RE: Emoticons (was: Root and fraction (2 new symbols))

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Sat Oct 13 2007 - 20:48:42 CDT

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    Andreas Stötzner wrote:
    > Good heavens, no. “Emoticons”, “dingbats” are just slang terms which
    > are used by technicians (who rule the standardisation business) instead
    > of professional definitions. “Symbols” is still regarded by many as a
    > kind of playground off the serious track of “text”. This is the
    > problem.

    I don't know why you think that emoticons and dingbats are identical. They
    differ greatly in their usage, notably a dingbat doesnot express the
    intention or feeling or emotion of the writer. Emoticons area form of
    ideographic script for avoiding a sentence and using something that is more
    expressive and most often very explicit (much more than smileys that are the
    most reduced forms of emoticons restricted to plain-text using some form of
    "ASCII Art").

    ASCII Arts include smileys but are larger than that, allowing to draw some
    simple diagrams, up to representing full grey images (remember the large
    "images" printed on folded paper rolls in the 1970's, when there was still
    no graphic printers...).

    Emoticons are mid-way between smileys and icons/images. They are quite
    explicit but not realist they are not intended to represent the effective
    appearance of the subject but to use still a symbolic visual association
    (like in smileys), most often in a fun too look animated character (most
    often derived from the famous Pac Man game character).

    Most smileys can be converted to emoticons, but not all. (for example look
    for the series about the Cow smileys: they are multiline and meaningful only
    when using a monospaced font; look also into smileys commonly found at the
    bottom of plain-text emails or newsgroup posts within signatures: many of
    them are decorative and combine a imaged character within a decorative
    scene, using some fascinating Ascii-Art).

    Many emoticons can be converted to smileys, but not all (in fact most of the
    recent emoticons can't be converted this way, but can be converted to text
    only by some short (often localized) symbolic name (which is the way they
    are input in many online forums or chat rooms, or even on mobile phones that
    support a few of them, allowing a user to associate some sumbolic string,
    improbable in the language, to a small icon).

    Some have argued that abbreviations like LOL or ROTFL or RTFM would be
    smileys or emoticons. For me they are just abbreviations without any
    graphical associations, often used to avoid some words rejected by filters.
    These are part of the abusive "SMS language" and have no meaning except in
    the origin language from which they are derived.

    The "SMS language" includes smileys, many "normal" abbreviations for slang
    words, abusive orthographic abbreviations like "ITS4U" instead of "it's for
    you" where letters are read as they are spelled individually... Some of
    these abbreviations may become new common words in the vernacular language
    (LOL for example) because they are readable without spelling each letter.

    Some "normal" abbreviations will be rewritten by adding the missing letters
    that are spelled (for example "cédérom" in French, which is a literal
    orthography for a neologism derived from the vocal spelling of letters in
    the English abbreviation "CDROM"). But there are many historical examples
    for words from which the original abbreviation has been lost, even

    Regarding the name "Dingbats", it is named like this only because of a
    popular Adobe font popularized in Postscript printers (popularized itself by
    Apple in MacOS). It used its own encoding, distinct from all other
    encodings, and the order of the encoding has been preserved in the
    Unicode/ISO 10646 block, because this font was so popular that it was
    referenced in many documents.
    The Dingbats symbols were popular because they covered most of the
    typographic needs for bullets, arrows, stars, and basic geometric symbols
    that are used in lots of books. That's why it was encoded as is: this was
    justified by actual usage, and by a de facto standard Encoding, implied in
    many documents, and whose simple roundtrip mapping was the best option.
    The font is still supported on almost all Postscript printers, and also
    frequent now in PCL printers, although this is no longer needed when the OS
    supports it in its own fonts (now encoded with Unicode without depending on
    the legacy Dingbats encoding) and knows how to print graphic bands or how to
    upload reusable custom font glyphs to the printer.
    Microsoft has defined its own set of symbols named "Webdings" to extend the
    Dingbats subset. However many of the symbols had other existing encodings
    and the rest was redistributed within multiple coherent blocks by function
    or summary description, for finding them more easily, and create more
    coherent sets.
    Now Unicode is no more constrained by legacy encodings. The newer blocks
    will be allocated more logically without depending on encodings that don't
    exist (in fact if encodings are ever created, they will first be made by
    basing them on the Unicode and ISO/IEC 10646 encoding order in the block
    where the characters will be allocated first).

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