Friday, September 21, 2012

Emoting with Icons

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the modern-day emoticon :)

The use of punctuation marks to represent a face in order to convey an emotion was first used by computer scientist Scott Fahlman at Carnegie Mellon University on 19 September 1982.  It was during a misunderstood humorous post on the university's online bulletin board that Fahlman suggested to use a punctuation mark to set apart the jokes from the usual serious announcements.
And so the emoticon was born.

There have been earlier examples cited by historians, my favorite reference being that of a 1969 New York Times interview with Lolita writer Vladimir Nabokov in which he is asked how he ranks himself amongst other writers.  He replies, "I often think there should exist a special typographical sign for a smile - some sort of concave mark, a supine round bracket, which I would now like to trace in reply to your question."

I find it quite annoying when microsoft platforms and instant message automatically turn your emoticon of a smiley face into a picture of an actual smiley face.  When this :) becomes this

 I think this loses the point of using the punctuation marks in the first place.

A girl I dated once told me that men shouldn't use emoticons because their use is quite feminine.  I don't know how this makes any sense but I have to admit that since our conversation I have used them sparingly.

I will end this post with a link to an online emoticon dictionary, equipped with a dizzying array of the facial punctuation marks.

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