Saturday, May 12, 2007

On the Use of Smileys in Prose [:P]

With the advent of online messaging, the use of smileys has become ubiquitous.

I wanted to write about smileys and this is the first sentence that came to my mind. I was shocked. I was rusty. This is how paragraphs start in essay writing books ‘colorfully’ named “101 Essays for All Occasions”, “278654 Essays for Competitive Exams” available at a railway station platform near you. You could go to a station with an unpronounceable name where you may not find drinking water in the station, but you will find these books. [:O, :D] The stilted usage of language reduces even the most interesting topic to a banal and mechanical piece of prose. (See!!)

Anyway coming back to the original train of thought, it struck me that I had become extremely comfortable with smileys and they had become an integral aspect of my thought process. Therefore, I present a ‘concept blog’ [:P], ‘examining’ the use of smileys in normal usage. (Blame it on the thesis writing!) [:))]

The rules of this game are:

A smiley can be used anywhere, but it must be indicated in parenthesis, bold. Any number of smileys can be used in a bracket, but each distinct one must be separated by a comma.

Most of the smileys I have used will be common knowledge to people who frequently chat. Anyway, I have used this site as a ‘reference’ or a ‘standard definition’ for smileys.

As a test passage, I take the following passage from the bad movie review section of this site. The review is for a movie called Class of 1999 (1990). View the IMDb entry here. Thought it would be fun 'punctuating' this review with smileys [:))]:

Ok, so it's the future (well, 1999 was the future when this movie was made [#-o]), and gang warfare has gotten so bad that kids rule many areas of major U.S. cities, most of which center on high schools. [:D, 8-|] They are called "Free Fire Zones," and the cops won't even enter them. So here is question number one: if the kids control the areas around the schools, and they've scared everyone to the point where even the cops won't come in, why do they still go to school? [:P, #-o] The armored school bus still lumbers through the streets every weekday, and even the hoods who are supposedly in control dutifully pile on. When they get to school, they have to go through metal detectors and give up all their weapons -- the movie shows school faculty putting confiscated firearms into ridiculously huge bins containing every type of gun you could imagine. So here is question number two: given the fact that, however inexplicably, these kids still go to school, [:O] why do they still bring their guns when they know they'll just have them confiscated? [:|] Are they passed back out at the end of the day? [:-/]Does this surprise them every time? "Aw, man, not again! That was my best Uzi!" [:P]

Well in the previous case, the passage lent itself to the use of smileys. It featured a typical sarcasm often used in chats and therefore, the use of the smileys is quite effective and natural. Let us take a more emotion filled paragraph then: [;)]

The sight of her standing in the wind swept bus stop filled him with a strange joy. [:)] Strange, because after the last meeting, that meeting, he had not wanted to see her ever again. Now looking at her, solitary in the bus stand, carelessly toying with her hair, he wanted nothing more than to go up to her and express his love and make up. But how would he begin? [:-/] This was not the time for words. It was the time for action. He strode forward, went in front of the surprised lady, and ignoring her protests went for the ultimate affectation of love. He kissed her passionately. [;), :*] As they separated, he looked at her for a sign of approval, for what he reckoned was a fine performance. Only, he was greeted with a flurry of slaps [X-(] and then it struck him, that it wasn’t her, but her almost-look-alike-but-slightly-hotter mother! [:D]

Fine, fine I couldn’t resist.[;))] But yes, we can use smileys for emotion filled situations as well. Now, imagine using smileys in the Board Exam!

Why was Akbar called ‘Akbar the Great’? (6 marks)

  • His empire stretched from parts of Afghanistan in the west to some parts of Southern India at its peak. [:O]
  • His court consisted of some of the greatest intellects, nine to be precise, called the Navratnas. This included Birbal, Tansen, Todar Mal etc. [:|]
  • He worked for Hindu-Muslim unity. He married a Rajput, Jodha Bai to further Hindu Muslim unity. [;)] He founded Din-i-Ilahi.
  • On and on

This answer is surely getting 6 marks!

However, reading the blog again, I feel smileys shouldn’t be made a part of formal usage. For one, their usage seems like canned laughter in the sense they prompt the reader to feel the emotions of the author instead of letting the reader interpret things for himself/herself.

Also, if the (ab)use of a few punctuation marks could create havoc, just imagine what this can do!

#-o d'oh, slap on the head
X-( angry
:* kiss
8-| rolling eyes
:-/ confused

1 comment:

Anand said...

"Akbar's empire.. blah [:O]"
:D :D :D :D
There we go, smiley again!