Monday, November 8, 2010

emotiCON :(

The first written “language,” it can be argued, was Neolithic pictorial narratives carved into cave walls. Egyptian and Asian characters also were and are to this day heavily image-driven. It is often said in conversation that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Clearly, there is a long, rich history of the union of word and image, dating back to the earliest days of recorded storylines. However, the twentieth century, and its “digital revolution,” has spawned a bastard hybrid of text and depiction.

examples of emoticons from

As can be determined by my title for this piece, the bastard hybrid that I refer to is the emoticon. Emoticons are a sickening, “cutesy,” combination of keyboard characters like colons, semi-colons, karats, and parenthesis which are typed in a manner that the eye views as a recognizable image. For example, a left-pointing karat typed before the number three makes a sideways heart. <3 (before I was aware of this new language I thought it was supposed to be a pair of scissors.) Oftentimes, a colon is paired with an end parenthesis to make a sideways smiling face. In my opinion, emoticons are frivolous, and furthermore, visually displeasing. These typographical chimeras are the modern version of writing “BOOBS” on a calculator. If you have a full, conscious thought, type it, or else don’t bother.

Unfortunately, many who do attempt to express themselves aren’t even able to do that properly. The grammatical comprehension of my age demographic is woeful, due in part to internet short-hand, made popular by internet provider America OnLine and its chat service AIM in the 1990s. People spent hours typing away, and a large number of us used horribly inaccurate short-hand in our instant message communiqués. Emoticons have their origins in the abbreviated on-line exchanges described above. It may be a coincidence, but it appears that instant messages and their resulting condensed grammar are at least partly responsible for the decline in English comprehension, and as emoticons are a part of that short-hand, I have no use for them.

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