Emoticons

An emoticon is a symbol or combination of symbols used to convey emotional content in written or message form. The word is a portmanteau of the English words emotion (or emote) and icon. The National Telegraphic Review and Operators Guide in April 1857 documented the use of the number 73 in Morse code to express “love and kisses” (later reduced to the more formal “best regards”). Dodge’s Manual in 1908 documented the reintroduction of “love and kisses” as the number 88. Gajadhar and Green comment that both Morse code abbreviations are more succinct than modern abbreviations such as LOL.

Typographical emoticons were published in 1881 by the U. S. satirical magazine Puck. In 1912 Ambrose Bierce proposed “an improvement in punctuation — the snigger point, or note of cachinnation: it is written thus \___/! and presents a smiling mouth. It is to be appended, with the full stop, [or exclamation mark as Bierce’s later example used] to every jocular or ironical sentence”. Emoticons had already come into use in sci-fi fandom in the 1940s, although there seems to have been a lapse in cultural continuity between the communities.

An early instance of using text characters to represent a sideways smiling (and frowning) face occurred in an ad for the MGM movie Lili in the New York Herald Tribune, March 10, 1953, page 20, cols. 4-6. (See “Creation of 🙂 and :-(” section below. ) In 1963 the “smiley face”, a yellow button with two black dots representing eyes and an upturned thick curve representing a mouth, was created by freelance artist Harvey Ball. It was realized on order of a large insurance company as part of a campaign to bolster the morale of its employees and soon became a big hit.

This smiley presumably inspired many later emoticons; the most basic graphic emoticon that depicts this is in fact a small, yellow, smiley face. In a New York Times interview in April 1969, Alden Whitman asked writer Vladimir Nabokov: “How do you rank yourself among writers (living) and of the immediate past? ” Nabokov answered: “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.

The creator of the original ASCII emoticons 🙂 and :-(, with a specific suggestion that they be used to express emotion, was Scott Fahlman; the text of his original proposal, posted to the Carnegie Mellon University computer science general board on 19 September 1982 (11:44), was considered lost for a long time. It was however recovered twenty years later by Jeff Baird, from old backup tapes. 19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman 🙂 From: Scott E Fahlman <Fahlman at Cmu-20c> I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers: 🙂 Read it sideways.

Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes – given current trends. For this, use 🙁 There are endless possibilities because people are very good at creating and interpreting pictures as faces. See ASCII art. An equal sign is often used for the eyes in place of the colon, without changing the meaning of the emoticon. In these instances, the hyphen is almost always either omitted or, occasionally, replaced with an ‘o’ as in =O). In some circles it has become acceptable to omit the hyphen, whether a colon or an equal sign is used for the eyes.

In other areas of usage, people prefer the larger, more traditional emoticon :-). In general, similar-looking characters are commonly substituted for one another: for instance, o, O, and 0 can all be used interchangeably, sometimes for subtly different effect. In some cases, one type of character may look better in a certain font and therefore be preferred over another. Some variants are also more common in certain countries because of reasons like keyboard layouts, for example the smiley =) is common in Scandinavia and Finland where the keys for = and ) are placed right beside each other and both need the use of the shift key.

Also, sometimes, the user can replace the brackets used for the mouth with other, similar shapes, such as ] and [ instead of ) and ( . There also exists the use of umlauts to achieve emoticons that aren’t tilted to the side. For example, O is the upright version of :O (meaning that one is surprised). A portmanteau of emotion and sound, an emotisound is a brief sound transmitted and played back during the viewing of a message, typically an IM message or e-mail message. The sound is intended to communicate an emotional subtext.

Some services, such as MuzIcons, combine emoticons and flash player in a widget. Video emoticlips There has been a recent emergence of very short video clips, now referred to as EmotiClips that is a video snippet containing an expression of emotion. It can be shared on websites, in emails, and through mobile phone messaging to express feelings – not unlike a video greeting card. This new form of communication has been used recently by MTV and Paramount Home Entertainment to promote the arrival of MTV’s The Hills. This idea and design for EmotiClips were inspired by emoticons but created by an ad firm.

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