Here are a few completely useless emoticons:

:_) User's nose is sliding off his face.

+-:-) User is the pope.

<|-) User is Chinese.

<|-( User is Dman.

%-6 User is braindead.

:-E User is a bucktoothed vampire.

C=}>;*{)) A drunk, fiendish, chef wearing a toupee in an updraft who has a mustache and a double chin.

Some would say that emoticons serve as a written word replacement for the body language that we all take for granted. I would say that emoticons serve as a crippling crutch for those who may have trouble expressing themselves with words. I have taken a solemn oath to never use an emoticon. Instead, every time I feel it necessary to emplace a pointer to my mood I rethink the sentence and try to determine whether it could be said in such a way that the pointer is unnecessary. Authors have managed to make their point clear without the use of emoticons for a very long time.

I wouldn't call them a crutch at all. Many a time have I used the :-P emoticon to convey sarcasm/jest, or the =) smiley to illustrate that I am smiling in merriment or happiness as I make a statement.

So what if authors have been writing clear sentences withough smileys for years? They have the liberty of writing statments such as:

"Oh, right... you're gonna climb Mt. Everest tomorrow," Jack said incredulously.

They have the ability to tack extra modifiers onto a sentence that don't actually come across in spoken language to convey the extra emotion.

---

Also, in today's world of short attention spans and Internet time, smileys/emoticons save a lot of time when trying to convey feelings/emotions. A simple :-) as a replacement for "Hey, that's pretty cool!" is quite desirable, in my opinion.
One simply can't deny that in casual conversation, on IRC for instance, the following line could be taken various ways, depending on emoticons (as an example): Yeah, my day was great. How is one to tell if it's sarcasm or not? If I want to communicate to a friend just like I would in real life (that means not saying "Yeah, my day was bloody one hell of a great day, hah yeah right"), all I have to do is add something like a :P and all is settled. Yeah, my day was great :P A great part of real life sarcasm is in the inflection of tone and pitch and varying accents on particular words--things which obviously cannot be easily typed in words. Saying, Yeah, my day was GREAT, or some other variant doesn't quite pull off the sarcasm, either.

I feel no shame in using an emoticon, and if someone else decides to respect me less for the use of one, so be it. they're respecting me less for ridiculous, superficial reasons.
email = E = EMP

emoticon /ee-moh'ti-kon/ n.

[common] An ASCII glyph used to indicate an emotional state in email or news. Although originally intended mostly as jokes, emoticons (or some other explicit humor indication) are virtually required under certain circumstances in high-volume text-only communication forums such as Usenet; the lack of verbal and visual cues can otherwise cause what were intended to be humorous, sarcastic, ironic, or otherwise non-100%-serious comments to be badly misinterpreted (not always even by newbies), resulting in arguments and flame wars.

Hundreds of emoticons have been proposed, but only a few are in common use. These include:

:-)
`smiley face' (for humor, laughter, friendliness, occasionally sarcasm)
:-(
`frowney face' (for sadness, anger, or upset)
;-)
`half-smiley' (ha ha only serious); also known as `semi-smiley' or `winkey face'.
:-/
`wry face'

(These may become more comprehensible if you tilt your head sideways, to the left.)

The first two listed are by far the most frequently encountered. Hyphenless forms of them are common on CompuServe, GEnie, and BIX; see also bixie. On Usenet, `smiley' is often used as a generic term synonymous with emoticon, as well as specifically for the happy-face emoticon.

It was long thought that the emoticon was invented by one Scott Fahlman on the CMU bboard systems sometime between early 1981 and mid-1982. He later wrote: "I wish I had saved the original post, or at least recorded the date for posterity, but I had no idea that I was starting something that would soon pollute all the world's communication channels." [GLS confirms that he remembers this original posting].

There is a rival claim by one KevinMcKenzie, who seems to have proposed the smiley on the MsgGroup mailing list, April 12 1979. It seems likely these two inventions were independent.

Note for the newbie: Overuse of the smiley is a mark of loserhood! More than one per paragraph is a fairly sure sign that you've gone over the line.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

Mike Jones, a former employee of Carnegie Mellon, started an effort in February 2002 to find Scott Fahlman's original post in which the idea of a smiley was first proposed. After months of detective work, collecting of VAX tape backups and sifting through the data they found Scott's message on September 10, 2002. It was sent to the CMU CS bulletin board system twenty years ago:

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

:-(

Scott Fahlman states himself that this may not be the first use of the smiley (or emoticon) symbol, but no recorded evidence of earlier occurrences have been found so far. In any case, Mike Jones and his team have done a great job bringing this piece of communications history to us.

Sources of information:
"The First Smiley :-)" by Mike Jones, http://research.microsoft.com/~mbj/Smiley/Smiley.html
"Smiley Lore :-)" by Scott E. Fahlman, http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~sef/sefSmiley.htm

In actuality, the emoticon system began in the 1930's. A group of science fiction fans who communicated through typewritten letters sent by US Mail used them to communicate emotions in their letters, as telephones were only used for emergency or really important calls, such as notification of illness.

: )

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