One True Pairing
|See also:||OTC, GSF, Threesome, Polyfic|
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"One True Pairing" is abbreviated as OTP -- it is the sole or primary pairing someone is interested in for a given fandom. Someone with an OTP may have little or no interest in reading or creating fanworks for other pairings, although they may still be interested in reading/producing gen. Fans who do read or create fanworks for multiple pairings in a single fandom may or may not have an OTP; if they do, they may describe their favorite pairing as their OTP.
The term and its derivatives are largely synonymous with shipping, e.g. "I ship Harry/Hermione" can mean "My OTP is Harry/Hermione". However, while one may ship more than one pairing in any given fandom, OTP is used to single out a fan's favorite pairing in that fandom.
Original Understanding of the Concept
Back in the days of Mono-Fandom fans, the term OTP meant the only pairing that the fan was interested in, period. There wasn't even a second fandom, let alone a second pairing within the fandom, that was included as part of the definition.
One of the first uses of the term was in 1984 from a summary from the publisher of zine Alternaties #2, "This zine has something for everybody...The stories are mostly Spock-centric, so if you love a certain Vulcan, this one's for you!...And boy, does he get around -- we have Kirk/Spock, Spock/McCoy, Spock/Chapel, Spock/and various others, including T'Pring...And of course, more Kirk/Spock, because we all know that's our one true pairing!!!...Variety is the spice of life -- and this zine is extremely spicy."
Another early mention was in 2002 in Discovered in a Letterbox #23 in which a fan commented on whether Daniel (in Stargate SG-1) could be slashed with anyone other than Jack: "... I guess that could be applied to any fandom and the idea of OTP (one true pairing)."
OT3 is a play on OTP, and means "one true threesome". The term was in widespread use by the early 2000s. Its use is generally looser than OTP; OT3 tends to mean "the threesome I really like" more than "I'm only interested in this threesome and no other pairings or combinations." In some contexts, "trio" or "trinity" is a synonym for OT3.
Popular OT3s include:
- Harry/Ron/Hermione in Harry Potter
- Jack/Will/Elizabeth in Pirates of the Caribbean
- Frodo/Sam/Rosie in Lord of the Rings
- Fraser/Vecchio/Kowalski in due South
- Peter/Elizabeth/Neal in White Collar
- Doctor/Jack/Rose in Doctor Who
- Dean/Sam/Castiel in Supernatural
- Santana/Brittany/Quinn in Glee
OT4 means "one true foursome", and is a riff off OTP and OT3. When used on a story it generally means an actual sexual foursome, but it's also sometimes used by readers to describe a warm gen "team" story that made them feel like the four people are (or could be) "together" -- a sort of team smarm. It is fairly popular in SGA and Merlin, although marginal compared to the common OTPs John/Rodney and Arthur/Merlin; for details on SGA, see OT4 (Stargate Atlantis pairing); for Merlin, see OT4/5 (Merlin pairing). The popular Lord of the Rings hobbit foursome Frodo/Sam/Merry/Pippin is occasionally referred to as an OT4.
The term has since become common in a number of fandoms and is also used as a general term for a foursome.
Popular OT4s include:
- Ronon/Teyla/Rodney/John in Stargate Atlantis
- Arthur/Gwen/Merlin/Morgana in Merlin
- Frodo/Sam/Merry/Pippin in Lord of the Rings
- Brendan/Spencer/Ryan/Jon in Panic! at the Disco (also called GSF)
- Sam/Jack/Daniel/Tealc in Stargate SG-1
- Colbert/Cooper/Olbermann/Stewart in Pundit RPF (usually called PRT, but also referred to as an OT4)
- Dan/Phil/PJ/Chris in The Youtube RPF (usually known as the Fantastic Foursome, a pun on The Fantastic Four)
Though many OT4 fans identify as polyshippers and prefer moresomes in general, one common joke is that OT4 shipping happens when a fan can't choose a pairing to ship. Despite the obvious intended humor, there are cases where OT4s are made from two popular pairings in a fandom, such as the hobbit OT4 listed above, which is constructed from the popular Frodo/Sam and Merry/Pippin pairings.
OT5, aka "one true fivesome", is a riff off OT3 and OT4 and refers to a sexual or romantic relationship between five people, though sometimes aromantic and nonsexual made for each other or found family works are also labelled this way. Some OT5 includes all five characters in a single relationship, while others involve a complex collection of relationships of various types between them.
OT5 was first used in Merlin fandom to refer to works in which Merlin, Arthur, Guinevere, Morgana, and Lancelot were all involved in a single relationship or pattern of intertwining relationships. Later, other characters were substituted, or completely different groups were sometimes labelled as OT5.
In Prince of Tennis fandom OT5 usually refers to Fuji/Tezuka/Echizen/Atobe/Sanada stories. OT6 occasionally shows up too, adding Yukimura to the group. However it sometimes refers to a slightly different group of five or six characters, PoT having a large surplus of attractive boys.
In Gundam Wing fandom, stories in which the five main characters are together are generally not referred to as OT5, but as a 'pilot pile'.
The term appears in One Direction fandom, and generally refers to all five members of the band.
OT6 ("one true sixsome"), like OT5, can involve a sexual or nonsexual relationship between six people, and the relationship may be a single one or a collection of interwoven ones.
OT6 is commonly used in the Avengers Movieverse to refer to the Avengers themselves: Bruce/Clint/Steve/Natasha/Tony/Thor. It may describe both sexual works and team works. Other characters are often added to this collection to form an OT7 or OT8, but who is added varies widely by creator.
OT8 ("one true eightsome") is commonly used in the Sense8 fandom due to the eight main characters that are part of a psychically reborn "cluster" (Will/Riley/Capheus/Sun/Lito/Kala/Wolfgang/Nomi, the relationship is also named Cluster Ship), and can involve a sexual or nonsexual relationship between eight people, with the possibility of another individual being interwoven within the group.
It's also used in the Avengers Movieverse and other fandoms.
OTE is commonly used in the Avengers Movieverse fandom to refer to the six Avengers + multiple other characters, often girlfriends like Pepper Potts and Jane Foster or SHIELD characters like Phil Coulson, Nick Fury, and Maria Hill. The "E" stands for "Everyone."
- Shipping Squirrel. Image text: "Can't decide which ship to ship. OT4". Posted July 12, 2011. Accessed July 17, 2013.
- merlin_ot4's profile includes, as part of Rule #2: "This flexible rule also applies to any wandering Lancelots that happen to pop up and decide to make the ol' reliable OT4 a cozy OT5 instead." Rules posted Feb. 23, 2009. Accessed July 17, 2013.
- OT5 Recs, posted Jan. 22, 2012. Accessed July 17, 2013.
- Bruce Banner/Clint Barton/Steve Rogers/Natasha Romanov/Tony Stark/Thor tag on AO3, with 8 uses of the term "OT6" on each page as of the date of access, July 17, 2013.