Monday, June 26, 2006


Q. I know that an emoticon is a small figure composed with punctuation marks, but where did the word come from?

A. Emoticon is a blend of EMOTion and ICON. The emoticon is meant to show tone or emotion that might otherwise be missed. The first instance of the word listed in the OED is from 1990, and it was used in the New York Times, January 28, section I, page 39, column 4. You’ll find a glossary of emoticons here.

An emoticon may show a wide range of reactions, but the most famous is the smiley face, with :-) or without :) a nose. Given that it’s so ubiquitous, I was surprised to discover that the first person to use it has been documented. He was Scott Fahlman, and he used it on the Carnegie Mellon University online bulletin board in 1982. He says he invented the icon to mark sarcasm or humor that might be missed by some readers, thus leading to tedious and unnecessary responses that took funny statements seriously. You may read his musings on the invention here.

This is the original posting:

19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman :-)
From: Scott E Fahlman

I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:


Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark
things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use



Check out Mike's latest book here:
or at

Visit the Senior Corner at
(substitute @ for AT above)


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Dona Sheehan's prints