I probably shouldn’t be surprised…

…but I am to learn that one at least one of the big shifts in English language of the last twenty years the emoticon (smiley πŸ™‚ has a specific inventor. His name is Scott Fahlman and he invented πŸ™‚ and 😦 to point out which posts were jokes and which ones weren’t on a server, and this was back in 1982. Some people do talk about a guy called Kevin Mackenzie who suggested -) to be like a tongue sticking out the – is the middle of the tongue and he did that back in 1979 but most people say that it was Scott who did the business. I tend, if I do use emoticons to use πŸ˜‰ the most as it seems the most friendly and also the most useful way of pointing out that something is tongue and cheek.

I went to a talk by the playwright Alan Aykbourne a few years ago [you may want to read about the whole week starting here, and in that talk he said that he despised the use of emoticons. He said that “if something was supposed to be funny then it should be funny enough to be identified as funny by the person reading it laughing at the end. They shouldn’t need a pointer at the end”. He effectively compared smileys to the laughter track on television.

He was wrong of course because, at least in my experience, they aren’t used to say “this is a joke” after a bona fide joke. They are used to say “this is a joke” after something which could be taken deadly seriously.

Now I should find out about that other shift in English Language: text speak. Oh wait I already did.

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