Dear Dr. Boli: Can you explain the significance of the so-called “emoticons” often inserted in various forms of Internet communication? As indicators of human emotion, they confuse me. —Sincerely, Expert System M-331, Carnegie-Mellon University.

Dear, um, Sir or Madam: Emoticons, possibly the greatest innovation in punctuation since the multiple exclamation point, are a carefully worked-out way of encoding facial expressions in written language, so as to give it the immediacy of speech. There are many such expressions, but here is a list of the most common:

:) – I am smiling.

::) – I am smiling while wearing glasses.

:( – I am mildly unhappy about that.

:€  – I am trying unsuccessfully to hold back my tears.

:D – I am smiling in a suspiciously enthusiastic way.

:L – I have a toothpick in my mouth.

:$ – My braces are exceedingly uncomfortable today.

:K – I am a cat.

:K  – No matter what they say, I believe that a somewhat droopy mustache adds a quiet dignity to my appearance.

:* – The exploding cigar you gave me just went off in my mouth.

:> – I am feeling insufferably smug.

:  – I am nonplussed.

Published in: on October 1, 2010 at 12:50 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks Dr. Boli, that was sooo helpful!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Dear Dr.,

    The word “nonplussed” means surprised or confused. An emotional iconograph conveying such an expression would look as such, “:O”. Using the term, “nonplussed” as a neologism referring to one who is unimpressed–as I suppose was the emotion you were attempting to convey with your “emoticon” consisting of merely a colon punctuation mark–is a habit the more vulgar classes are attempting to impose on us and should be discouraged.

    With kindest regards,

  3. […] READERS WRITE. A NOTE FROM a certain Mr. Smithington, Esq.: […]

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