Friday, September 19, 2008

Food for Thought: Korean Emoticons

Koreans, like most East Asians, use very different emoticons from the ones Americans use. In the US, we're familiar with the horizontal emoticons:


With these emoticons, emotion is expressed mostly with the mouth, though there are a few exceptions, like >:-).

Korean emoticons are vertical:

^_^ happy
\_/ angry/evil
-_- sighing
^_^" nervous (that's a sweat drop)
<_> sad
=^_^= blushing

Also, as you may have noticed, the mouth doesn't really change--instead, emotion is expressed with the eyes or with other features.

Now, none of this is really news to the East Asiaphiles of the world. However, just the other day, I saw a really interesting usage that set my amateur linguist brain aflame. At the end of a very happy/thankful e-mail, an acquaintance wrote:


Upon further inquiry I learned that, in some circles, the length of the mouth can be used to indicate the strength of the emotion being conveyed (not, mind you, the fatness of the face conveying it). I guess the idea is that, the more characters you type, the more time/effort you spend? Any thoughts, intarwebs? (By which I probably mean Leslie.)


Mike said...

my favorite is "rock on" hand: \m/

Hudson said...

I started using " =) " with the big eyes instead of :) because of Silly, and now I can't use anything else. I like the big eyes better, anyway, so its a keeper.

Leslie said...

Unfortunately, the semiotics of emoticons are a bit out of my academic area, but I still have two cents to put in: First, Russians do sort of the same thing. Russian smileys often sport two or more mouths, indicating not double chins, but strength of the smiley-emotion. :)))))))

I'm pretty sure Americans don't do that... right?

Second, Russians often omit the eyes entirely, for what I call the "blind smiley," aka a single close-parenthesis at the end of a sentence.) I guess it makes sense, since as you pointed out, the eyes frequently carry no meaning in the Western emoti-lexicon.

Third, since I'm sure you're wondering: yes, the multiple-mouth smiley and the blind smiley can be combined.)))))