Thursday, May 12, 2016

What do we call Sherlockians?

It seems we have a little bit of a problem these days when we try to discuss Sherlockians en masse.  Or even define just what a Sherlockian is.

I'm a Sherlockian. Have been for many years. You probably are a Sherlockian, too.

But if you're going to write about us together, and you don't want to constantly use the word "Sherlockian" over and over, what works as a more generic synonym?

Are we fans? Are we devotees? Aficionados?

I think I can fairly say "Sherlockians are fans of Sherlock Holmes," and most people won't disagree. Yet as individuals, there are those who feel "fan" doesn't quite sum up the work they've put in on Sherlock. There are, indeed, students, scholars, and those who've even taught Sherlock among us. Those who've published treatises, done great researches, and dealt with weighty matters in the name of Sherlock Holmes. And also a few folk who just feel their love of Holmes is somehow grander than that of the rabble for no special reason.

The thing is, I feel like every one of those people had to start out as a fan. It's not a profession. Like anything else, fans of Sherlock Holmes have found ways to weave it into their profession where they can, whether they're professors, novelists, or lawyers. And sometimes, when that weaving leaves the realm of typical fan activity, they do deserve a description more than just "a fan." And there are such words: author, historian, playwright, impresario, collector, master.

Still Sherlockians, of course.

The place where we always run into trouble, however, is when someone tries to "fancy up" the word fan without putting such accomplishments behind it. "Oh, I . . . [sniff] . . . am an enthusiast." Yes, yes, and the geeky man-child living in his parents' basement is a comic book collector . . . he doesn't buy comics because he likes to read them. And your spouse with the Mr. Spock ears and the uniform isn't a Trekkie, they're a Star Trek cosplayer. We're all serious adults here. We sometimes don't like to do silly kid things without sticking a fancier word on it.

Yet we were all kids once. And probably silly now and then during that period.

And even though we were all fans once, and many still happily are, sometimes that word gets used the same way "boy" gets used to speak of a grown man -- as a derogatory statement that the person is less than deserving of full status. And if you're going to call somebody a fan in a derogatory manner, then you have to have something to call yourself, which is where words like "devotee" and "aficionado" have lately taken up a somewhat uglier taint.

So what do we call our fellow Sherlockians?

Well, my first thought would be "anything you'd call all of us, including yourself." If you're like me and don't consider "fan" a dirty word, we can be Sherlock Holmes fans. If you truly are a fancy sort and will allow that we're all fancy folk, "aficionados" is actually a pretty fine word and we can be Sherlock Holmes aficionados. (Just keep writing it over and over until you learn to spell it. It's a bit of a beast.) And if you're Samuel L. Jackson and want to make us all out as Sherlock Holmes #*&%+!$@ers, well, if you're willing to include yourself in that group, have at it.

Because we're all Sherlockians, whatever that is. And if you want to get more specific than that, and separate out the these from the those, maybe we should just name names.*

*Except where lawsuits are a possibility.

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