In face-to-face interactions, face expression is inevitably important, almost on the same level-of-importance with intonation. In written interactions, this function is replaced by something called ’emoticons’. We sound amiable by putting ‘:)’ in the end of our sentence, and convey that we dislike something by using ‘:(‘.

I was curious upon who invented this genius thing, so I browsed and found that the blame should be thrown to Scott Fahlman in 1982 who made the first smiley! Through the computer network of Carnegie Mellon University, he posted:

19-Sep-82 11:44
From: Scott E Fahlman
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: 


An voila, just like that, the meme does it job and become a worldwide trend! Nowadays, the usage probably varies beyond what Mr Fahlman expected, but we’ll always owe him for initiating the use of consequence-of-symbols to express ‘layered’ intentions.

Years have passed and technology develops. Today, you aren’t just able to express happiness or sadness, but also actions! Instead of ‘hugs’ you can write ‘({})’, you can ‘kiss’ someone through ‘:*’, and you can say that you’re ‘not interested’ by using ‘3-|’ emoticon.

Unique thing is the fact that there are several alternatives to these emoticons. Some people mark Yahoo!’s emoticons as their favorites, while others are so familiar only with Blackberry’s.

I. Blackberry Messenger




III. Yahoo! Messenger


Somehow, different developers convey different expression and leave different effects on the readers. ‘Smiling’ on Yahoo! has a slight difference with ‘smiling on MSN, for example. And this is an interesting phenomena that I’d like to explore more about.

Second interesting fact that lures my attention is how there are people who are very attached to these emoticons they can hardly write any single thing without them whereas there are ones who do not like using them at all. Not to mention that there is an accepted assumption that (assuming you haven’t met both), people who use emoticons are friendlier than those who don’t.

I bet the word ’emoticon’ is a portmanteau from ’emotion’ and ‘icon’. Probably because these icons emit certain emotions. But does that mean icons showing only certain goods like rose or clover can’t be called ’emoticon’? Who invented such portmanteau anyway?

(You might want to sue me because this post has more questions than it provides information. Sorry. Happy Saturdating!)


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