Say the word “Whovian” to many fans and they will cringe. When Zoe Ball addressed the audience as Whovians at Capaldi’s launch, the camera showed them laugh awkwardly. But why? Where does this much maligned term stem from and what is the alternative? Will we ever embrace and learn to love our this most controversial of epithets?
According to Wikipedia, “Whovian” was a term most often used by the American press and common among fans in the United States during the 1980s, when the Doctor Who Fan Club of America published the Whovian Times as its newsletter. Apparently it was seldom, if ever, used by the British or Australian fan groups. The online “Urban Dictionary” describes a Whovian as “an old fan” but amusingly states, “Without Whovians, your life would be very dull indeed. They secretly run the world’s major services, and insert Doctor Who references into every piece of popular culture available.” Christopher Eccleston interviewed in 2005 used the term to describe fans in general – “I’ve met a number of Whovians, real serious Doctor Who fans, and they’ve been so kind and generous to me and excited about the series.”
Although back in 2005 the word “Whovian” was known among fans, it wasn’t actually a recognised English word. That changed on August 1st 2012 when the word was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary! The definition reads “a fan of the British science fiction series Doctor Who”. This would suggest that the term no longer has specifically age-related or American connotations. It has become all-embracing and now that it has appeared in a dictionary, and to some fans’ disproval, it ain’t gonna shift!
Let’s look at the morphology of the word “Whovian”. The word shares its much loathed suffix “vian” with “Shavian”, an admirer or advocate of George Bernard Shaw. There are plenty of other, more common words ending the same way: “antediluvian”, “avian”, “pavlovian”, “Scandinavian” and “Yugoslavian” to name a few. (Btw if any podcasts use these in a quiz, I’d like a mention please!)
Lesser known terms for Doctor Who fans are “Whoeys” (originating back in the Seventies in Keith Miller’s first official Doctor Who fan club run with the help of Barry Letts) and the more modern “Dweek” similar to fans of Glee, the “Gleeks”.
We could make up new words for Doctor Who fans, adding a few suffixes to “Who”. What about “Whoist”, “Whoant”, “Whoarian” or “Whooster”? But the I suspect the battle is lost. “Whovian” is used all over the media and is rampant on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. So we must bravely grip our lapels and accept the fact. The name has stuck. We are “Whovians” whether we like it or not.