In just a few months, on September 19, the character combination known as “smiley face” will turn 30. I’m sure it’s going to be a wild and crazy party full of interesting characters. Maybe even & and * will turn up, even though it was exactly those two that Smiley pushed aside thirty years ago.
Of course, it’s not just Smiley that has its birthday because Smiley’s sad twin brother, Frownie, was born just seconds later, making its first appearance a mere two lines later in that email message Scott E. Fahlman sent his Carnegie Mellon college colleagues.
Smiley’s come a long way from being a pain in the neck – or at least causing pain in the neck when people were told to look at it sideways – to being our best friend, the trusty sidekick that knows exactly how to convey our feelings, when words aren’t simply enough.
Seeing the original Smiley still makes me smile, but these days mostly because it’s like seeing an old friend. I don’t really use his services anymore, because I often use the more streamlined and faster version of the Smiley. The Noseless Smiley: :)
In fact, you can tell a lot about the person you’re interacting with just by looking at the smileys they use. Here’s a quick guide to the most common ones:
The original one. You see this, and you’re getting messages from a Purist. This person sticks to the way things are supposed to be. He also corrects your grammar, and never, ever says anyone “medals” in a sports event. Uses smileys sparingly as if he only had an finite number of them and each one is precious. So, getting one from him is a compliment.
Alternatively, you may be talking to an Old Soul, somebody who just doesn’t bother to change, or is a little confused.
Confused. Don’t worry, Confuseds mean well. They may also be French. (They also mean well.)
The noseless Smiley. Loose Smileyist. People who use this are also quick to thrown them around, and it’s not rare to see a message in which every sentence ends with one, or several noseless smileys. :) :) :)
Double or Triple Mouthers. Or Double or Triple Chinners? The jury is still out. These people also often write LOLOLOLOL which literally means Laughing Out Loud Out Laughing Out Loud Out Laughing. So, they get easily excited and can’t control their fingers on the keyboard anymore.
The big-nosed Smiley. Also known as the Teddy Bear. Used by the cuddly types, the big bears, the jovial conversationalists. There’s also a version with an even bigger nose – :O) – but that’s very rare and shouldn’t be used unless the big nose is the point. If you see one, remember these scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian:
Stan: Listen I’m only telling the truth. You have got a very big nose.
Mr. Big Nose: Hey. Your nose is going to be three foot wide across your face by the time I’m finished with you!
Smiley with Glasses. Yes, the person sending this message is wearing glasses. Nerd and proud of it.
Big Laugher. This isn’t technically a smiley anymore, but a laughie. Some people just laugh and laugh and laugh. They laugh at your jokes, and they laugh at their own jokes. Ho ho ho! Like others, like smileys, this should be used sparingly, but Big Laughers just can’t help themselves. And that’s why we love them (most of the time).
Wink, wink. This is hard currency for the Pranksters, Winkers, Innuendoists and Jokers … if you know what I mean. These people hardly ever smile, they always wink … if you know what I mean. A wink may indicate a hidden agenda, or then again, it may not. If you know what I mean.
The Party Hatters. People who like to be the center of the party, and who always take it to the limit, right to the edge where things that started out as something fun and casual are on the verge of being just very, very annoying.
People who do not stop at the edge. Overachievers.