Is That an Emoticon in 1862? in NYT

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 20 00:27:51 UTC 2009

Doesn't the "ProQuest team" care that the so-called "emoticons" cited from
the humor magazine _Puck_ didn't even appear till nearly *twenty years
later* and were not reportage; they were a joke.  (As the glib statement
that the "semicolon has long been jettisoned as an anachronism" clearly is
not.)  If we're lucky, the whole boondoggle is just a subliminal ad for
Proquest, God bless 'em.

Nobody in their right mind in 1862 would have interpreted a semicolon as an
emoticon. How could they?

If the PQ team had consulted me, little of my reply would have been as
restrained as Fred's.  In fact, none of it.


On Mon, Jan 19, 2009 at 6:14 PM, Grant Barrett <gbarrett at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Grant Barrett <gbarrett at WORLDNEWYORK.ORG>
> Subject:      Is That an Emoticon in 1862? in NYT
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Our own Fred Shapiro is quoted in this article about whether a
> semicolon next to a close parenthesis in 1862 is an emoticon or a
> mistake.
> > In the transcription of President Lincoln's speech, which added
> > comments about applause and shouts from the audience was this line:
> >
> > "...there is no precedent for your being here yourselves, (applause
> > and laughter ;) and I offer, in justification of myself and you,
> > that I have found nothing in the Constitution against."
> >
> > Bryan Benilous, who works with historical newspapers at Proquest,
> > said the team felt the ";)" after the word "laughter" was an
> > emoticon, more than a century before emoticons became a widespread
> > concept.
> Grant Barrett
> gbarrett at
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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