Sunday, November 26, 2006

Smiley people

My dislike for smiley icons surpasses even my distrust of real-life smiles. Smileys (smilies?) are evil things at most times but what annoys me most is when people use them as a cop-out, to soften the tone of sentences that they fear might otherwise be taken in the wrong spirit. This is so cloying, and so cowardly. It’s like the silly little icon is sniveling on the sender’s behalf: “Look, I might be saying something vaguely sarcastic or provocative here, but I’m really all harmless and Teddy Bear-ish underneath, so please, please don’t take offence! Just love me, okay?”

[For an example of such usage, see the last sentence of this post]

It’s equally bad when a smiley is used as shorthand for dummies – to clarify that a certain remark is, indeed, meant to be funny. This is the equivalent of inserting a laughter track at the end of your own joke just to make things easy for The Undeserving Humourless.

Not that I don’t understand the need for this usage: I’ve complained often enough on this blog that people don’t seem to understand comedy that doesn’t announce itself loudly, that doesn’t come with a large signboard saying “Kindly laugh here.” My repeated exhortations that nothing I say or write is to be taken seriously (except when I proclaim that cats are our last remaining links to the Divine; that’s honest) fall on deaf ears. I write a jokey post about strange and wondrous births in the Mahabharata and the good people at DesiPundit classify it under “Society and Culture” instead of “Humour”. And later someone leaves a comment saying “To take mythology literally to poke fun at Hinduism is a bit sick, don't you think?”

[This means one of two things: 1) I’m so brilliant and subtle that no one currently alive can understand me and my genius will only be recognised 5000 years into the future, when I’m long past caring, or 2) I’m just not as funny as I like to think. Perhaps both.]

But back to the last point about smileys. Despite being grievously misunderstood in these matters, I refuse to use the smiley as a laugh-track. It’s beneath my dignity. Except in very, very rare cases. So a quick note for anyone I’ve ever sent a smiley to, whether on email, SMS or Comments: don’t preen. All it means is that I knew there was just no way you would have got the tone of the sentence otherwise. In short, you’re a pea-brained cretin :-)

37 comments:

  1. What I'm going to do is oh-so-obvious but since I'm first here, :-).

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  2. :-)) to you too

    (that's for my double chin)

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  3. i say a mail/sms without a smiley is an opportunity wasted. bring on the laugh tracks, technicolour, prompt cards and musical punctuations. brighten those lights for a little sunshine and warmth.

    in fact, find ways to classify the kind of smileys you'll use (-:a humorous aside: so. Smiley bracket courtesy peter:-) and some other varieties that i could mention but won't.

    can anything be more necessary?

    and btw, where 'society' and 'culture' is so uniformly laughter-inducing, it's another level of subtlety to classify your post under that heading.

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  4. Wait you're telling me your posts about the Mahabharat are meant to be funny?? Does this mean my plan to give all my sour old aunts back in India bottles of cheap vinegar telling them it's 'traditional' won't work?

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  5. wow! so much for a smiley.

    Don't we smile when saying something or say something with a straight face. I mean what we convey is always a mix of our emotions(and expressions) and what we actually say.
    Yeah, while writing one can also show all the emotions inside but not everybody is a writer and not always one writes a full paragraph when a line and a smiley can do the trick...so at times a smiley is quite handy.

    But then classifying every human emotion by the use of a few smilies is bound to create problems.

    As for not getting understood. You are not the only one..http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2006/09/maybe_its_me.html

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  6. Ah, the link got screwed up in the last comment.

    http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2006/09/maybe_its_me.html

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  7. Oops!
    One last try.

    http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2006
    /09/maybe_its_me.html

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  8. i say a mail/sms without a smiley is an opportunity wasted

    Space Bar: you're either with me or against me. Decide now! :-)

    Falstaff: do these aunts fornicate with camels and asses, or dance wantonly in the streets with other aunts while singing lewd songs like "Obladi Oblada, life goes on, bra"? If so, it might.

    Scarecrow: I think you got it right the second time around. Yes, me and Scott, both so misunderstood. Sigh

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  9. Neither of your two hypotheses is correct. The truth is that most people just don't read carefully enough, especially blogs.

    I have a hypothesis of my own:

    I remember reading this “nothing I say here is to be taken seriously” nonsense before on your blog. Does it titillate, the anticipation of people's puzzlement whether you mean something or not? Speaking of cop-outs, what does inserting your snide little disclaimer now and then constitute?

    Everything one says is to be taken seriously. Because though the person lie or deign to jest, it is significant that he will do it this way and no other.

