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Mixed Emotions

by aphetism


NEOBOARDS - OK. So you’re a cool, amiable person. And you like going on the message boards- particularly the Neopian Writers. You’re just cruising along, browsing through the topics, reading through the posts, when you come upon a message that completely and utterly bewilders and frustrates you.

The post looks something like this: < 3

-blank stare-

What in carnation is that supposed to mean?!? you say to yourself.

Well, wonder no longer. Hopefully this guide will better enable you to cope with the, ah, language requirements of the NW.

First of all, you must understand that I cannot hope to cover all the chat symbols out there as there’s an infinite number in existence. I will, however, try to include the most commonly used characters throughout the boards.

Also, I ask you to realize that not all my interpretations or definitions will match exactly with yours. Some of the following symbols have more than one meaning, and as such can be used in multiple situations. You’ll just have to set yourself to learning the variations as you go along.

So basically, don’t pop your cogs just because I might have made a mistake. I assure you, it doesn’t happen often.

Now, without further ado, I’d like to present:

Aphet’s Faceless, Text Emoticon Symbol Guide

Alright. So let’s assume you’re completely clueless as to this new revelation. You need to know the basics. You really need to know the basics. Text symbols are the debut of a new era in online communication.

Anyway, moving on. Your first lesson.

‘The Basics’

Everyone needs to know how to make simple happy, sad and angry faces. You know the whole mad, sad, glad basis of emotion deal? Yeah, I thought so.

(Please note the asterisks (*) are not part of the symbols. They’re there to let you know there’s an important note at the bottom of the section regarding something I’ve said. Also, please look at the footnotes indicated by little numbers above certain words.)

Happy Face: OK. Guaranteed this will be your most commonly used face. There are several ways to make this face¹, but the most generally accepted is =)*. If Neopets wasn’t enabled with emoticons, you could use :), but that automatically creates the happy face image.

Sad Face: The opposite of happy = sad, so it makes sense that the sad face is pretty much a reversal of the happy face². So it looks something like this, =(. Again, you could use :(, but that gives you a sad face image.

Angry Face: There are a few different combinations you could use to express anger. True anger is shown by the >_< face, but since real anger is exceedingly rare on Neopets, annoyed faces are more commonly used. So if you’re a bit irritated by something, use one of these instead, >_>³ or =/.

Colons: Colons are the little ‘:’ things. There was a revolt on the NW to stop using them in text symbols and start using ‘=’ instead. I haven’t seen many used since then. But if you insist on using colons, keep in mind that Neopets has allowed emoticons into it’s messages, so if, for example, you type :), it will come up as an actual happy face image. My advice to you is, should you choose to use colons, reverse the symbol. So :) would now look like (:, insuring that you don’t accidentally get an image. You just have to tilt your head the other way to see the happy face. You could also replace the colon with ;.

Strengthening an Emoticon: As with all emotions, emoticons can be made to show a varying level of intensity. Take anger, for example. You could be mildly annoyed, highly irritated or furious, but with just one symbol and no way to see your expression, how will someone on the other end know to which one it refers? That’s what the suffix ; is for. If you were a little annoyed, you’d type >_>. If you were quite annoyed you’d type >_>; and so on to a maximum of 3 ;’s which means a super strong variation of that emotion.

1. Another version of the happy face is n_n or n.n, but I suggest sticking with =).

2. Again, there are a few other versions including u_u, u.u, -.-, -_-. The last two can also be used to represent tired or exhausted.

3. The annoyed face >_> can also be typed as >.>, ¬.¬ or >>.

* The periods after the text emoticons aren’t part of the symbols, but denote the end of a sentence. Same applies to the commas- they indicate a pause is necessary.

Alright! Well done, you’ve gotten past the first lesson. Next we’ll look at some other common symbols as well as how different variations can completely change the meaning of what you want to say.

‘What? What do you mean?’

First off, before I can show you how something as trivial as a funny little combination of letters and keyboard symbols can totally alter the meaning behind your message, you need to know a few more emoticons.

So I’ll make this simple.

o_O - This is a confused face. If someone says something random, this is definitely the one to use. Of course, it’s also the polite way of saying what the. You can use O_o as well. It doesn’t really make a difference.

o_o - Pretty obvious, I know. A staring face that pretty much denotes shock or ‘oh my gosh.’ O_O is just a more powerful version. I love how the eyes look big as dinner plates. =).

