{*_*}, :-), :-/

The NY Times had a very amusing piece on the current use of emoticons among us old folks. What piqued my interest, however, was how these little dots, dashes, and punctuation marks were ever created.

Emoticons, often thought of as a bailiwick of the young in search of codes that are understood largely by those in their cohort, are actually creation of old folks and geeks. Though emoticons are now part of the popular culture, one early iteration of the emoticon were started by Ambrose Bierce (you might have read a short story penned by him in grade school or middle school called “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”):

Though we think of emoticons, or “smileys,” as an Internet-era phenomenon, their earliest ancestors were created on typewriters. In 1912, the writer Ambrose Bierce proposed a new punctuation device called a “snigger point,” a smiling face represented by \__/!, to connote jocularity.

Kind of clumsy by today’s standards. However, what I thought was really interesting what how the smiley face many of us use (or in my case, over-use) in blogging, IM, texting, or email came about:

19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman 🙂
From: Scott E Fahlman <Fahlman at Cmu-20c>

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


But because my blog template will translate the punctuation marks into a smiley face that doesn’t need to be read sideways, I point you to Scott Fahlman’s webpage for the way the message looked back in the day.

And if you need a shorthand of emoticons, here ’tis:

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