On Fail

I’ve had the privilege of being quoted or mentioned in a lot of newspapers and magazines over the years, but as an minor-league word nerd, this one ranks as among the most gratifying: This week’s “On Language” column in the Sunday New York Times magazine quotes from my post “The End of Fail“:

The fail phenomenon has its naysayers, most prominently Anil Dash, an influential tech-culture blogger, who wrote a strongly worded post titled “The End of Fail.” For Dash, politicized fail has not moved far from its snarky roots. “ ‘FAIL’ isn’t advocacy; it’s the tool of those who don’t know how to be advocates, who don’t know how to persuade,” Dash argues. “It puts the ego of the complainers ahead of the cause they’re trying to advocate.”

In reviewing the etymology of “fail”, Ben Zimmer makes a few really interesting observations, most notably that the term has forked a bit, reflecting both the mindless non-critiques I railed against, as well as the harmless, even charming, use of “fail” on sites like Fail Dogs. Zimmer also elides any mention of ubiquitous meme-starter 4chan playing a role in the development of “fail”, which is probably just as well.

I’m actually so pleased with this one I’ll probably run out and grab a print copy of the magazine shortly after I post this.