=D - This one represents a laughing face. Tilt your head to the left and you’ll see what I mean. Variations include xD and XD, though I’m not sure why. The x’s don’t look like eyes to me.

=P - Buddy here is sticking out his tongue, so you’d use this if you were teasing someone. This can also be expressed as xP or XP. I don’t like using those variations, though. They make me think of Windows XP.

e_e - I’ve seen a few different meaning for this one, but it’s most commonly used as an indication of squinting or rolling your eyes.

;_; - Also pretty popular, this one looks like it’s crying, so it’s obviously used if you’re very upset or very sarcastic. You could use t_t as well.

x_x - Used when you’re dead tired or feel like you’re going to collapse from all the stuff going on. This can also be used to show you aren’t feeling well.

=O - This is generally used to show an exclamation or great surprise.

z_z - Just another variation of angry.

@_@ - This is more of a real confused face, used when you don’t understand something rather than when you’re disbelieving or just like, ‘okay..’

And last but not least,

< 3 - If you tilt your head to the right, you’ll see that this is a heart. This is used to show a virtual hug or convey a feeling of support or friendship. It’s similar to xoxo.

Now I realize that many of these can be used in countless other ways and portrayed in countless other fashions, but my aim isn’t to make you a text emoticon guru. I just want to introduce you to the new fad that has swept through the NW and will undoubtedly come to other boards as well. If it hasn’t already.

Remember, these are just the basics. It will take some time and effort on your part to learn the meanings of these little faces and grow accustomed to using them.

Now then. Let me show you five variations of how an emoticon can change the meaning of your post. I'm going to quote the same sentence here several times, but each time it’ll have a different meaning depending on what symbol I’ve used.

‘I really hate it when that happens.’

OK. That’s nice. The person has no idea how you meant that. Was it sincere? Sarcastic? Let’s hope they assume it was sincere.

1. ‘I really hate it when that happens. =).’

Tells the person you’re only semi-sincere and find the incident rather amusing. Kind of a mild way of teasing.

2. ‘I really hate it when that happens. -.-;;’

Shows you’re bummed about what happened. A form of sympathy.

3. ‘I really hate it when that happens. >>;’

Shows you know how they feel, like ‘Man that’s annoying.’

4. ‘I really hate it when that happens. ;_;’

You’re sympathizing with them. A lot.

5. ‘I really hate it when that happens. o_O’

You have no idea what they’re talking about. You’ve never experienced anything like it.

So you see how something so simple can add feeling to your post? It’s actually kind of neat.

That leaves just one more thing to cover. What not to do.

Things to Avoid

It’s easy enough to tell you what to do, but sometimes is easier following what not to do.

First and foremost, don’t overuse emoticons. It can get annoying. Super annoying. If you’re using them in every post, try to cut back a little. You don’t need them for everything you say. Just the things that require emphasis.

Secondly, try to avoid using all the ^_^, ^.^, ^_~ faces. Although it is a stereotype, those faces are often associated with ‘n00bs*’ and no one likes to be considered one of those.

Thirdly, don’t place your emoticons in the middle of a sentence. The beginning and end are perfectly fine, but sticking it in the middle disrupts the rest of the sentence.

And lastly, avoid using more than one emoticon per post. This goes along the same lines as overusing them.

* I felt obligated to include a definition of n00b and newb in the event that someone mistook what I wrote. A n00b is an annoying person who’s post are usually unintelligible because they use heavy chat speak or because they phrase things so poorly it just doesn’t make sense. A newb is a person new to Neopets.

I’d also like to mention that though I tried to be as impartial as possible, I know in some places my opinion was blatantly clear. I want to assure you that nothing I’ve said was meant to be offensive in any way, and should you disagree with anything stated above, please don’t hesitate to drop me a polite Neomail informing me of the situation.

I hope this article has helped explain the use and meanings of at least some chat smileys and that you are now sufficiently learned in pictography to proceed among the boards with confidence.

I’d like to thank all those who proof-read and proof-read and proof-read this article some more. You know who you are.

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