Google uses the phrase "Whale fail" on this picture (from their error page):

Google Books "whale fail" image, Captain Ahab dejected at finding a green whale

What does it mean?

2 Answers 2


It's a reference to the Twitter "fail whale", integrating a Google-Books-appropriate collateral reference to Moby Dick. (It appears that Captain Ahab is dejected because the whale in front of him is green, not white; his search for the white whale has suffered a case of "whale fail".) This is all related to the fairly recent, Internet-driven nouning of the verb "fail".

It doesn't actually mean anything other than that your Web request failed.

  • 3
    "I wonder if it'll be friendly."
    – TRiG
    Jun 24, 2011 at 22:50

The term "whale fail" or "fail whale" is in common usage to denote a failure of substantially vast proportion. See the Urban Dictionary entry for whale fail.

Similar phrases are "Epic fail", "Failtastic" and "All aboard the fail boat".

A known variant of the fail whale, the "red fail whale" also appears as an indication of a network connection failure in the popular Twitter client DestroyTwitter.

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