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Eddie Mair | 14:18 UK time, Wednesday, 19 September 2007

We ARE doing an item today on the emoticon - 25 years old today. What do you think of them - and do you have a favourite?

"Associated Press Writer - PITTSBURGH (AP) - It was a serious contribution to the electronic lexicon.
Twenty-five years ago, Carnegie Mellon University
professor Scott E. Fahlman says, he was the first to use
three keystrokes - a colon followed by a hyphen and a
parenthesis - as a horizontal «smiley face» in a computer

Mr Fahlman will join me on the programme - here he is....and he'll discuss emoticons with Hugo Rifkind who says "emoticons are vile and for idiots"



  1. At 02:26 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Carl wrote:

    :( Twitter! :( It's going soon :)

  2. At 02:27 PM on 19 Sep 2007, jonnie wrote:

    Yes I like them - and probably over use them.

    I can't help feeling that professor Scott E. Fahlman, was not the first to have made a smiley face though.

    I'm sure bored staff in typing pool's in years gone by have tried to see what can be created on a Qwerty keyboard?

  3. At 02:29 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    I held off using them for a long time, finding them irritrating, but I've given in and well :-D

    A, x.

  4. At 02:46 PM on 19 Sep 2007, DI Wyman wrote:

    Eddie, well what a :O , but i am :\ that wearing 8-) and pretending to be :[ whilst :P and blowing a :* at todays producer will bring big cheesy :D from your fans!

  5. At 02:55 PM on 19 Sep 2007, witchi the powder monkey wrote:

    *:D (me with a flower in my hair)

  6. At 03:00 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Brian Christley wrote:

    The Lib Dems are playing their annual parlour game ‘lets pretend we are the government’ – what is so strange is that so many normal looking people are preoccupied with their own sense of importance.

  7. At 03:06 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Jacques wrote:

    Me in beret and beard {:o)}

  8. At 03:14 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Karen wrote:

    @:0) Me with a towel round my head after this morning's shower

  9. At 03:27 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    :¬) Me in profile

  10. At 03:38 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Chinese Correspondent wrote:

    ¦-{ - me - Ah So!

  11. At 03:40 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Pirate ibBig Sis wrote:

    Charlie Chaplin

    Krusty the Clown

    Smiling Frog

    Disapproving Pope


    But my all time favourite remains :o)

  12. At 03:50 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Frances O wrote:

    My favourite is ;-)

    just in case I tease someone or make a joke that might be misunderstood.

    But I don't use them much these days; they seem to be uncool.

    And of course I am megakule and wikkid.


    But I quite like ;o) and :o) cos they're froggy.

    Can anyone come up with a frog smiley/emoticon?

  13. At 03:52 PM on 19 Sep 2007, RJD wrote:

    Fearless (9) - There must be a bit of the Picasso about you if you can show both eyes in a profile!

  14. At 03:53 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Pirate ibBig Sis wrote:

    Krusty seems to have vanished, so here he comes again:

  15. At 03:54 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Vyle Hernia wrote:

    Hardly ever use them, but do so more with Instant Messaging as it shows a selection.

  16. At 04:03 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Humph wrote:

    Showing my better side, right? :^).


  17. At 04:32 PM on 19 Sep 2007, iBelinda wrote:

    I think Hugh Rifkind really needs something more important to worry about.

  18. At 05:24 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Melaragni wrote:

    Emails from English people, many of whom think they have the monopoly on humor with irony, are very easy to give offence through misunderstanding, even among themselves never mind 'unsophisticated foreigners' - such as the so called 'irony free' North Americans. Emoticons, while very simplistic to many English, make clear what's being said.

  19. At 05:31 PM on 19 Sep 2007, David McNickle wrote:

    I tend to use :•) Also, ‡¦¬l> for Jesus (if it works). But the ‡ is usually bigger. No offense meant to Christians. Next, Mohammed.

  20. At 05:37 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    In a purely textual medium, care needs to be taken to signal humour, irony etc. With letters, as much time as necessary can be taken to choose words and sentence structures with especial care. In more "instant" forms such as e-mails, blogs and chat, there is seldom time to form those messages carefully.

    Smileys or emoticons are vital where a misunderstanding cause cause problems. Think of them as a new form of punctuation.

  21. At 05:53 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Brian wrote:


  22. At 05:54 PM on 19 Sep 2007, danb wrote:

    is Hugo a snob or what?
    Emots could (arguably) trace their roots from hieroglyphics? no?

  23. At 05:57 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Frances O wrote:

    Oh! My comment seems to have not appeared


    I like ;-) cos it says 'I'm joking, honest'.

    But I do appreciate that smileys/emoticons irritate some people.


  24. At 06:15 PM on 19 Sep 2007, hi? wrote:

    i don't get what you are meanta use instead of emotes..

    i mean, you can't type;

    Hello. I'm smiling now, because you came online.
    I had a good day today. I'm smiling more now.
    You're performance in music was good. I'm putting my thumb up.

    I don't get why I 'won't be taken seriously' just because i type.

    Hello :)
    I had a good day today :D
    You're music performance was good (Y)

    i mean, surly it's more productive.

    Also, it's emoticons, why read into them so much?

  25. At 06:16 PM on 19 Sep 2007, mittfh wrote:

    Are you a :-)8 Does anyone {:-) nowadays? Is your hair =:-) or @:-) or even #:-) ? Perhaps you think your hair apes @@@@:-) !

