Since the dawn of internet chat rooms (or perhaps the internet itself), there have been small (usually less than five characters, though this is slowly evolving to higher character counts) abbreviations that people have used to increase the speed of discourse and the expression of common emotions.

While there are actually traces of slight emoticons going back as far as 1857 (a Morse code guide said 73 meant “love and kisses” and “<3 and :*”), emoticons didn’t really see heavy practical use until the early 80s. It began simply and innocently enough with the token happy face and sad face:

🙂         🙁

These symbols are now so widely used and commonly accepted that Microsoft Word will actually autocorrect these emoticons into one-character graphical representations.

Now in many instant messengers and web forums, text emoticons are usually automatically replaced with corresponding graphical images. They started out very simple and only represented the most common textual emoticons, but now many chat clients will have a graphical representation of most complex emoticons, such as :'( and :-$.

One interesting fact about emoticons is that Japan has a completely different style than the western world. Rather than writing emoticons that you have to turn your head sideways to see the correct orientation, Japanese emoticons are typically upright, like the following examples:



Current Trends

In recent message boards and text media threads, many people have emoticon “parties” or contests to try to one-up each other with the most creative emoticon that they can find on the internet. Among these emoticon battles are extremely complex character sequences, often borrowing characters from multiple languages:

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ – An individual flipping over a table

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ – A dancing individual

( °٢° ) – A drooling individual or owl

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ – A butterfly

(╬ ಠ益ಠ) – An exaggerated grimace

ヽ(o`皿′o)ノ – Extremely angry

☜(⌒▽⌒)☞ – Angel


This guest post is contributed by Barbara Jolie, who writes for online classes.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: