently over 10,000 shipping names all on a readily available List.

You cannot be that surprised. However, it was not until throughout the year of 2010 that an opinion seemed to be growing loud enough to finally bust through a bubble: there were people who hated the system.

The naming trend in the Pokémon fandom was the original testing ground for the now synonymous -shipping suffix. If there was ever one pair to blame, it is Rocketshipping for being the very first name coined sometime before the year 2000, while the series was still in Kanto and Orange. From there, it was its own small phenomenon, and several big names came to be a banner which people stood under: Pokéshipping, Palletshipping, Egoshipping, Gymshipping, Eldershipping, Rocketshipping. These were the only words you needed to feel you belonged somewhere, a camp to foot yourself into, and it was only the beginning. With this, time went on, and the anime simply continued to grow more and more, leaving some 'ships in the cold and some to further blossom. People switched camps, people made more camps, and then Misty went away. Shipping itself stopped being the same, at this point. That is, however, another lesson.

Shipping names themselves come from all across the fandom. If they are found, depending on the circumstance, they are treated well and collected to become "official" fanon terms. They are found coined and submitted on Bulbagarden, Serebii.net, Fanfiction.net, PokéComminity, Shipping Paradise (a French forum), MangaFox, LiveJournal, the Neverending Romance website, and anywhere else they may crop up and be found by someone kind enough to bring them back to me. Recently, however, in an attempt to prevent the issues that arose with DP's initial release, polls were opted to help vote for the name a fandom would desire a couple to be called, to hopefully feel that fandom has a choice, because at this point in the fandom's life: shipping names are inevitable. It is as equal a game as it is a game to indulge in.

There are people who like shipping names; they would not make so many if it were not the case. But it never seemed like it was possible for people to be so vehemently against them, though like the nature of the shipping game itself, so too must opinions change as they only continue to grow and get somewhat more ridiculous (in certain cases, they are meant to be). Insert some surprise that it is swayed. They say, "I don't get why this is called this," or "I hate that this is called that," or "I don't like the shipping names at all just use their names!" And it seems like it is equal elitism (akin to Japanese names vs language-here names) and shallow thinking, but they also cannot be judged for it, since there's half a truth to what they say.

If one is to Google "ash misty", they will get everything Pokéshipping on the same page. Same with "ash dawn". "Ash may," not so much, but "drew may" certainly will. So why not use the names? For the same reason one can Google "brock misty" and get virtually nothing, but Googling "+Gymshipping" will get you a gold mine. The idea of labeling your pairing, especially if it is not possible, enhances the hope of finding someone else who thinks that a certain pairing is the bomb diggity. It is not simply limited to crack pairings, either, because as the anime evolves in particular, many at-the-time 'ships fall out of favor, or become less and less fawned over, simply because the characters are no longer on the cast (whether rivals or semi-recurring characters; Ash 'ships are generally excluded from this assumption, unless they're the gay pairings).

The further your 'ship drifts out to sea, what you are left with is everything you have already read or saved, and your search engines fail with waning popularity simply by searching their names (if they ever made the first page at all; "barry paul" comes to mind). To search under a label, praying that people still use them under this negative belief they should not be, makes it far easier to find what you might have never seen before. To label it to be positive that this is what it is about, and not stumble over many a Facebook page and law firm website.

I have seen a couple state (or the same person multiple times?) they do not wish for this system, because it's like deciphering a code, and they don't wish to spend "a billion years" (paraphrased, but equally exaggerated) figuring out what couple the shipper-in-question means. This is understandable. I see users flaunt their virtually unknown 'shipping names around proudly without stating exactly who is a part of it, and I believe it's purposeful. Because it is inevitable someone will ask, "Who is that?" if only to give the first user a chance to throw out some names and open up a conversation on them. Or I see people list a whole bunch of shipping names they support without adding who's involved with them, and others will grumble as they bother to figure out who are in all these unfamiliar 'ships, if they bother at all, because it's hard to care.

While the List exists to help, it's still a hassle and should not be expected. If your 'ship isn't popular, have some courtesy. Use names along with terms; if your pairing is interesting or odd enough, conversation will flow on its own without someone having to ask, "Who? What?" Because like stated, people only know between five to twenty shipping names: the big name 'ships that prevail through their chosen medium, their personal favorites, and which ones they hate (in order to avoid). But at the same time, if you care...another reason the List exists in the first place.

On the other hand, no one is forcing those who complain about the shipping names to use them. In general discussion, it's best not to use the shipping names, but don't complain when you can't find any Lucy/Tucker fanfic because search is failing you, if you're a strong advocate against the names as labels.

There are also those who complain about the names themselves. I came across a discussion on the pokanon journal basically saying, "We should change it all, if we have to keep it. Reboot!" and this twisted me up something badly, because I felt it criticized the work gone into the List. Yes, some 'ships have absolutely horrible names and it is unfair to the max that they should get something some bland or so long or so ugly and uncreative; this is undeniable. But to say it should all be changed poses a problem, and even another anon, I believe, pointed this out: to change the names is to undo all the hard work it was to simply keep one name to one pairing. Changing it now means forever having to search for old!name and new!name, because everyone is just going to go back to their old works and change the shipping names? No, that's preposterous. You would simply be giving people more work in searching for their shippings.

Also brought up as an example in the attempted reboot idea was: fandoms like Yu-Gi-Oh in all of its incarnations use the one-word rule to name their 'ships. But the Pokémon doesn't have the luxury of a limited cast (since most YGO cards aren't 'shipped), leaving all of the humans who are outnumbered compared to Pokémon vast universal characters and CotDs, some of who have a small number of fans willing to 'ship them around. Consider 10,000 unique names. It is impossible to believe that every 'ship would be one word, especially after the thesaurus is beaten to death after supplying no more synonyms for "fabulous". It is a lose-lose situation.

That ambition, however, would never go astray in naming current 'ships as they come. If you want good names, if you want names you would like, get them in yourself before someone else does. Because the rule of thumb for shipping names is: first come, first serve (exceptions being the more important 'ships). If you are first, it is yours. It is best to complain only when you have actually named something; otherwise it is like protesting your government when you do not understand the full extent of what it is you assume you are fighting against: you are just on for the ride.