Emoticons - the shorthand depictions of facial expressions and feelings created with punctuation marks, numbers and letters - have always fascinated me. They are actually a form of computer art, and have been around since the early 1980's.
I have held onto a pint-sized booklet I got at a convention many years ago as a giveaway called WANT2TLK? from Logica. It has hundreds of (admittedly) small pages of emoticons, and I just love having it around as a reference (obviousy, since I'm still talking about it).
But had never seen Japanese emoticons until today, and I found myself laughing out loud at the cleverness of some of them from a's Design article by Pagan Kennedy in the New York Times. (The emoticon shown above means "wearing headphones.") This just goes to prove that some things really ARE universal - totally wonderful.
“A Longitudinal Study of Emoticon Use in Text Messaging from Smartphones,” a recently released report from Rice University found that women use emoticons roughly twice as often as men in text messages. That apparently synchs with earlier research that women are also generally more emotionally expressive in nonverbal communication than men (think facial expressions). Probably this is some kind of holdover from our tribal days when emotion would lose you the spear-throwing contest.
If you've never used emoticons, it's not too late to start. Perhaps the oldest and most over-used is the one I am guilty of myself: the classic smiley face :) at the end of a message. A variant of this has a nose in the middle, thuus: :-) That's not to negate the classic "Frowny" emoticon :-( for when the writer of the message is just plain sad.
The following tabular listing of emoticons in use throughout the globe isn't for the faint of heart, but perhaps you can find your own special emoticon on it to use and abuse. Happy emoting.