Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Brief Guide to Emoticons: Part 1

My mother is a wonderful person. She possesses style, class, and learning. When my friends meet her, they are overwhelmed not only by her grace and charm, but by the genetic weirdness that must have happened for her to produce a twisted kobold such as myself.

“Wow,” they will often say. “Your mom’s cool!” They then look askance at me. “How the hell did you happen?” Everyone laughs, myself included, even though a little piece of my soul withers and dies, a process that will eventually turn me into a miserable old man who’s only joy lies in yelling at kids to get off his goddamn lawn.

But I digress.

As wonderful as my mother is, she completely does not get emoticons. She will send me emails like “Your cousin Steve died in a car-crash :) :( ! (Y) ‘French Prostitute’ :-\.” This just confuses me, as I don’t actually have a cousin Steve.

Therefore, in the hopes of educating mothers everywhere about the proper use of emoticons, I humbly offer this guide:

Part 1: The History of Emoticons
As many of you may have noticed, it is difficult, if not impossible, to adequately convey ‘sarcasm,’ ‘irony,’ or ‘I’m totally messin’ with you, dude’ in written communication. Many, many wars and feuds were started because of this inherent inflexibility of the written word. The 1st, 2nd, 6th, and 11.5th Punic Wars actually began because the Romans, assuming the Carthaginians would ‘get it,’ persisted in referring to them as ‘buttheads’ in all official documentation. This prompted Hannibal to try and kill the Romans with elephants.

The actual word ‘emoticon’ comes from the 10th Century French word ‘emoticonne’ meaning ‘having to do with mimes.’ This is absolutely true, as I read it in the OED. Unfortunately, my OED burst into flames after I looked this up, so I cannot cite the actual entry. I choose to blame ninjas.

Initially, emoticons were primitive affairs, consisting of only three marks: a ‘happy’ symbol, a ‘frowny’ symbol, and a third symbol that meant either ‘I want to touch your bottom’ or ‘Please send bees’ (modern scholars are still divided about the translation).

Then computers appeared and with the advent of the World Wide Web, a larger, universally understood set of emoticons became available.

Tomorrow: Part 2 – How to Use Emoticons


Anonymous said...

Funny as hell!

Toil3T said...

Aah, the important stuff my history teacher neglected. Thanks for clearing this up.

(Convention dictates I use an emoticon to convey that I'm going along with the joke, but I want to make sure I use them correctly, so I'll wait for part 2.)

Jason Janicki said...

Thanks :)

Good thinking, Toil3T!