Award-winning writer: Jackie Papandrew

Airing My Dirty Laundry!

E-nnoyed By Emoticons

As an English major and therefore (according to my teenage son) a certified weenie, I have a thing for punctuation. Commas make me jump with joy. Periods and parentheses provide pure pleasure. I can wax ecstatic over an exclamation mark. Semicolons, if inserted sensibly, are beautiful things to behold, while their cousins — the comely colons — leave me more in love than ever with language. (I heard that. You just called me a weenie.)

That's why my knickers have long been in a knot over a serious threat to the purity of punctuation. It is the insidious infection known as "emoticons.” If you've spent any time at all on a computer, you've no doubt seen them polluting e-mail and Web sites. Poor little punctuation marks — the workhorses of the written word — are being improperly pressed into service to convey emotion online. By combining the words "emotion” and "icon,” some cyber geek has given us this Frankenstein of feelings. As if words — the medium of artists like Shakespeare and Wordsworth, not to mention that great author, Madonna — are no longer good enough to express our sentiments.

The most common emoticon is that sickening smiley face made with a colon for eyes and the right parenthesis as the smile : ). Of course, you have to view it at a 90-degree angle, something you never have to do with words. Sometimes, to add insult to injury, a dash is even forced to stand between the "eyes” and the "mouth” to indicate a nose :-). Is there no end to the indignity?

I know this blight upon language has been around for a while and that many software programs can now create emoticons — even animated emoticons that move e-nnoyingly around on your computer screen — without sacrificing the lives of priceless punctuation.

But I fear our mother tongue is still in peril. Words are wasting away; standard spelling is falling out of fashion. It's as if we are moving backward in time, back to a world where man crudely expressed his thoughts with hieroglyphics. Actually, now that I think about it, hieroglyphics were a lot more sophisticated than the smiley face. We may be in real trouble here, folks.

Until recently, I thought I was immune to emoticon creep. My text stood on its own, beautifully transmitting my feelings without any assistance from stupid symbols. I am, after all, an English major. (You called me a weenie again, didn't you?)

Then the other day, just when I was about to hit "send” on a routine e-mail to an acquaintance, I stopped in horror. There, at the end of a perfectly adequate sentence — "It was nice seeing you last week” — I had actually typed not one, but two obsequious smiley faces. I could only shake my head in disgust.

Even the word-weenies like me are gradually being worn down.

Shakespeare must be rolling in his grave.  :(

~ Jackie Papandrew ~
© 2008, All Rights Reserved

Jackie Papandrew is an award-winning writer, syndicated humor columnist, coffee addict and mom to a motley crew of children and pets who provide a steady stream of column ideas and dirt. She's also wife to a very patient man who had no idea, years ago when he still had time to escape, what he was getting himself into. Visit her website at:  JackiePapandrew.com

[ by Jackie Papandrew Copyright © 2008, (me@jackiepapandrew.com) -- submitted by: Jackie Papandrew ]

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