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Last updated at 10:17 GMT, Tuesday, 06 November 2012



Rob and Vera have a misunderstanding about an email. Listen to this programme to find out why emoticons can be useful in written messages.

A smiley emoticon and a winking emoticon

What did Rob put in his email to make it more jokey?

The script for this programme

(Vera bursts into the studio – she is not happy – sound of door opening abruptly)

Rob: What's happened Vera? You don't look very happy.

Vera: Of course I'm not happy. I've just read the email you sent saying if I don't come to the studio soon you are going to present the programme by yourself…

Rob: That's right.

Vera: And then you wrote: "With my beautiful voice, nobody will miss yours." That's a horrible thing to say, Rob!

Rob: Well, it would be horrible if it was a serious message. But haven't you noticed my emoticon at the end of the message?

Vera: Emoticon? I have the message printed out here… Yes, I can see here in the email that you typed a colon, followed by a hyphen and a closing bracket. And when I look at it sideways I can see… a smiley face… :-) It's an emoticon! It was a joke after all!

Rob: Yes. Emoticons were created precisely for this purpose, to avoid misunderstandings like the one we've just had. I wrote my message as a joke and you took it seriously.

Vera: I read recently that emoticons were created 30 years ago by a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Emoticon is a combination of the words 'emotional' and 'icon'.

Rob: And indicates if a message is serious or a joke. When you speak, you can express if you're serious about what you are saying but sometimes it is difficult to achieve that on paper. Listen to some verbal examples.

  • (angry) "I don't like going to the cinema with you. You always fall asleep and end up snoring loudly."
  • (jokingly) "I don't like going to the cinema with you. You always fall asleep and end up snoring loudly!"

Vera: When you say something, you can convey the spirit with the tone of your voice. But sometimes it is not clear when it is written.

Rob: But it's good to point out that emoticons are still an informal sort of message. It might not look good if you use them in a message to your boss or include them in your CV.

Vera: That's indeed a good thing to keep in mind. We should be careful when using emoticons.

Rob: Emoticons have become so popular that there are over a hundred of them. Some with a proper round yellow face.

Vera: Now that our misunderstanding has been sorted out, we should go out and celebrate! The 30th anniversary of the emoticon is a good excuse for some coffee and cake.

Rob: And let's celebrate our friendship too. A friendship saved by an emoticon – a smiley face in fact. Bye.

Vera: Bye.

Rob: And Vera, your voice is very beautiful, by the way.

Vera: And so is yours, Rob. You should be a singer.

Rob: And so should you, Vera. Your voice is so melodic…

Vera/Rob: (sing together)

Rob: Beautiful!


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