The evolution of the smiley emoji

3 min read
8 January 2019

Do not believe that there are just five languages of love. In fact, there are six of them. The sixths language appeared due to social media, and of course, it is used on Facebook and Instagram. It consists of brackets and colons. It is the emoji language which helps us express our mood better.

— Hi. Buy some bread.
— Hi. Buy some bread :)

Can you feel the difference? Just adding “please” to the phrase would be suitable here, but the bracket also did well.

Do you know who invented the smiley emoji? You don’t? So, make yourself comfortable and listen. Several people are suggested to be the authors, so there are several versions.

Version 1

Here is a version which classics lovers will like very much - there is an opinion that Vladimir Nabokov made up the smiley emoji. No, you will not find it in “Lolita”, of course, but the information related to that fact can be found in his interview to Alden Whitman in April 1969:

“I often think that there should be a special typographic sign for a smile, something like a concave line, or a slanted bracket. This is exactly the mark I would put instead of replying to your question.”

This way the writer answered the question about the place he occupies within the living writers and the writers of the past on his own opinion. What else can we add? Once a genius, always a genius.

Version 2

It relates to the yellow smiley face. There is an opinion that American artist and the initiator of World Smile Day Harvey Ball was one of the first to draw it in 1963. He was very proud of his creation; here is what he said about it:

“In the history of humankind or art, there has never been a work that would be so widespread, bring so much happiness, joy, and pleasure. There has never been anything so simple but so clear to everyone.”

He drew this symbol for an insurance company which intended to raise the spirits and motivation of its employees. He spent about 10 minutes and earned 45 dollars, he even never claimed for copyright. It was so kind of him to make a gift to the whole humankind.

Version 3

And now it is cinematography fans’ turn to start applauding to Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. He used a stylized sad face in the Port of Call movie and a happy one — in 1953 when the advertising campaign of his movie “Lili” started.

Version 4

All the above is very interesting, but who created a computer version of the smiley face? Meet Scott Fahlman, an American scientist from Carnegie Mellon.

On September 9th, 1982 he pitched the idea of using the smiley faces consisting of a colon, a dash and a bracket in advertisements on the university information board.

Version 5

And finally here is the information to broaden your outlook. If you want to look like an erudite, at a party, make a hint that you know where archeologists found the most ancient smiley face emoji.

It happened in the course of excavation works in Turkish town Carchemish. The smiley face was applied on the surface of a clay pot for sherbert, which was made approximately in the 1700’s B.C. Someone loved sweet things so much that he drew a smile on the clay surface. It is so cute.

That is all. Now you know some useless but interesting things more :-)