Back in my day, “fail” was a verb. We also had to walk to school in the snow, uphill both ways. Oh, and the snow leopards…
“…online commenters suggest it started with a 1998 Neo Geo arcade game called Blazing Star. (References to the fail meme go as far back as 2003.) Of all the game’s obvious draws—among them fast-paced action, disco music, and anime-style cut scenes—its staying power comes from its wonderfully terrible Japanese-to-English translations. If you beat a level, the screen flashes with the words: “You beat it! Your skill is great!” If you lose, you are mocked: “You fail it! Your skill is not enough! See you next time! Bye bye!”
(Anyone whose seen the “All your base” video knows how these memes work.) The May 2008 launch of Failblog brought the word to new heights — and world events drove it from there. As Beam explains, web searches for “fail” surged in corrolation with the mortgage collapse and financial crisis.
Beam’s linguistic analysis is here. One thing he misses though, another element that may help explain the rise of “fail,” is the American taste for degradation. Look at our culture. Much of the often-decried sex in the media really isn’t really about the sex itself; same goes for the violence. What is consistent, in reality television, “bum fights“, and the disgusting success of straight-up torture porn at the box office, is the public’s desire to see people in their most pitiful, destitute, “fail”-ish states. Obviously this is all just conjecture, but I do wonder whether something like “Failblog” would do so well in any another culture. (Oh and let me add that I enjoy a good “Blind Date” train-wreck as much as the next guy, so I’m not casting stones here…)
And so we leave the summary to Dylan:
“She knows there’s no success like failure; and that failure’s no success at all.”