What are emoticons?

The word emoticon is a combination of the words emotion and icon. Emoticons are used online to create intonation or voice inflection, body gestures and emotion behind statements that could otherwise be misinterpreted.

A smiley face is the most common emoticon.

The most common emoticon is a smiley face, made with the colon in place of the eyes, and the left parenthesis as the smile, seen at a 90 degree angle. πŸ™‚

Emoticons can be used to convey intonation or body gestures.

Sometimes a dash is used between the eyes and the mouth to indicate a nose. πŸ™‚

This emoticon is usually used to convey lightheartedness, happiness, jocularity or playfulness. To see the difference an emoticon can make, just look at the following two statements:

Yes James, you sounded like a real geek. or…

Yes James, you sounded like a real geek. πŸ™‚

Whether or not James considers being a β€œgeek” a badge of honor or an insult, the first statement without the emoticon seems surely destined to be an insult. The second statement, however, with its smiling face, is clearly intended to be taken in a playful manner and is not likely to cause offence.

Emoticons play an important role in online communication because the vast majority of people who communicate have never met or know each other well. Misinterpreting intentions is all too easy without the facial expressions and verbal inflections that face-to-face communication provides.

With the popularity of the smiley emoticon, other emoticons quickly emerged. Sometimes an emoticon will become popular in a certain newsgroup or web group, but will not be known outside of that group. Other emoticons have become part of the international language of the Internet.

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Some common emoticons include:

πŸ™ frown

πŸ˜‰ wink

: (” ” crying

> πŸ™‚ mischievous smile

:- / mischievous or confused smile

πŸ˜› smiling and sticking out his tongue

πŸ˜€ laughing a lot

>:- mad

The smile and frown emoticons were first suggested by computer scientist Scott Fahlman on September 19, 1982. Fahlman’s post, to a Carnegie Mellon University message board, was removed from the archives on September 10, 2002 to clear up the old rumor that they originated with him. Some believe that emoticons were previously used by other parties as well. In any case, it seems clear that they should be part of our online vernacular.

Along the same lines, there are other shortcuts to conveying emotions: = smile, = big smile and = very big smile! Some other acronyms commonly seen online alongside emoticons are:

LOL laughing out loud

ROTFL rolling on the floor laughing

BFN bye for now

TTYL talk to you later

IMO in my opinion

IMHO in my humble opinion

IMNSHO in my not so humble opinion

IIRC if I recall correctly

IAC in any case

OTOH on the other hand

FWIW for what it’s worth

HTH hope that helps

Emoticons and acronyms are part of Internet lingo and are evolving even as the Internet evolves. And while this fascinating medium that has brought together total strangers from around the globe continues to enlighten, delight and educate us, emoticons will be there like little ambassadors helping to make our intentions clear!

Emoticons are typically simple images meant to convey emotion.

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