Tramps like Us: Music & Meaning among Springsteen Fans

By Daniel Cavicchi | Go to book overview

2
touched by the music

Defining Fandom

"Fan" is a confusing word. Although it is regularly classified as slang, it has been used in English for almost three hundred years and has appeared in a variety of historical and social contexts. 1 Most scholars trace the origin of "fan" to late- seventeenth-centuryEngland, where it was used as a colloquial abbreviation for "fanatic." "Fanatic" connoted religious zealotry and was widely used at the time to refer to those who were mad, frenzied, or possessed ( Oxford English Dictionary 1989, pp. 711, 712-713). "Fan," however, became obsolete and did not reappear until the late 1800s in the United States, when sports journalists used the term to refer to early baseball spectators. It then quickly spread to other kinds of commercial hobbies and amusements. In 1907, "fan" was used in print to refer to spectators at a boxing match ( Partridge 1956, p. 265) and to those attending a racetrack ( Thornton 1962, p. 301). In 1913, it was first used in print in England to describe the audience of a soccer match ( Oxford English Dictionary 1989, p. 711) and also to describe film viewers in the United States ( Random House 1994, p. 725). By 1930, "fan" had become a widely accepted American colloquialism, used in reference to sports, film, theater, and even politics.

There are two explanations of the appearance of "fan" in the United States. The traditional view, represented by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), is that American journalists in the nineteenth century revived the term from its earlier use as an abbreviation for "fanatic" to metaphorically describe the devotion of early baseball spectators. "Fan" described the degree of one's participation in public performance; thus the OED defines "fan" as a "keen and regular spectator of a professional sport."

Other scholars, however, disagree with this etymology and argue that sports journalists in the 1880s and 1890s were more likely to have derived the term "fan" from "the fancy," which was, in the words of etymologist Robert Barnhart:

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Tramps like Us: Music & Meaning among Springsteen Fans
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Contents xv
  • Introduction - Studying Fandom 3
  • 1 - Does Anybody Have Any Faith Out There Tonight? 22
  • 2 - Touched by the Music 38
  • 3 - Ignoring the Music Business 60
  • 4 - Fans in the Audience Performance and the Politics of Participation 86
  • 5 - Listening and Learning 108
  • 6 - Musically Shaping the Self 134
  • 7 - Belonging Together 158
  • Conclusion - Toward an Experience-Near Understanding of Popular Music 184
  • Postscript 190
  • Appendix A Springsteen Fan Questionnaire 195
  • Appendix B - Bruce Springsteen, American Discography (major Works) 199
  • Notes 201
  • References 205
  • Index 217
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