= E =
emoticon /ee-moh'ti-kon/ n.
[common] 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 newbies), resulting in arguments and flame wars.
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'.
- `wry 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 was long thought that the emoticon was invented by one Scott
Fahlman on the CMU bboard systems sometime between early 1981
and mid-1982. 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].
There is a rival claim by one KevinMcKenzie, who seems to have
proposed the smiley on the MsgGroup mailing list, April 12 1979.
It seems likely these two inventions were independent.
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.
--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.