July 29, 2007

The puzzling persistence of emoticons.

[A]fter 25 years of use, emoticons have started to jump off the page and into our spoken language. Even grown men on Wall Street, for example, will weave the term “QQ” (referring to an emoticon that symbolizes two eyes crying) into conversation as a sarcastic way of saying “boo hoo.”

Kristina Grish, author of “The Joy of Text: Mating, Dating and Techno-relating” (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2006), said that she grew so accustomed to making the :-P symbol (a tongue hanging out) in instant messages at work that it once accidentally popped up, in three dimensions, on a date.

“When the waiter told us the specials,” she recalled in an e-mail message, “I made that face — not on purpose of course — because they sounded really drab and uninteresting. And the guy I was out with looked at me like I was insane and said, ‘Did you just make an IM face?’ ”
Hey, what's the emoticon that means I think that's one of those fake anecdotes pop authors make up for their books? (A fakecdote.)

IN THE COMMENTS: Dave F writes:
Well, I just got back from lunch with three fellow Wall St. co-workers, "grown men" all, and in the interest of doing some of my own, original research, asked them if they have ever, in their professional lives, as "grown Wall St. men" ever heard the phrase QQ uttered to mean "boo hoo."

To which their response was they knew a good shrink that I should see.
I suspect that Dave and his friends were swingin' on the flippety-flop and the New York Times is a cob nobbler.


Dave said...

I'm a grown man working on Wall St. and have never heard anyone say QQ, except in the context of ETFs when they meant to say QQQ.

Who are the idiots who write for the Times?

knox said...

definitely made up.

Meade said...

Or, hey, what's the emoticon for look/don't look now but I think that senator over there may be intentionally unintentionally haute flashing her cleavage? (A falsus ek didonai)

Anonymous said...
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Bissage said...

Well, hello Dali! What we need now is a surreal landscape with droopy emoticons, if memory serves.

Meade said...

Droopy emoticons? No sir! Not on MY digital faux social conservative watch!

Bissage said...


PeterP said...


...Two JarHeads mating, as seen from Space

Meade said...

Biss, U left out the "3"

What's the emoticon for: " MAH HED IZ RAHT UNDR UR 38-DZ... OOO, CALLZ ME SHALLOW BUT... HUBBA HUBBA!" ?

Mr.Murder said...

Emoticons are a threat to our freedumbs.

Hopefully you'll be renditioned without due process so we'll be safe from terror.

If they don't rendition over there for illegal emoticons then we'll have to detain here. It's simple as that. It justifies the policy.

The facts are being shaped around the policy. Marx bros moment- tie onto the bed and out the window...

Look at that girl showing her cleavage(said the girl to another girl). There are some bad script plots to develop from there, which I'll get to soon as Goldberg gets these QQueers to stop sucking my dick.

J. Cricket said...

Ah yes, eagle-eyed Annie sees through THAT story!!

You could just admit that you fell for this kind of story a day or two ago, and for the lamest possible reason--because it had to do with bras and law partners.

But you're incapable of admitting a mistake, aren't you? Especially one that shows you fell for something that others figured out.

Occupational hazard, eh prof?

Meade said...

Don't bogart that joint, Mr. John Campanelli Murder, hand it over to AJD. The better for him to play Roving Psychoanalyst Without A License.

Mark Daniels said...

I have yet to see anyone of any age gesture an emoticon in personal conversation. I agree that this "anecdote" seems totally fake.

Mark Daniels

Dave said...

Well, I just got back from lunch with three fellow Wall St. co-workers, "grown men" all, and in the interest of doing some of my own, original research, asked them if they have ever, in their professional lives, as "grown Wall St. men" ever heard the phrase QQ uttered to mean "boo hoo."

To which their response was they knew a good shrink that I should see.

reader_iam said...

You never know.

Daryl said...

Why do people keep saying Hillary is flashing her "cleavage"? There is no cleft because she's as flat as my back--or atleast, that's the impression I get from the photo.

She should get a double mastecotomy, tell people she's a survivor of breast cancer (more victimhood!), and wear some decent-sized fake boobs. She should have done that during her presidency (err, her co-presidency) to get sympathy during the Monica thing. That would have positioned her much more strongly for the 2008 run.

Why would anyone want to elect a woman with small breasts, any more than we would want to elect a politician who had a small penis? If any male pol admitted to being small there, his chances of winning an election would go into the toilet faster than a Koran at Pace University.

Fred Thompson apparently has a giant member. America deserves a leader with such confidence.

Synova said...

It's not puzzling at all.

(Though I've never seen QQ for anything. Who uses that?)

I have a ham radio license, as does my husband (who has had one since he was a kid) and two of our children.

The ham radio community uses codes that were developed for morse code communications when speaking, even if they never new morse code and don't use it.

It's not at all unusual to hear someone say, "seventy-threes" when they are signing off. Or "hi-hi" when they are speaking, to indicate that something was meant to be funny. (In morse code "hihi" sounds like laughter, "haha" doesn't.)

The use of emoticons, as much as some people frown on the idea, is a practical way to make up for the drawbacks of speaking in type. There is no tone of voice, no facial expression, and the amount of misunderstanding and anger and "flame wars" that resulted when people were figuring this stuff out were practically legendary.

So we learned to :) and to ;-) and to :-P, to :-(

(And then graphics got better and they replaced them with those ugly yellow faces... but that's another old school rant.)

But I think that our typewritten communication has changed as well. I think that we've learned to soften our "speech" in a variety of ways such as sticking in all these nice disclaimers, "I think" or "it seems to me".

