fail and win

In light of the increased use of “winning” thanks to Charlie Sheen’s ranting, I was thinking about the use of “fail” and “win” as adjectives and not verbs.

As far as I can tell, the adjective “fail” started first, and it came from the construction “YOU FAIL!” which, according to Wikipedia, started with the poorly-translated 1998 video game Blazing Star. The habit of captioning pictures with the term “fail” and, later, “epic fail” gave rise to the use of adjectival fail. “Fail” can be used in such contexts as:

“That movie was fail.”

“My fail car keeps breaking down.”

I see this a lot in my Warcraft population, and it often appears in papers that I write, resulting in what has been deemed the footnote of win, in which I must explain adjectival fail.

With the rise of adjectival fail, we also have adjectival win. One place where this is used is on Failblog, resulting in its own subdomain Win! that exists just to chronicle things that are the opposite of fail. “Win” isn’t exactly an antonym of “fail”, but it probably is used more often because the exclamation “Success!” already exists in regular usage, and furthermore there’s an adjectival for “successful” which would block the use of “success” as an adjective. So the closest English alternate is, perhaps, “win”, and thus we get constructions like “footnote of win”, along with “This new book is win”. However, I haven’t seen “win” used adjectivally in the sequence determiner-adjective-noun, e.g. *”the win book”. Maybe that construction is possible for some, but not others.

I haven’t seen much of “winning” or “failing” though, at least not until Charlie Sheen decided to inflict himself upon the world yet again.


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