I saw this article on the NY Times site, and thought it was really interesting. It’s a visualization of the Twitter chatter that happened during the Super Bowl. Those chatters are placed on a map of the U.S. so you can see what location is saying what. There’s also a play button that lets you view the chatter over the course of the game. Very cool, right?
My favorite part is if you view “Talking about ads” and keep your eye on tweets near Lake Forest, CA, you’ll see at the end of the game the most used word was “fail”. I’m not sure what ad it’s referring to, or if it’s even referring to an ad at all, but it only appears in Lake Forest.
The word is definitely not localized to Orange County, as was noted on Slate.com. Apparently, it comes from a video game with poor Japanese-to-English translation.
It’s nearly impossible to pinpoint the first reference, given how common the verb fail is, but 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!”
For a while now, I’ve personally noticed the use of “fail” increase in everyday speech, mostly under the age of 25. I’m not sure why, but I really get a kick out of this word when it’s used like this. Maybe it’s because it’s so simple and to the point. Maybe it’s the way it perfectly embodies the arrogance of the cyber geek who casts judgement and ridicule from the safety his armchair. Maybe it’s because of the many images that I’ve seen this word tattooed on. Maybe it’s a combination of all the above.
Whatever the reason, I have to soak in the enjoyment from this meme as much as I can. As history has taught us about slang, it won’t last forever!