When I think of Robyn Hitchcock, I think "Beatle Dennis". I wish I hadn't thrown away my Globe of Frogs tape even if I don't have a tape player anymore.
My question is: In the galaxy of Harry Potter fandom, what are the origins of the word "ship"? It's always pretty funny to see which characters these people try to link romantically, but I've always wondered where the word came from. To me, it doesn't really sound like what it means.
The first I heard of "'shipping" was in the 90s on rickety old X-Files sites, back in the days of the Estrogen Brigade and such. I didn't know what the hell it meant either. Eventually I just picked up the context without bothering to figure it out and eventually I realized it was some kind of contraction of "relationship", one wished for by fans. With X-Files, shipping was more like you're someone who thinks they oughta just do it and get it over with (see: Northern Exposure). In something like Harry Potter, and contemporaneously the Buffy universe, where there's a whole repertory going on, it can denote a preference.
There are people who would say that Harry Potter shipping is not over. I tell these people to go to hell. This is because shipping is something that you're hoping will happen, and it still might, even if it's a bit farfetched. But not so farfetched as to be impossible, such as Spock-on-Kirk action. That's where you get into "slash", fandom erotica rooted in fantasized homosexual pairings of characters. It can mean any dirty fanfiction, but you'll find the majority is never-gonna-happen gay, say, Harry and Draco. You can put anybody you want in slash. In fact, someone probably already has.
But this shipping business. That's your wishin and hopin that the writer(s) are gonna make your year by getting those two together. The Harry Potter ship behemoth is, of course, the H/H. And it does have a great symmetry, doesn't it? It even looks cool. However, it was a longshot for several years. Many people thought that Ron and Hermione would finally realize that they've been an odd couple waiting to happen, like Harry Burns on New Year's Eve, or Paula Abdul and that cat. There was always a certain frisson, and Ron certainly got pissy when Krum showed up. Men don't realize that they're jealous, and why, until after they're already being impolite and sulky. So, definitely a "ohhh you two crazy kids, what took you so long???". Hermione doesn't get under Harry's skin the same way. Sometimes he gets pissed at her, but they don't really bicker. However, there's still not been a definitive Ron/Hermione event. But again, Harry Burns took 12 years. So while the question of coupling remained open, Harry/Hermione had many supporters. This was shut down when Harry suddenly wanted to beat Dean Thomas's face in. And he didn't even know why. See? But you knew that "why" was that Ginny Weasley girl Dean was snogging on. And then Harry totally planted one on her after a big quidditch win. And they totally became a public couple. Here the ship ends. Hermione has been voted out.
There are those who will say, though, that Harry's "I gotta do this and don't wanna get you killed" chilling of his relationship with Ginny was him casting aside a temporary thing, on the way to his true destiny with Hermione. These people refuse to embrace the punk rock power that is Ginny Weasley. I cannot help them.