/ee-moh'ti-kon/ n. An ASCII glyph used to indicate an
emotional state in email or news. Although originally intended
mostly as jokes, emoticons (or some other explicit humor
indication) are virtually required under certain circumstances in
high-volume text-only communication forums such as USENET; the lack
of verbal and visual cues can otherwise cause what were intended to
be humorous, sarcastic, ironic, or otherwise non-100%-serious
comments to be badly misinterpreted (not always even by
s), resulting in arguments and flame war
Hundreds of emoticons have been proposed, but only a few are in
common use. These include
`smiley face' (for humor, laughter, friendliness,
`frowney face' (for sadness, anger, or upset)
`half-smiley' (ha ha only serious
also known as `semi-smiley' or `winkey face'.
(These may become more comprehensible if you tilt your head
sideways, to the left.)
The first two listed are by far the most frequently encountered.
Hyphenless forms of them are common on CompuServe, GEnie, and BIX;
see also bixie
. On USENET
, `smiley' is often used as a
generic term synonymous with emoticon
, as well as specifically
for the happy-face emoticon.
It appears that the emoticon was invented by one Scott Fahlman on
the CMU bboard
systems around 1980. He later wrote "I wish I
had saved the original post, or at least recorded the date for
posterity, but I had no idea that I was starting something that
would soon pollute all the world's communication channels." [GLS
confirms that he remembers this original posting].
Note for the newbie
Overuse of the smiley is a mark of
loserhood! More than one per paragraph is a fairly sure sign that
you've gone over the line.