The History of Emoticons

 In today’s day and age it seems there are more ways than ever for one to express themselves. From clothing to hair style, from tattoos to body piercings, even music or dance or art are some ways that people have of doing it.

But there is an ever popular way to express yourself that has come up a lot in the last 5 years or so, and those are called “emoticons”. Emoticons are nothing more than a representation of facial expressions using different types of punctuation, numbers, and letters.

These usually are added into a conversation to drive the point home about someone’s mood or feelings, but are these a new thing? Or have they been around for a quite some time, just never being brought to the mainstream until we got things like, computers, and cellphones?

Well let’s look a little into where they came from.

It seems as though 1881 is one of the first times we have examples of typing style being used. There was an American humor magazine called, Puck, that showed the first types of emoticons being used. Those original four being, joy, melancholy, indifference, and astonishment.

Also in the 1880s there was gentleman by the name of Ambrose Bierce who came up with idea of a snigger point, which was a closed parenthesis on its side, which made the shape of an upwards smile. The idea here was to add a bit of levity into something being transcribed. It was apparent that people wanted a way to show that a writer was in good spirits without actually typing it.

But it would be several years before it was actually common practice for people to begin including emoticons into their writing. It actually took the invention of network computers before these things really came into the mainstream. It was a man by the name of Scott Fahlman who noticed that in the message boards that had been created for people to talk on these computers, there were often misunderstandings between those “talking” to one another.

Because a person’s body language does so much to help us decipher what it is they mean by what they say, we had lost that in this area of “typed conversation.” So Mr. Fahlman, came up with idea for the colon, the dash, and right parenthesis (seen as 🙂 to us) to represent a smiley face! And since then, things have exploded!

There are emoticons for the majority of the feelings you might have in a day, as well as those you might not come across often, but they exist. Plato talks about writing as a supplement to speech, and in today’s ever changing and evolving world, emoticons are the newest version of that supplement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *