Ben Zimmer of the New York Times recently wrote a great article on the history of FAIL. That’s FAIL the interjection not the verb.
In July 2003, a contributor to Urbandictionary.com noted that fail could be used as an interjection “when one disapproves of something,” giving the example: “You actually bought that? FAIL.” This punchy stand-alone fail most likely originated as a shortened form of “You fail” or, more fully, “You fail it,” the taunting “game over” message in the late-’90s Japanese video game Blazing Star, notorious for its fractured English.
What has also made FAIL so popular online is the hilarious Fail Blog, a site where users submit images and videos of everyday examples of failure (like the one in this post).
FAIL has even touched us at Griffin. We were so inspired by the phenomenon that we created FAIL Maker, a free iPhone app to help you share those special moments of defeat.