#FAIL and other tales of extracurricular punctuation
The internet is a strange place, especially if you’re one of many non-alphabetic linguistic symbols. BUT, a question for the linguistic anthropologist inside of me: how do they function, are they regulated, and what are their significance.
Sure, significance is a hard thing to prove for everyone. Some people type #FAIL because other people do, and sometimes without knowing its significance (I remember having to explain that FTW was for the win, not fuck the world, to a group of students). But, if there was never a motivation behind the system, it would have never come into being.
The meme of FAIL comes from a 1998 neo geo game entitled Blazing Star, in which you are reprimanded for dying by a screen that said “YOU FAIL IT!” (see, being a video game fan boy that’s owned nearly every system ever has benefits, although I still exercise plausible deniability when it comes to SegaCD). Now, however, many see the origin as being the ‘FAILblog’. From there, the # was added as hashtagging became big with things like twitter. But, as many people began to use #FAIL as a full image (not as #(hashtag)FAIL’, the # sign took on new meaning.
Outside of twitter, we might understand # as operating some what like *. *le sigh* signifies an action- it is not the word sigh but my act of sighing. In this way * acts as an indicator of pragmatic, or more fully a notation that one should interpret the following words as not the description of an action, but the action itself. #FAIL, along with its monolithic capital letters, is a show stopper. #- a symbol that we only hit as we search for the right button combo to get us to an operator on an automated phone system- is not something that remotely signifies a typical punctuation. I think we might understand the # as being a way to signify an affect of mistakery that transcends a word. This is not a description of the result of someone’s poor attempt to jump a flaming pool of Lava vis-à-vis a home made trebuchet- this is a signifier of Schatenfreude. We are not meant to read #FAIL, but to feel that little piece of joy inside of us that comes from someone’s stupidest mistake ever- the type that requires home-made trebuchet kits to come with a ‘don’t try to launch yourself over a flaming pit of lava with this device, especially if said pool is filled with hell-mongering allegators”. # tells us that this is not action, not an outward performance, but an internal shuddering.
So now, when you read someone’s facebook status that describes the latest Bear’s play as an epic #FAIL, you know to tell them that you killed their cat pretending to place it in the microwave labeled time machine- they won’t be as mad, because they’re happy on the inside. #FAIL.
Umm… This post might have ended up #FAIL.