Short shot #11: haul-fail

From Virginia Heffernan, “Uploading the Avant-Garde”, NYT Magazine 9/6/09 (p. 15):

But what’s surprising is how little the home-made videos resemble the pro goods. Sure, there are parodies of mainstream clips here and there, but mostly the amateurs are off on their own, hatching new genres. Consider “haul” videos, in which people show off the stuff they recently bought, or the popular “fail” videos, which show all manner of efforts gone wrong. Individual haul and fail videos often attract 100,000 views or more – and no one had even imagined such genres until recently. At the same time, no one at any production company seems to be struggling to serve the haul-fail audiences (or combine them?). And the haul people and fail people evidently don’t feel underserved; they are helping themselves and creating what can only be called an art scene, all around the many, many videos of their genre on YouTube.

The relevant nouning of the verb haul has been around for some time; OED2 has an entry for

fig. The act of ‘drawing’ or making a large profit or valuable acquisition of any kind; concr. the thing or amount thus gained or acquired.

with cites from 1776 (Abigail Adams, “I think we made a fine haul of prizes”) on. But its use as a modifier, in noun-noun compounds like haul video and haul people, might be recent.

Nounings of fail do seem to be recent — and recently very popular in some circles. There’s been a lot of writing about both count uses, as in the top ten fails and fail blog ‘a blog about fails’ (parallel to fail video), and mass uses as well, as in a bucket of fail. See, among other recent items, my posting here, Neal Whitman’s posting here, and Ben Zimmer’s column in the NYT Magazine and his Word Routes column.

Now we get haul and fail together.

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