According to today’s highlights in history:
On Sept. 19, 1982, the smiley emoticon was invented as Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman proposed punctuating humorously intended computer messages by employing a colon followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis as a horizontal “smiley face.” :-)
It’s my personal belief that this particular emoticon is sickeningly cutesy and annoying as hell. I go to great lengths to avoid using it, although I try not to be too harsh with those who do.
On the other hand…
I recognize the need for it, or something like it. In face-to-face conversation, you can use your tone of voice or your facial expression to make it obvious when you are saying something sarcastic or otherwise not to be taken entirely seriously.
Of course it’s easy to accuse those who “don’t get it” and take offense at humorously-intended comments of being irony-impaired. Some are, of course, but having been outraged myself by some online comments which turned out to be satirical takes, I can’t claim that my irony radar is perfectly tuned either.
Some time ago, I toyed with the idea of using one of these in place of :-) :
In the end I decided they were even more annoying than the smiley. And frankly, if you have to explain that something is sarcastic, it sort of defeats the whole point.
If anyone has other ideas on how to deal with this particular online quandary, I’d be interested.