'Emoticons' stand in for facial expressions and body language in electronic messages

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 12:00am

EVER NOTICED those funny faces made up of punctuation marks and symbols used in e-mail and chat room messages? Those creative keystrokes are called 'emoticons' - a combination of the words 'emotion' and 'icon'.

Emoticons are used to compensate for the lack of voice inflections, facial expressions and body language in electronic messages.

Emoticons, which require people to tilt their head to the left to read them, are also known as 'smileys'.

Smileydictionary.com, one of the most popular emoticons Web sites, recently released its list of top 10 emoticons used on the Internet. The Web site says the most used emoticon is :-).

It is used to express happiness, sarcasm or to indicate a joke. However, when the close bracket is replaced with an open bracket, the resulting emoticon, :-(, represents sadness.

The top 10 smileys are:

: ) happy smiley

?: ( very angry smiley

B ) cool smiley

: O yelling

: I indifferent smiley

; ) winking smiley

: ( frowney

8 ) short-sighted smiley

: D laughing smiley

: ? sarcastic smiley.

The following is a glossary of other popular smileys:

:- ) happiness, sarcasm or a joke

:- ( unhappiness

:] or :-] despondency

:D or :-D jovial happiness

: I or :-I indifference

:-/ undecided, confused or sceptical

:Q or :-Q confusion

:S or :-S incoherent or lost for words

:@ or :-@ shock or screaming

:O or :-O surprise, yelling or realisation of an error.

In general, people use emoticons to express emotions or clarify ambiguous statements to avoid misunderstandings in online communications. However, emoticons can also be used for fun or to add spice to messages.

The following emoticons represent famous people. How many of them can you recognise? :-.) Cindy Crawford; 3:*? Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer; 8(:-) Mickey Mouse; 7:-) Fred Flintstone and 5:-J Elvis Presley.

If you think up some emoticons of your own, you can send them to the Web site at www.EmoticonUniverse.com to share with other Internet users. You can also find a glossary to help you decipher emoticons.

Another way to express emotional inflections on electronic messages is through the use of acronyms. Here are some of the most common acronyms: AAMOF, as a matter of fact; AFAIK, as far as I know; BTW, by the way; FAQ, frequently asked questions; FYI, for your information; and OIC, Oh I see.