Mobile Communications

Rant: Be Gone, Emoticon

Lest it be said that I have failed to “move with the times”, am, indeed, a “Luddite”, “laggard” or, dread phrase “a stick in the mud”, let it state on record that I have in recent times voluntarily acceded to the modern world in numerous ways. I have added exclamation marks for emphasis to messages (“Thanks!”) and even indulged in fashionable small talk (“Hi. How are you?”) to show my willingness to banter, possess a sunny disposition, be affable, fit in with the new zeitgeist.

But sometimes there is a bridge too far and for me that bridge is called, because the world screams out for pointless neologisms, the emoticon.

Perhaps I will be corrected but I don’t think I have ever used an emoticon. This is because these foul escutcheons on text, pockmarking emails and other missives like dogs’ stools on life’s shabby path, are abominable intrusions, unnecessary, infantile and pernicious. Yet they seem in recent times to continue to prosper and even multiply like Tribbles but without the furry appeal. The collective noun might be a plethora of emoticons.

Youthful in so many ways, I draw the line at the emoticon. I then press down with the nib, scorch the page, add marker pen for emphasis and build a DMZ on the page for extra defence against the enemy. Because what, after all, is an emoticon if not a downright admission of defeat in communication skills?

Yes, an emoticon acts as a form of — metacommunicative, says Wikipedia — shorthand that advises the reader that the writer is being humorous, is effectively winking in parenthesis, is unhappy or angry or puzzled. But the language of Shakespeare, Chaucer and Richard Littlejohn should surely be toolkit enough for these small indicators.

I myself am not opposed to modern additions: ‘btw’ for ‘by the way’ and FWIW for ‘for what’s it’s worth’. These save time and are useful coinage. In the same vein, only a pedant would insist on ‘Yours faithfully” at the end of an “electronic mail” message; I prefer ‘Cheers’, ‘Best, or even ‘Rgds’ and might thus pass, sight unseen, as a teenager. Also, the lexicon of the technology industry is often criticised as being full of TLAs and jargon but here again I show my essential modernity and insist that the abbreviations and acronyms at least serve to quickly point out well-known phenomena for a specialist audience. RAM trumps ‘random access memory’ every time.

But the emoticon? No, I won’t have it. It’s a mincing, insinuating thing, offering its handshake like Uriah Heep and his “fishy mit”. I can’t explain why I wince even thinking about it but it does something that is just slightly unacceptable. As my Nanna might have said, it’s a “wrong ‘un”.

Some things, the sensitive person knows, can’t pass muster. Wearing Slazenger clothing, referring to oneself in the third person (you won’t catch Martin Veitch doing that), making interminable phone calls in the quiet carriage, drinking coffee in a pub, voting for UKIP “only as a protest vote”… and the idiot visage of the emoticon. No, it won’t do.

My only sober suggestion is an amnesty. Somewhere along the line a collective lunacy gripped us but now it’s time to down weapons and restore brackets, colons and semicolons to proper use. Let us can the emoticon and we’ll call it quits.


Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect


« Amazon, Apple, Google and the Race to Win It All


Cloud: The Road to African Innovation »
Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

  • twt
  • twt
  • Mail


Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?