The ever-observant Wes Davis writes, “It may be my imagination, but I think I’ve been hearing Americans using ‘no joy’ in the Brit sense of ‘no luck.'”
I was not aware of that sense, but sure enough, the OED’s definition 1.g. of “joy” reads: “colloq. Result, satisfaction, success. Esp. with negative, and freq. ironical.” The first relevant citation is from a 1946 book, Escape to Danger (and the quotation marks suggest a fresh coinage). “At 9.15 the workers had been down nearly forty minutes and still ‘no joy’.” Then from Stanley Price’s 1961 Just for Record: ” I..tried to get a taxi. No joy, so back into the studio.” Those and all subsequent citations appear to be British. There is also a Canadian shoegazing band called No Joy, formed in 2009.
However, as Wes noticed, the expression is creeping into American usage. I found several recent examples on Google News. Boston Globe tech columnist Hiawatha Bray (born in Chicago) writes in a recent piece: “I’ve asked Facebook for a comment, but no joy so far.”
And Tom Maxwell (born in Baltimore), in a Salon review of BBC Music’s video of “God Only Knows,” wrote last year:
Elton John, looking pained, covered in computer-generated blue butterflies, singing, “You’ll never need to doubt it.” From the look of things, he should be singing, “Everything is satisfactual,” but no joy.
There is also a specifically American use, at least according to Urban Dictionary. A 2006 post offers this definition: “In air intercept, a code meaning, ‘I have been unsuccessful,’ or, ‘I have no information.'”
A later poster elaborates. “When a control tower advises a pilot that he has an approaching aircraft. If the pilot does not see the approaching aircraft, after a few seconds, he can reply ‘no joy.'”
If I could find out exactly how and when “no joy” entered U.S. military parlance, I would be a happy man.