Defining the Smileys Seen in Cyberspace


To the “untrained” eye, those three symbols mean absolutely nothing. The computative combination of the three somewhat ambiguous marks, resemble something out of a pre-algebra book. Perhaps it may appear as if somebody made a boo-boo in post press. Or maybe it seems like I made a typo, but whatever the case may be, the “colon” sign, “hyphenation” symbol and the “end parenthesis” marker together, will mean many different things to many different people.

To the “trained” eye however, the marriage of the trio represents something much more than just three odd signs. It is a whole `nother language. A whole `nother way of expression. A whole `nother world entirely. For those of us “onliners” who write excessive E-mail and/or lurk around in newsgroups and chats all day, the “colon” sign, “hyphenation” symbol and the “end parenthesis” marker represents a smile.

Once you start residing and encompassing many parts of the online world, you will soon find out that there is a whole slew of these “smileys” to be seen, heard and discovered. Spending just 5 minutes in any chatgroup will show you that there are many of these “smileys” that are widely used and accepted, and many that are not as well. The enormous variation and self-invented “smileys” that are in circulation, made a dictionary (of sorts) necessary to keep track and begin to fathom the idea of so many symbolic marks.

A few of the funner web sites that define these infamous “smileys” in detail are “The Smiley Dictionary” (, which separates the “smileys” into classic smileys, funny smileys, people smileys and even an add-your own smiley section, “The Smiley Dictionary by thread” (, a hypernews page from the Peachpit Press, and the “Big Dummy’s Guide to the Internet” (, which includes basic, widely used, midget, mega, Usenet and emotional smiley segregations.

The face of E-mail has also seen these little rascals pop up here and there. I use my own variation of the smiley =) quite often. The great thing about these guys is that you can make the most sarcastic or negative remark to somebody, and a simple placement of this =) will make everything all better.

A popular application for these cute critters are for flirting. Let’s say you like somebody in a chatroom or you want to be flirtatious so that somebody will like you. Placing a 😉 after a comment that you have made to the individual will lead to a “are you coming one to me?” reply almost indefinitely. Yep, that simple threesome of characters means that you just winked at the person. Another good one, might be the :* one which represents kissing.

Starting to get the hang of this? Then, test yourself. What do you think 😛 means? It shows the user sticking his tongue out. How about this :-O one? Uh huh, it is a user surprised or screaming. You are getting too good at this. Let’s try a more advanced level. How about >:-[ ? That’s a vampire. What about :-.) ? Tricky huh? That’s Cindy Crawford.

Getting bored? Well, I don’t blame you, but here’s just one more to tempt your tummy. What does mean? That represents an Internet maniac.

Wasn’t that fun? No? Oh yeah!? Well, I don’t think you are very funny yourself either! In fact, I don’t even like you at all!!!


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