The Success of Fail

A new twist on the ubiquitous fail meme makes it political. Unlike many language hounds, I try to value the life of all words. I really,...

A new twist on the ubiquitous fail meme makes it political.

Unlike many language hounds, I try to value the life of all words. I really, sincerely don't get bugged by new words, missing apostrophes, crazy spellings, or even words like impacted, which impact so many other citizens in such a negative way.But I have my limits. Even a word hippie like me sometimes gets his mellow harshed. For example, I've been hoping for fail-as in epic fail! and hotel sign fail!-to fail, ever since it became omnipresent on the web a few years ago. But the truth is, I'd be a pretty negligent language columnist if I didn't say something about the unbelievable success of this word. Plus, with the advent of CNNfail, MSNBCfail, and similar words, fail is actually making the world a better place, which is more than I do on most days.For a look at the history of fail, you can't do better than Christopher Beam's piece in Slate, which suggested that fail evolved from the expression "You fail it!", a translation of some unencouraging words from a Japanese video game. Another Slate article explored the commercialization of the meme, as personified by Fail Blog, where "Swingset Transportation Fail" and "Samurai Fail" and "Historical Accuracy Fail" are brought to you by the same entrepreneurs who turned lolcats and loldogs and lol-whatevers into profitable pageviews. So fail is at once a grass-roots, commercial, social-media, political, and humorous phenomenon. No wonder it can't be stopped.Also, it probably helps that fail has, in fact, been a noun all along, in the expression without fail, as well as obscurer senses that now have a contemporary-ish ring, like this 1622 Oxford English Dictionary quote: "The Prince suffers in the fails of his Ambassador." And in the academic world of dorms, rubrics, and lectures, the pass/fail class already did some nouning of fail in a setting that's as full of young, innovative language users. (For more on fail and how it annoys people, and why it really shouldn't, read linguist Arnold Zwicky's take).Twitter has plenty of examples of this general use of fail, the kind that has been annoying me since about 2003, as well:"So apparently mohair makes me sneeze AND gives me migraines. FAIL."June 21, 2009, sandandsilk" - See the little apostrophe someone put on here? Epic grammar police fail!"June 21, 2009, MicheleisMario"Oh crap. Waking up before 11 = fail."June 21, 2009, miss808"My camera died at the fire department. Mommy Photographer fail."June 21, 2009, FireMomBut the latest, and probably greatest, variation of fail is #CNNfail, a Twitter hashtag that seems to be everywhere recently, as tweeters protest the fair-to-middling-to-craptastic coverage of the protests in Iran. For non-tweeters, a hashtag is part of a Twitter post that allows for easy searching of topics. Typical hashtags are for far goofier things-such as #robotpickuplines and #inaperfectworld-but it's political activism that's motivating these tweeters, as seen in these characteristic examples of the trend last Sunday:"CNN you just incorrectly reported the Neda story! You need a Persian translator! #iranelection #cnnfail #cnn"June 21, 2009, Mariam Ispahani"@RWSparkle IMO, Nancy Grace is a humiliating example of #CNNfail at its worst."June 21, 2009, GayPatriot"#cnnfail #iranelection Yep, more than half of CNN's tweets about Iran have broken links. Typical CNN FAIL!"June 21, 2009, MaineChapmans"#iranelection #cnnfail @cnn @gawker CNN now covering Heidi and Spencer during riot police fanning out in Iran. CNN: FAIL."June 21, 2009, Sandy Lewis"I have to admit, CNNfail is a pretty brilliant and succinct way of saying CNN has screwed the pooch. It's inspired a website, plus equal-opportunity snarking in the form of #msnbcfail, #foxnewsfail, #nytimesfail and #wapofail."But even if fail is a natural language development, and it's helping to critique our deserving press, while bringing more joy than a robot butler, I have to admit I still hate it. I come from a more refined era, when sucks described the fails of the world. So next time you point out what a horrible job CNN or yours truly is doing, do me a favor and reach back to those simpler days, and write #CNNsucks (as some have already done) or #markpeterssucks, please.
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

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Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

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Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

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