Maxine Weiss said...

When you all write LOL.....are you really doing it?

I feel it's an absolute act of betrayal to insert LOL, when you know you're not doing anything of the kind.

Same thing with ROFLAO....are people literally doing that, literally?, everytime that's used?

Bissage said...

I’ve laughed out loud, many, many times.

I don’t know that I’ve ever typed out “LOL.”


People deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

That’s classic advice.

Bissage said...


I forgot.

Love, Bissage

Meade said...

Whenever I sign off with "Peace" or "Love," that's what I have in my heart even though my mouth may be in need of seriously expensive dental work.

Daryl said...
"[...] co-presidency [...]"

and I misread that as "co-dependpresidency."

Meade said...

Also, Maxie, what does "ROFLAO" mean? Is that an anagram for "OF ORAL?"

And just what would your mother say if she observed you transmitting that sort of language over the WWW?

Dave said...

ROFLAO = Rolling on the Floor Laughing My Ass Off

Never heard of that grunge speak hoax. Interesting.

Synova said...

LOL simply means that something was funny, if you laughed out loud or just grinned.

Now, is laughing in a conversation a lie if it wasn't involuntary? You know... the laughter just bursts out there and you couldn't stop it?

Or do we *laugh* as a way of communicating? Is it voluntary? It's not fake laughter, but it wouldn't be that hard to just do a little Mono Lisa smile either. So if we *chose* to laugh, are we lying?

Or while making love... is a moan a lie if you could have kept silent? Is it "faking it" to vocalize pleasure *voluntarily*?

LOL is just communicating humor. ROFLOL is just communicating that you found it extra funny, whatever it was.

Revenant said...

Or, hey, what's the emoticon for look/don't look now but I think that senator over there may be intentionally unintentionally haute flashing her cleavage?


From Inwood said...

Can’t say that my anecdotal evidence means a lot & I rarely get emoticons.

If as a majority seem to feel here, the NYT was hoaxed, it’s because its EMOTIons make it susceptible to a CON.
Hey “it’s fake but accurate” (fba).

The SEC has a Form 10-Q & a Form 4, but no Form 4-Q.
Always wondered why.

(OK old joke. No serious response here, please about one not being able to wait for a quarter to file the info contained in a Form 4)
Once when I was on line for my auto license plate in Queens I was given one which read 203 Q--. I asked the clerk if I could have the next one on her desk which read 204 Q--. She told me she'd send me to the back of the line if I kept it up.

Balfegor said...


Everyone knows the weepy face is written (;_;). Bah!

Maxine Weiss said...

But, you're not literally rolling on the floor, every time you use that are you?, like...rolling around on the ground ???

The vast majority of people who type in "LOL" are not actually engaging in the act.

Maxine Weiss said...

I'm practicing.

Maxine Weiss said...

...and it's not working.

But I did try. What's the formula again?


Sorry, what can I do? I don't know computers at all.

Adrian said...

no, the story is actually definitely legit. i should know, i hang out with lots of New Victorians, and they all do it!

Ruth Anne Adams said...


Faux-necdote. They sound better.

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KCFleming said...

We should really just admit it and change LOL and ROTFLMAO to the actual activities:
LTMQ: laughing to myself quietly
DTWFIWISI: Damn that was funny; I wish I'd said it.

The actual emoticons when I'm at the computer and happy:

From Inwood said...

Prof A

How about an emotecdote?

Or an anecdotty?

Or anticecdote

Meade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meade said...

Pogo: I hate to harsh Maxine's mellow, but reading your last comment, I was actually engaging in the act of LTMQ...OL

reader_iam said...


Fen said...

Bissage: I’ve laughed out loud, many, many times. I don’t know that I’ve ever typed out “LOL.”

I actually said "LOL!" once in response to a joke...


My wife still hazes me for that one.

Mr.Murder said...

Only two emoticons matter to you.


This has been yet another episode of simple answers for simple persons.

Sofa King said...

Those aren't emoticons, they're acronyms.

But thanks for playing. As a consolation prize, you'll receive the Althouse Home Game by Milton Bradley.

bill said...

Neal Stephenson said:

Fahlman 1,
Stephenson 0

When I was younger I wrote an opinion piece for The New Republic in which I denounced smileys (symbols like this :) ) and the people who used them in e-mail, including Scott Fahlman, who invented them.

My smileys piece is an object lesson in why the Internet is sometimes a bad thing. The problem with the Internet is that nothing fades away there. And so a silly little opinion piece like this one lives on forever. In an earlier era, it would have ended up moldering away in a few libraries where no one would ever see it.

For the record, I no longer agree with my own smileys editorial of 1993, for two general reasons:

1. I wrote it in a snotty tone that I wouldn’t use if I were writing it today.

2. It reflects a mentality about writing that I clung to early in my career but have since rejected. According to this mentality, the way to write well is to produce a bad first draft and then toil through many revisions, editing it and refining it to bring it ever closer to some supposed Platonic ideal. If you believe in this (as I used to) and if you apply it to the topic of smileys, you arrive at the conclusion that smiley users are lazy writers who could get along just fine without smileys if only they took the trouble to revise and edit their work a little bit, to make the meaning clearer. Of course, as Fahlman himself points out in his web page about smileys, this is not the way people actually write. Since I wrote my denunciation of smileys, I have become more interested in the way that people (including myself) actually do write, and have stopped worrying so much about how they ought to write. So, when I re-examine what Fahlman and I have written about smileys, I end up agreeing with Fahlman, and thinking that this Stephenson kid must be living in some kind of fantasy world.