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An emoticon, also called a smiley, is a sequence of ASCII characters used to represent a human face and express an emotion. Emoticons that express happy or positive emotions are typically classified as smileys. Emoticons are commonly used in email messages, in bulletin boards[?], or in chat. The creator of the original ASCII emoticons ":-)" and ":-(" was Scott Fahlman[?]; the original proposal made by Fahlman on CMU CS general board on September 19, 1982 (at 11:44) was retrieved from old backup tapes on September 10 2002 by Jeff Baird[?].

Emoticon is a comparative neologism. It is a portmanteau word based on emotion and icon.

The earliest known non-ASCII emoticons were used in the PLATO IV program as early as 1972, which allowed users to type multiple text characters "on top" of each other. Many combinations of ordinary text characters were known to produce face-like patterns, which were used as emoticons.

Emoticons have developed over the years as a replacement for facial expressions[?] and emotions, as a way to cope with the limitations of being forced to communicate in text only, without misunderstandings due to the lack of information. Books have been written on this subject, with endless listings of a multitude of emoticons. To more easily recognise them, put your head on either your left or right shoulder, depending on whether the "top" of the emoticon is on the left or the right.

In an Internet forum[?], emoticons are often automatically replaced with small corresponding images. In some versions of Microsoft Word, the AutoCorrect feature recognizes basic smilies such as :) and :(

Some basic examples:

 :-) or :) or =)       smile (a smiley)
    rarely (:
    never =-)
 :-( or )-: or :(      frown: sadness or sympathy
 :/                    somewhat unhappy/discontent
 :-D or :D             wide grin
 :-P or :p             tongue sticking out: joke or sarcasm[?]
 ;-) or (-; or ;)      wink
 B-) or 8-)            has (sun)glasses: looking cool
 :-o or :o             expresses surprise
 :-7                   tongue in cheek (rare)

There are a lot of possibilities, because people are very good at creating and interpreting pictures as faces. See ASCII art.

A few people turn the smiley around, a "left handed" smiley (: This left-handed smiley can sometimes cause miscommunication though, since some hardcore netaddicts tend to drop the : representing the eyes [leaving ) instead of :) ] so what you intendend like a smile could be interpreted as a frown. Generally people who communicate this way a lot subconsciously think: "Caption close = smile Caption open = sad face"

As more of a joke than anything—but also as a political statement—"frownies", the symbol :-(, were trademarked by Despair, Inc.[?] in U.S. Trademark Serial No. 75502288, Registration No. 2347676. The trademark applies only to "Printed matter namely, greeting cards, posters and art prints" and has never been enforced in a court of law.

More detailed emoticons:

  =8-0            fright
  =8-@=(&)        one with a tapeworm
                  (credited to Dave Barry)
  d:^)            baseball player
  +-<:-)          The pope 
  *<|:o)>  or     Santa Claus
  *<|:{ )         
  7:^]            Ronald Reagan
  @@@@:^)         Marge Simpson
  (___8(V) or     Homer Simpson

See also: Smiley

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