The latest issue of Wired has a history of emoticons and smileys. There were some very interesting bits, including some I’d read before, but my favorite was a proposal by Ambrose Bierce in 1887.
Ambrose Bierce wanted to reform the English language, of course, to make it simpler and clearer. Just how many attempts to reform English have there been? I know Teddy Roosevelt was a fan of one such attempt; it was mentioned in the biography I read in high school that he always used the “simplified” spellings then in vogue. I can’t exactly blame the reformers, considering what a mutated mutt our language is, but I do think they are at least a little silly.
Anyway, back to Ambrose Bierce. He proposed a new punctuation to be attached to “every jocular or ironical sentence” that looked like this: He called it the snigger point.
Such a great term.
Actually, I prefer it as one word: sniggerpoint. I wish it had been adopted, or that we could call the normal smiley a sniggerpoint. It would never catch on (and probably would just confuse most people) but wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if it had?