An emoticon is most often used to express the mood of the writer by using letters and punctuation to form a facial expression. They serve to improve the communication of a simple text by informing the receiver of the intended tone and temperament of the writer.

An example would be a sarcastic statement that would be lost in plain text, but saved with the use of a smiley face. The word, emoticon, is formed by combining the icon of English words and emotion. After years of use, many Internet forums and messaging services, as well as many games played online, have replaced typed text with a paired image. For example, if you wrote a colon for the eyes and parentheses for the mouth, this text will be replaced with the familiar yellow smiley face that is commonly known. These corresponding images are also known as smileys. The Japanese name for kaomoji is given to those complex key combinations that can only be performed in double-byte language.

The use of emoticons dates back to the 19th century and they were commonly used in writing that was humorous or informal. The first use of digital emoticons on the Internet dates back to 1982, in a proposal submitted by a Carnegie Melon computer scientist. This scientist is considered to be the first to introduce the smiley face emoticon to the web, but this was not the first time it was used. The first case of a smiley face formed from text dates back to a 1967 Reader’s Digest article. Interestingly, Vladimir Nabokov also expressed his interest in emoticons in a 1969 New York Times article in which he proposed a special typographic symbol to represent a smile.

There are numerous examples throughout the background history of what we now commonly know as emoticons. One of the first examples was detected in Morse code communications, where the number 73 was used to convey the phrase “love and kisses.” A speech given by Abraham Lincoln, dating back to 1862, was said to contain the smirking emoticon, but there is some debate as to whether it was a typographical error or a legitimate use of the textual device. In 1881, the humorous magazine Puck published a list of some typographic emoticons that included images of Joy, Indifference, Melancholy and Astonishment. What is known as the original emoticon, the smiley face, was actually invented by a freelance artist named Harvey Ball. This yellow smiley was probably the biggest influence on all the emoticons that followed.

Before the 1980s, those who operated teletype machines were spread by the use of emoticons. While the teletype machine was restricted to a typewriter keyboard, there were also some special characters and this led to the development of a kind of shorthand among operators. These notations and markings follow in a direct line to the modern emoticons we used when teletype machines were slowly replaced by computer use. Some early Internet sites used the symbol “-)” to represent a phrase that was considered ironic. In this case, the dash symbol represented a tongue instead of a nose. While these symbols resemble the side-facing smiley emoticons to come, it seems they weren’t meant to be interpreted this way. In this sense, these typographic symbols stand out on their own as early representations of symbols that have since gone out of style.

It was Scott Fahlman of Carnegie Mellon University who is credited with wearing the smiley face sideways for the first time. On a board used by computer scientists, Fahlman suggested that these symbols be used to express humor in order to clarify communication problems. He referred to them as joke markers and the letters were lost for almost two decades, but have since been recovered. A few months after making these suggestions, there is evidence that use spread to Usenet and ARPANET. Users of both boards were quick to suggest variations and different characters to express a variety of emotional levels.

Soon after the widespread use of these characters developed, many online communities found ways to replace text with the symbols they were meant to represent. This took place in online video games, web forums, and instant messaging services. These small images correspond to the variety of text symbols and are also known as smileys. In commonly used versions of Microsoft Word, the AutoCorrect feature often takes the liberty of replacing textual symbols with their corresponding images. This is known as graphic replacement, and it has allowed images to become more complex over time. What were once still images of basic characters have now been transformed into moving images. Many of the newer images go beyond the realm of emotion and become pure information. An example would be the use of a musical note or musical instrument to represent music or sound. The first use of replacing text with moving graphic images is attributed to the Proxicom Forum which revealed a small dance emoticon to symbolize dance. Automatic replacement that is beyond the control of the user has led to a variety of miscommunication and inadvertent flirting. An example would be the use of the abbreviation K for OK, which can appear as a pair of red lips kissing.

Since the Western writing style is left to writing, many of the emoticons that have developed in the West follow this pattern, with the eyes on the left and the mouth on the right. The repetition of certain characters is used in the West to express the extreme of an emotion. An example would be repeating sad smiles or mouths in parentheses to express extreme joy or sadness. Many emoticons can be reversed in the text and then the corresponding emotion is reversed as well. The most obvious example is the happy face: P, which becomes sad, P: when turned over. This textual ability has resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of variations to help writers express a wide variety of emotional states.

Some style variations will not necessarily alter the emotion being portrayed. An example would be replacing the eyes in the figure with an equals sign instead of a colon or semicolon. The use of the colon or equal sign for the eyes has led to the elimination of the hyphen as a symbol of the nose of the face. The font that is used to send the message will often decide which character is best for the particular emotion. Many characters such as 0, o, and O can be used to express shock or dismay to varying degrees. These symbols will be favored by some groups over others and the particular forum or platform will often favor the use of one over another.

In Japan and Korea, the use of emoticons has gained popularity and they have developed a complex system using characters that are often not available on Western keyboards. The popularity of Japanese art such as anime has led to the use and adaptation of many eastern emoticons on western keyboards. These have been known as Anime Emoticons and are often complex to form due to the lack of the original letters. Japanese emoticons are known as emoji and many Westerners have become familiar with them due to the popularity of Japanese art and culture in the West. Cross-cultural chat rooms have led many to desire the use of both styles and many emoticons can now be downloaded and used on computers that lack the particular characters to form them due to keyboard limitations.

The Japanese have also taken textual forms further to produce types that represent postures. These are known as Orz, because this emoticon is used to represent a person bowed or kneeling with the ‘O’ as the head and the ‘z’ as the feet. The ‘r’ is used to represent the person’s crossed arms. The first use of this character combo to represent posture dates back to 2002 in Japan.

One of the most recent developments in the world of emoticons is emoticons. These are short sounds that can be heard when a message is played and an emoticon is used. There are a variety of instant messaging services that have developed sounds that match particular emoticons. These sounds have also been used in a wide variety of advertising applications, in an attempt to get viewers to match a corresponding sound with an image.

The world of emoticons is not free from intellectual property battles and the frown or scowl was the first of these symbols to be a trademark in the United States. Emoticons have also been registered trademarks in both Finland and Russia by private companies. While companies and organizations would have to purchase a license to use the symbols in publications, this license would be free to individuals.


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