Of the emoticon

Emoticon: oh ye most loathed textual concoction of the late 20th century! Long have I lived without stooping to use you. How strong my refusal to capitulate to your abhorrent utility, to cede my language to your ubiquity! But, alas, now amongst those whose language is not my own I have finally succumb, ashamed. Oh rue these saddest of days. I am now but a supplicant among the masses kneeling before your evil altar.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, dearest of readers, I have taken up the emoticon.

Why, you ask. Why, itinerant you, would you falter? Why would you stray from the path of righteousness?

Answer: Tone. Tone, my friends, is a big problem when you use something other than your native tongue with anything less than fluency. Particularly given a certain relative cultural distance between my own rhetorical strategies and those of the porteños among whom I live, I have often found it difficult when communicating by text or online chat to convey my tone. Irony, litotes, synecdoche, euphemism–all these and more require substantial linguistic agility, not to mention a considerably larger vocabulary than I have at my disposal. And remember, will you, that even when digitally engaging with an interlocutor who shares your language, meanings can get lost in that vast virtual void. The risk of this phenomenon is obviously amplified in cross-cultural, multi-lingual communication. And thus the trap was set and into it, headfirst, I fell.

I’m ’emoting’ all the hell over the place these days. Smiley faces, winking faces, sad faces. Weird little representations of grumpiness or irritation, happiness or confusion. All made using a combination of standard punctuation marks.

I, as should be more than clear, have long battled against the emoticon. But one must adapt to an ever-changing world with the tools to which one has access, I suppose. And so it is that I have surrendered. Defeated (but more or less getting my point across) I offer you this: ;-(

One Comment on “Of the emoticon”

  1. Josh says:


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