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.