    At the other end of your face, do you have a :-{) a :-){ or even a :-)= ?

    Apparently there are three types of eyewear - I'd always thought 8-) was wearing glasses, but apparently it can also mean wearing contacts - in this definition B-) is someone wearing glasses, and ]-) is someone wearing shades (or perhaps Geordi LaForge from ST:TNG). Got too many wrinkles? Try some I:-) !

    Then just to confuse you, 11% of the population can get away with (-:

    They say Christmas gets earlier each year...so you've probably seen images of 3:*> on your travels...

    Hopefully no-one's X-( !

    If you're :-S you might find this handy:
    (Note: I've used a couple of DIY variations in the above prose...)
    There's also an interesting 'straight-on smiley' variant:

  26. At 06:31 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    SSC @ 20, but why should emails be less worth taking trouble over than other forms of letter? (Oh, and why is an email a 'purely textual medium' where a letter isn't?) A serious question, not a wind-up, because I have wondered this for many years -- in fact since the email started to be generally used. The only conclusion I can come to is that it's not so much of a concern in emails, but applies mostly on newsgroups, where people who don't know you read and misunderstand your words, whereas a letter or one-off email generally goes to people who *do* know the person sending it and can tell when that person is joking or being ironical or whatever else.

    Does that make sense? It isn't meant rudely, but I do think you have said 'email' when really, the email isn't in the same group as the blog and other such multi-person-recipient areas.

  27. At 06:47 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Deepthought (John W) wrote:

    David (19),

    I don't normally use these things, although may people would claim that I should do rather more often than I actually do - for the reasons as stated by the Professor this evening.
    However, I too have "invented" one:


    (halo plus crying = Jesus wept!). It summaries some of the occurances in my working life.

  28. At 06:50 PM on 19 Sep 2007, R Bunthorne wrote:

    Eddie, didn't you let off far too easily the man who claimed that the new requirements imposed on the gambling industry would ensure that arrangements would be put in place which would ensure that ... etc etc. What are those arrangements and exactly how can they ensure....anything?
    I have a friend who has recently lost all his money, his car, his house and whose wife has thrown herself under a train as a result of his addiction.

  29. At 07:57 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    Chris (25):

    I included emails because these days they're dashed off without the expectation of the same amount of care of even craft that used to go into a letter. I'm not saying this is right, only that it's acceptable to use the shorthand of smilies in an email.

    You're right about it being more useful on the newsgroups, though there are certain groups where it's frowned upon - :o( - to use smileys as it shows a lack of imagination.

  30. At 07:57 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Peter wrote:

    Hi, they said there would be a blog regarding the micro filteration (so small that contaminated water becomes drinkable) discussed on PM 18th Sept. But, I can't find it. Can you assist?

  31. At 09:29 PM on 19 Sep 2007, :-) wrote:

    All I want to say on this thread is said!


  32. At 09:31 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Dr Hackenbush wrote:

    I don’t think I’ve ever used them. I do quite like words...

  33. At 09:38 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Sid Cumberland wrote:

    Brian (6) - if you look around, you'll notice you're in the wrong thread. Sorry, old bean ...


  34. At 09:40 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Sid Cumberland wrote:

    Brian (6) - if you look around, you'll notice you're in the wrong thread. Sorry, old bean ...

    Emoticons? Never use them. If my words don't convey my meaning, I change them. Or (occasionally) just keep my mouth shut.


  35. At 10:56 PM on 19 Sep 2007, Dr Hackenbush wrote:

    Did I say something?

  36. At 11:18 PM on 19 Sep 2007, mittfh wrote:

    Hmmm... looks as though this blog software doesn't like left angle brackets - have to make do with "& lt ;" instead...

    Here's how it should have started (tested in preview mode):

    Are you a :-)8-

    Anyway, hope you've had a good :-D , I'll try and restrict punctuation in future posts to the Lynne Truss school of grammar...
    (Double checks his apostrophes are all in the right locations)

  37. At 07:29 AM on 20 Sep 2007, Lindsay Wilks wrote:

    My mum was creating funny faces and figures on her steam powered typewriter, to keep me amused, 50 years ago. And I'm sure she learned how to do them in the typing pool years before then.

  38. At 09:50 AM on 20 Sep 2007, David McNickle wrote:

    Dr Bushwhacker,
    I used smiley/emoticons on my typewriter back in the 1950s, but have no proof of it.... ;•)

  39. At 10:53 AM on 20 Sep 2007, :o) wrote:

    Dr. H:

    This one's for you!

    Big Sis

  40. At 02:10 PM on 20 Sep 2007, Vyle Hernia wrote:

    If emoticons are the new puctuation, there is even more scope for errors than with the old set, especially the apostrophe.

  41. At 02:18 PM on 20 Sep 2007, Belinda :-) wrote:

    (36) & (37): Does that mean that David Mcnickle is Lindsay Wilks's mother?

  42. At 04:23 PM on 20 Sep 2007, David McNickle wrote:

    Belinda (40), Only if she is from Cleveland, Ohio. ¦¤Þ

  43. At 05:23 PM on 20 Sep 2007, David McNickle wrote:

    //o_))_ Sid (32), A Lib Dem.

  44. At 10:00 AM on 21 Sep 2007, David McNickle wrote:

    Typical Lib Dem (43). You do it as one thing and it changes to another when posted.

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