Alex Blaze

Can "Fail" die please?

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 05, 2010 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: gaming, godwin's law, online, slate

I'll just say it: Fail is really, really annoying. The fad is dead. It's time to move on.

It's overused. People don't get what it means and are just saying "fail" as a replacement for "I disagree with this" or "I don't like that." Sometimes people try to do the double or triple fail, where they'll point out various reasons they don't like something and say the word "fail" after all of them. It's not three times as clever, just three times as annoying.

It was always a fad. We knew it was going to end since it's agrammatical, involves an awkward structure, and only drew its cache from being surprising and funny. Now, after who knows how many years as a part of the online lexicon, it's just awkward and agrammatical.

It's like shouting "psyche" after saying something not true, like I remember the kids doing back when I was a kid. "That's an awesome T-shirt... psyche!"

Have you noticed how no one's doing that anymore? That's because everyone was doing it, it stopped being surprising or funny, and then people collectively decided to stop annoying their friends with it.

Fail's there. I'm not going to even say that fail has failed, since that would annoy myself.

After being developed in the world of gaming, the fail fad gained popular attention in 2008 with the launch of the popular Fail Blog. Which is all good and fun, even though I don't know all that many trends that aren't annoying that were started by gamers.

Slate, back in 2008, said that "fail" was here to stay:

Most Internet memes have the lifespan of fruit flies. But there's evidence to suggest fail is here to stay. For one thing, it's easier to say than failure. (Need for brevity might explain why, in Webspeak, the opposite of fail is not success but win.) And there's a proud tradition in English of chopping off the endings of words for convenience. Between Old and Middle English, many nouns stopped being declined, says Anatoly Liberman, an etymologist at the University of Minnesota. Likewise, while Romance languages still conjugate their verbs, English keeps it relatively simple: I speak, you speak, we speak, etc. It's also common for verbs to become nouns, Liberman points out. You can lock a door, but it also has a lock. You can bike, but you can also own a bike. There was great fuss a century ago among readers of the British magazine Notes and Queries when it used the word meet to refer to a sporting event. It's not surprising that failure would eventually spawn fail.

Interesting, although that was back in 2008, before it became the it thing to say for people who don't really have much of a sense of humor and just latch on to fads to score cheap laughs and seem cool. Maybe the use of "fail" instead of "failure" will stick around, but I'm hoping that shouting (or writing in all caps) "FAIL" instead of forming a coherent thought will die.

Part of the problem is incorrect usage. People aren't just using it as Fail Blog does, to laugh at the foibles of people earnestly trying but humorously missing the mark. And it isn't being used with nerd competitiveness, to stress pwnage.

Instead, people are using it as a way of saying that they disagree without having to say that they disagree. Instead of saying, "I disagree; here's where I'm coming from and where I think you're wrong," they bark "FAIL: You said X!" Instead of adding levity to a situation, it's being used to close off discussion. It adds to online bullshit, and anything that adds to online bullshit must be abandoned because we all know there's no shortage of bullshit on the internet.

(I'll also point out that it's something I see a lot on other blogs, but rarely here in the comments. Bilerico readers tend to be more open-minded and articulate than others, if I can say so myself.)

But the bigger part of the problem is overusage. It seems like you can't I just googled fail and overused, and one of the first results is a discussion thread from December 2008 entitled "Does Fail FAIL? Is it overused? Discuss." People generally agreed that it was over, and the first person to defend the expression said:


Don't use no double negatives, and never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever repeat yourself.

If anyone needs clarification of my position, I do declare the idea behind declaring FAIL on FAIL is FAIL in itself, which puts you right back at the start, in a position of FAIL.

Therefore, if you have ever used the term FAIL, it is impossible - according to modern laws of physics - to stop subscribing to the act of using the term.

In other words, you FAIL.

I will run this past Hawking, S. next week when we play squash, to get his POV on the matter.

Maybe that was funny in 2008, but it's 2010 now. Let's grieve the loss of the fail fad and just move on with our lives. Who know what idiotic fad will seem cool before 2011?

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If you don't like "FAIL", then don't use it. I resent when someone attempts to bully others into modifying their lexicon, especially over something so frivolous.
Something I wouldn't mind seeing abolished: "gay" as a synonym for "lame," which, after all these years of protest, Facebook groups, and even a TV commercial and billboard campaign, is still pervasive, especially among the undergraduate population of my university. THAT annoys me; "FAIL," not so much.

SarasNavel | March 5, 2010 1:52 PM

As you indicated with the comparison to "psyche!", the-term-that-must-not-be-named is the mullet of internet memes. Thank you, for having the courage and conviction to call for it's demise.

Now, can anything be done about the remaining traces of, "Just sayin'" ?

I disagree! Lets not mourn the loss of the fail fad, lets just move on... as far and fast as possible!

I have a similar issue with a term they use at an exhibit design web site I frequent, for the place where you list designs by other members that you like -- the "me likey" box.

"Me likey".

It was cute four years ago. Now it's just... cloying, not to mention just a tad derogatory, IMHO.

I agree. Let's get rid of Fail.... psyche!!!

that is all
just sayin
me likey
thats so gay
teh (anything)
de-rail(used waaaay too much)
talk to the hand
talk to the foot
talk to the foots voice mail
(ok i made that one up)
*flounces off*
...................too many to list...........

(i still love:
and bil's:'bi-chez')

You forgot 'pwn' *shudders*

gregorybrown | March 6, 2010 9:06 AM

I seem to have drifted into some alternate universe...or maybe I don't talk to people much. "Fail" and most of the terms on Javier's list are unknown to me. I am put off by people shouting "NOT!" after making a statement. Irony should find another mode. And I still recall my first encounter with "whatever": I was trying to get somebody to tell me what she wanted me to do in a situation where there were 3 or 4 options. "Whatever"was a useless response. So I asked another couple of questions, which resulted in her shouting an unfriendly word or two, then stalking off to complain to my supervisor. Language has many paths to use, and communication can be accomplished in ways beyond some bare bones simplicity--but the basic purpose is to move information or ideas from one person to another.

A. J. Lopp | March 6, 2010 2:00 PM

I, too, have never heard the word "fail" used in this manner. Perhaps there are benefits to be an old fart that lives in a cave and never converses with anyone younger than 40.

Perhaps our iPhones can be programmed to automatically taser anyone that uses one of our pet-peeve expressions ... is there an app for that?

rapid butterfly | March 6, 2010 10:16 AM

all your base are belong to us.

Can we get rid of epic too? The people I know that use fail and epic use them waaayyyy too often.

ellysabeth | March 6, 2010 7:01 PM

Internet memes in general can go die.

Examples that I have particular distaste for:

- "No girls on the internet." (Self-reinforcing through inherent misogyny, especially when shouted at anyone the moment she refers to herself with a feminine pronoun, as if by doing so she has just claimed to be a moviestar, God, or Santa Claus. The collective speaker of this one is the reason that people do not often female-identify on the internet even if they are. Also, the reason that people who do not typically identify as female *do* so on the internet. All because the collective you is moronic about it. Start acting like it's nothing special and everything will soon make sense.)

- "<adjective> <noun> is <adjective>" (Is there a more moronic-sounding way to observe the <adjective>-ness of <noun>? Also, this is very commonly used as a derailer or dismisser.)

You are such a curmudgeon, Alex. I love you for it.