Like any other college student who spends far too much time on the internet, I’ve become fairly familiar with a range of communities whom I’d otherwise never known existed. In particular, one community that has always brought me both fascination and confusion is that of furries, which is a fandom comprising individuals who are interested in anthropomorphic animals with humanlike characteristics. While the common costumes donned by these community members, known as “fursuits,” have been most visually engaging, I began to notice the specific mannerisms and language used by members of the furry community that would come up on my TikTok “For You” page.
This subgenre of language is known as furspeech, a term coined by furry community member and writer Wanderer Wolf, who defined it as the rewording of basic common words through the substitution of vowels and key symbols.
Furspeech itself is a constructed language, meaning that its phonology, grammar and vocabulary were invented as works of fiction as opposed to emanating naturally. While this type of language isn’t typically used throughout everyday life, it has become increasingly popular through different online communities — in this case, the furry fandom.
Despite this “intentional” nature of furspeech, the language has made itself a staple among the furry community.
In fact, there are some examples of furry-centered language that, through their English origins, are likely recognizable among the average person. For example, phrases such as “fursona,” “purrfect” and “somefur” take their respective original words of “persona,” “perfect” and “someone” and replace them with animal-like characteristics in order to personalize them to the furry community.
This multitude of terms can go beyond simply replacing one part of a word with another that makes it more personalized to the furry community. In fact, there are specific phrases, such as “happy whelpday,” in which whelping, or a female dog giving birth, stands in for “birthday,” and “facepaw,” which references the action of someone holding their head in their hands.
However, these constructions are not limited to and have ventured outside of the English-speaking world. Furspeech has been translated — quite literally — into other countries, and, consequently, languages. This is evident through the German version of the word “pfoto,” which takes the German words “pfote,” or paw, and “foto,” or photo,” and merges them to align with furspeech.
This versatility acts as a representation of the powerful nature that these individualized communities have in not only forming connections with one another but in creating unique, transferable (or, should I say, transfurrable) forms of communication that remain relevant beyond the English language.
While I can’t necessarily claim to be an “expurrt” on furspeech or its prevalence and dominance amid furry communities worldwide, I also can’t deny my familiarity with the constructed language as someone who navigates the internet. Even as someone who has only really been educated with what’s publicly available on online spaces, I’ve, at the very least, been fascinated by the profound impact the language has had within these virtual platforms.
And regardless of your opinions on furspeech, its consistent fan base and ability to permeate through several cultures under one constructed language is pretty “purrfect” in itself.
Stella Kotik is the night editor. Contact her at [email protected].