The phenomenon of ’ship names didn’t blow up until social media came along to fan the flames, though people were certainly ’shipping Scully and Mulder and Kirk and Spock before they could make hashtags out of their names. Although ’ship names happen organically, they’re actually explained by sophisticated linguistic rules. Over at The Toast, linguist Gretchen McCulloch discusses an academic article by Cara DiGirolamo that breaks down exactly what makes a good ’ship name. Overlap is probably the most obvious, with names like “Olicity” that blend the “li” in Oliver and Felicity, and like “Cartinelli,” which blends the “art” in Carter and Martinelli. But even the simplest of ’ship-name rules isn’t always simple:
The only time when overlap doesn’t work is if we have two names that begin or end with exactly the same sound, because, well, no one would notice if you just swapped out the same thing in the exact same position. Thus Kurt/Karofsky becomes Kurtofsky, and Riley/Buffy becomes Ruffy or Briley (a rare case of two viable ship names). Elsanna (Elsa/Anna, also known as Frozencest) manages to remain viable despite both ending in -a because Anna also starts with a-.
(Who is ’shipping Riley and Buffy, though? C’mon.)
It gets way more complicated than that, and McCulloch explains things like stress match and onset conservation—the latter is how we get “Bedward” out of Bella and Edward, because “whichever name has the most consonants at the beginning tends to have that part stick around.” McCulloch puts terms like orthographic transparency and onset conservation into layman’s terms, so it’s a fascinating read for anybody who has ever pined for their OTP.
You can read the whole article on The Toast.