Can We Please Retire The Term “Fail”?

Someone actually took the time to do this to their keyboard.  For this picture.

Someone actually took the time to do this to their keyboard. Just for this picture.

There are certain ‘taboo’ topics you can’t touch with a ten foot pole.

Your girlfriend’s lip hair.  That boys weekend in Vegas that got a little uncomfortable.  Your midget brother Hank.

That stuff.

Also, the term ‘fail’.

‘Fail’ has spread across the Internet like a ravaging venereal disease.  It has infected everyone from pre-teen schoolboys playing Halo on XBox to 62 year old SEO experts on Twitter.


It means something that didn’t work.  Something not up to snuff.  A failure.

Like when I tried to play hockey when I was a kid. My massively obese body would constantly be offside.  Always offside.  I’d coarsely wheeze at the other end of the ice until the puck would finally arrive, but when I touched it, the referee blew his whistle.  I’d fall on my ass.  My coach would frown.  Parents would leave.  I nearly died.

It was Hockey Fail.

See?  I’m not saying it’s not addictive.  It is.  In fact, an individual made an entire blog about it. A blog with thousands more visitors than this one. A blog that’s ranked higher than 821, 366 on Technorati.

But today, it’s time to bury the word.  Together, let’s just give it up.  Let’s promise ourselves we’ll never use it.  Because really?  It’s gotten out of hand.

It’s a word that will dissolve away with the years.  Like the word “doorknob” or “NOT” or “psyche!” or “burn!” or …well.  You get the idea.  Here’s a few reasons not to say “fail”.

1. You use it because it’s easier than expressing the emotion you feel. Like when Amazon had a glitch that wiped away all of their Gay and Lesbian book offerings. #AMAZONFAIL peppered every online conversation.  Every one.  Nobody could speak of Amazon without affixing the word “fail” to the conversation.

If the hippie in front of you at Starbucks orders a half-soy, half-milk, triple shot, extra hot, extra foam grande peppermint mocha at Starbucks, we all know he’s an asshole.  But is it a “Starbucks Fail”?  No.  Enough already with the fail.  Instead, say: “There’s an incredible douchebag at Starbucks”.  It’s much more accurate.

2. Not everything fails. You can’t seem to open your bag of dog food to feed your puppy so now you’re going to be late for the start of Maury.  Do you text your friend Kim and say “gawd i hate dog food bags FAIL”?  Yes. You probably do. But maybe you just need to invest in scissors.  Life isn’t that bad.  You’re obviously unemployed and yet, you can still manage a puppy.  Sure, he’ll probably starve to death because you’re likely to ignore him for Judge Judy, but still.  Good on you.

3. You attach “epic” to “fail” and we all lose. Epic Fail is at the apex of annoying phrases.  Mostly because when someone says “epic fail” it’s for something mundane.

I broke a nail!  EPIC FAIL.

My iPhone is dying and I’m getting on the streetcar.  EPIC FAIL.

If you want to use this term, save it for worthy situations. Like these:

I’m on day one of my honeymoon in Kandahar.  EPIC FAIL.

I’m on a freighter off the coast of Africa and I think I see a Somali Pirate ship in the distance.  EPIC FAIL.

Or the most appropriate.

I just spent the last three minutes of my life reading about why I shouldn’t say fail from some blog I accidentally clicked on.



  • I am going to Digg this blog post. Let’s see if we can make an Epic Fail happen! Psyche!

    I love your blog.

  • 20

    You’ll have to pry fail from my cold dead hands.

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  • @20
    Your proposal is acceptable. 🙂

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  • I can let FAIL go, I really can.

    But I reserve the right to use “fail” when necessary.

  • There are few terms that irritate me more. Ok, the terms leverage, impacted, and strategic in most business communications still do. But FAIL puts my teeth on edge. Really. The strategic use of FAIL has leveraged attention for sloppy writers and has impacted too many of us.

  • buttarcup

    and i thought i was the only one that hated it

    fail is sometimes OK.
    adding the epic… makes me want to rip someone’s hair out and stick it down their throat

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  • You forgot an apostrophe in “boys weekend”. If it’s one boy it’s a boy’s weekend if it’s many boys it’s a boys’ weekend.

    Apostrophe FAIL! 😉
    (As if we haven’t all done that before.)

    Otherwise this was brilliant as usual.

  • And, I forgot my commas in the comment above.

    Comma FAIL!

  • Alex

    You know what’s worse?

  • Grapefruit

    Loved it until the last tiny little bit. The part where you called your blog posting an epic failure.

  • It has infected everyone from pre-teen schoolboys playing Halo on XBox to 62 year old SEO experts on Twitter.

  • That boys weekend in Vegas that got a little uncomfortable.

  • That boys weekend in Vegas that got a little uncomfortable.