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Monday, June 12, 2006

Emoticons: Decepticons?

So, as eager readers of the blog no doubt know by now, mere minutes ago I typed my first unironic emoticon: <3. This, my sources tell me, means "heart," sideways. Can there be a more emotive emoticon? I think not. In fact, I am naming my next emo band "Less than Three" as a knowing semicolon and wry close parentheses to my IMing bretheren.

Now, I know that complaining about emoticons is totally 1999. So I'm not complaining. Far from it: I used one (in fact, that colon seven words back is actually a small man peeping sideways from behind "it," an emoticon neatly expressing my feeling of cautious optimism about using emoticons).

I'm bringing all this up because I just had an email exchange with a well-respected mid-career drama scholar: a serious guy, I think, whose work I really like and who continues to publish good stuff. HE EMOTICONED ME. Dude hit me with a wink! Like so:


As the kids say, wtf? I understand that email can seem like a toneless medium at times, but honestly, it's no more or less toneless than regular letter writing. I find myself gearing up for a rant, and I'm not a crank (ha!), so I'll stop here. But, really... this guy is like 45 years old. I expect seven exclamation points and plenty of ha has from sophomores. It's how they talk, and I can deal with that. But can't the rest of us just stick to the "word-based" version of written communication? With, like, adverbs?

Or am I going to have to get all [%:]?

  • At 6/13/2006 12:12:00 AM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    This post makes me think: "linoneum floor, linoleum floor. Your lyrics are dumb like a linoleum floor." And, "More crackers please! More crackers please!" I am what I am and I don't wanna be on my knees. ;)


  • At 6/15/2006 12:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    That's weird. The same thing just happened to me this morning--a midcareer (associate, on way to full) colleague hit me with two or three emoticons in an email review of a draft of an article I'd sent her. I say again, weird.


  • At 6/15/2006 03:03:00 AM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    Could it be that the older folks are just now discovering what the kids already knew in 1999? Eudora, for example, only added emoticons in the past year or so.


  • At 6/15/2006 12:22:00 PM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    A.M.: One wonders what kind of emotions your article inspired in your reviewer?

    S: I am actually made afraid o-; by the presence of dancing yellow heads in emails. At least punctuation-based hierglyphs involve some sort of creative sensibility. I might, for example, type $+8) and tell you I was feeling like a bemused glasses-wearing bald man who had just been punched in the nose. As far as animated emoticons go, one need look no further than their point of origin (the smiley face button) to know that they are forms expressive only of blank inanity.

    Tune in next week, when I'll rant about the phrase "It's all good."

    A preview: It's not.


  • At 6/15/2006 12:28:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    "Expressions of blank inanity" or crucial signifiers of tone in the tonally impaired medium of electronic mail? :|> (that's the sign for "freaked out Simplicius").


  • At 6/15/2006 12:51:00 PM, Blogger bdh wrote…

    What irks me more is that emoticons and instant chat shorthand are creeping into our (already vulgar) spoken language. For example, my ex-housemate includes "wtf", "lol", "rofl", and "brb" in his day-to-day, spoken vocabulary. He also says things like "I heart this".

    On the bright side, they haven't found their way into the OED... although if the built-in dictionary function in Mac OS X (which gives definitions for "lol" and "wtf") is any indication...


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