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  10. Ms Asia Pacific: rest assured, I'm taking your comment VERY seriously :-D

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  11. Jai: I've never enquired too closely into said aunt's fornicating preferences (I can just imagine it: "Aunty, you know Uncle, your husband, the one who looks like a camel? One hump or two?") but they certainly do congregate and sing during weddings, that is, when they're not offering to dhoondho ladkis for innocent young bachelors like yours truly.

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  12. Self-important idiot ...
    :)

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  13. Can't believe there weren't more :) here. I agree with Space bar! What is life without a :) or a :D or a :P or heck ne of the others!!! N sc what dya mean all this for a smiley?? Of course all this for a smiley. Smileys are Very Serious Stuff [-(

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  14. Two questions:
    (1) Why do you use square brackets in your writing?
    (2) Why this outburst against smileys & smiles?

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  15. don't take yourself so seriously :)

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  16. Ask your local confectionary shop for SMILEYS and he will hand you over a pack of frozen french-fries shaped like a round smile. Once your deep-fry them and dab in tomato saas, they make , and a damn tasty cholestoral-rich snack. ummmmmmm

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  17. I won't ever send a smiley with my message it is so awfull. Thank you

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  18. Wow, is that post title clever or what, you indigenius you! :))) (Owing to my condition I have multiple chins now. You can call me Chinamma).

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  19. Art: 1) Because I'm square
    2) Same reason

    Pankaj: does Karim's have smiley-shaped kebabs?

    Umesh: thanks :-)

    Chinamma: ya, I was actually thinking of titling the post something else but putting up a little image of the Le Carre book with the title prominently visible. Such creative genius...

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  20. aren't you being a little harsh?
    Our expressions play a big part in conveying the meaning of what we say. Smileys try to approximate that.

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  21. And, others use smileys because they have a smile on their face when they write their sentence. : )

    As n in the previous comment said, 'don't be too harsh' on those who smile at the world.

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  22. @n and ART: Well said, well said, bravo :):):):) (cos I had 4 smiles on my face)

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  23. N: for someone who's standing up for smileys, you don't seem to have much of a sense of humour about the post. So maybe you're being a little harsh on me. How's that for a thought? :)

    Art: let's call a truce. You continue smiling at the world and I'll continue being harsh :D

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  24. Believe me - seriously, believe me - I didn't know that a ':-)' was a smilie. I swear I didn't. I have often got these in my mails and I have usually assumed that it's some sort of new-age urban Indian para-ender. You know, I have a colleague who never ends a sentence with a '.'. It's always '..'. Honestly. I just thought this was one of those things. Wow! You open up more things about our daily existence each and every day. Jabs rocks! This blog is a modern day encylcopaedia.

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  25. And apropos Revealed's ':D' and ':P' - what are they?

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  26. hey what about LOL ROTFL LMAO?? those do not bug you? When i was in Delhi, i used to be majorly bugged by CP, KNags, MH, SRCC etc etc...
    As for smileys, for people with a limited vocab (me?), i find them very useful

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  27. u smiled at me. aaaaah!! :D
    I promise you'll grow to like them.

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  28. why don't you then write some humor posts (or cartoons, may be)on islam and see what happens, you pseudo-secular prig? :) :)) :)))

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  29. Take this now... :p ;) :D :)) (this is not a double chin, but a loud laugh)

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  30. Aah ... So many ^^ Smiley happy people :Þ
    (now that's a super smiley :)

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  31. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  32. Let me clear some of your misconceptions.

    A smiley like [:-D] does not mean "Kindly laugh here".

    It means "I appreciated and enjoyed ur joke". Or, simply put, "That was a gr8 joke".

    So, your whole blog is based on the assumption that smileys are inserted as "laugh tracks", or "rudali tunes" is not correct.

    Smileys, are generally used to convey reactions to some joke, statement, story told via SMS/chat message in much short/nice and easily understood way.

    What would be the best way to end this comment. A lots of [:'-(] for ur understanding on smileys!

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  33. Vineet: Congratulations on your excellent sense of humour! Where did you purchase it from?

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  34. I've been going through your archives in an almost stalkerish fashion, and many of your posts have me emitting sudden, startling laughter sounds, much to the chagrin of both my human and feline daughters. This one had me going every five seconds. Only problem: I don't know whether I like the post more or the comments!

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  35. It's necessary to add that I'm a person who uses smileys every chance she gets (They're necessary if you're to navigate cyber space unscathed; they ensure people understand you mean no harm). Yet I loved this post. You MUST take a bow!

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