What Does It Mean When You 'Stan' Something?

By now, you've probably all heard the iconic 2000 rap song about obsessive fandom gone wrong called "Stan." The Eminem rap that features Dido on the chorus tells a chilling tale about a fan who is obsessed with all things Marshall Mathers, writing him disturbing fan letters, and ultimately, hurting himself and his girlfriend due to his dangerous infatuation. The accompanying music video gives us a chilling visual look into the main character Stan, who tapes magazine pictures of Eminem all over his wall, and mistreats his girlfriend, played by Dido.

Over the past 23 years, the term "Stan" has folded into our pop culture terminology. In 2017, the term was added to the Oxford English Dictionary, and in 2019, Merriam-Webster also took the leap and included it in their dictionary, alongside other new and current words, per Rolling Stone. At this point, "Stan" is almost no longer recognized as a first name. If you want to keep up-to-date with your internet lingo, you need to know what exactly it means to "stan" or even be a "stan." Does it still have that dark and disturbing connotation brought about by Eminem's song? Or has it morphed into something else?

Being a Stan now means you're a superfan

These days, millennials and Gen Z are less likely to mean the term "Stan" as a slur or a pejorative. In fact, in the past 23 years, since Eminem popularized the term, it has morphed into something more sweet and devotional, rather than malicious. Parade points out that, unlike the name Stan, to "stan" someone means you are obsessed with a person or a thing, "but not in a creepy way." Now a verb and a noun at the same time, it is also a combination of the terms "stalker" and "fan." How To Geek reports that, when used as a noun, a person can be a "stan" of a celebrity, and these fans can even form stan groups, like Lady Gaga's Little Monsters, Taylor Swift's Swifties, or Beyonce's Bey-Hive. Simultaneously, when used as a verb, a person can also "stan" a new song, movie, book, or even beauty trend. Take a gander at this fan of the TV show "WandaVision" who declares how much they stan.

You've probably seen the term on Twitter used in a variety of ways. Fans of the basketball player Stephen Curry will tweet how they "stan" the all-star. Shakira die-hards will tweet, "we stan a queen!" It's even used by hair and beauty aficionados promoting new hairstyles and coiffeur trends

Stans should get the credit for popularizing 'stan'

In 2013, a full 13 years after he dropped his single "Stan," Eminem learned that it was indeed his rap that inspired the current usage of the term "stan" during an interview with Rolling Stone. He called the usage "crazy" but "funny." That suggests that perhaps Marshall Mathers shouldn't really get all the credit for popularizing the term. In fact, it would seem that the morphing usage of the word can be credited to the fans themselves. Or rather, the stans.

In 2017, when the Oxford English Dictionary included the term, they cited the first internet usage of it as part of its cultural relevance, per The Outline. They found a tweet dating all the way back to 2008 where a Twitter user tweeted, "I stan for santogold." Since then, the once-negative term has been reclaimed by devoted fan groups, becoming a catch-all for fans who collectively share their love for a celebrity, trend, or work of art, in something that NPR called in 2019 the "standom."

So if you want to find out what you might stan, you should take this Twitter user's advice, and see what your phone's predictive text has to say. "Type 'I'm secretly a stan of' and let your keyboard expose you," they suggested. Come and get your stan on!