Is That an Emoticon in 1862? in NYT

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 20 01:14:13 UTC 2009

Joel, I think if you look closely at the databases you'll see it was  very
 common in those days to leave a space before a semicolon - or a question
mark or an exclamation mark for that matter.

Books published before ca1910 often put a space in the "middle" of
contractions too, e.g., "did n't."


On Mon, Jan 19, 2009 at 7:42 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:

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> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: Is That an Emoticon in 1862? in NYT
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> Neither an emoticon nor a mistake, I would hazard, but just a
> coincidence that is humourous to 20th-century readers.  It was, I
> think, common through at least the early 19th century to include a
> comma both before and within a parenthetical expression.
> Since I've been reading a lot of Hawthorne, the first physical
> example that I bring to hand and eye is his 1849 "Main Street" -- not
> too long before Lincoln's inauguration:  "Unless something should go
> wrong,---as, for instance the misplacing of a picture ... which would
> bring the course of time to a sudden period,---barring, I say the
> casualties to which such a complicated piece of mechanism is liable
> ...".  (Ohio State Centenary Edition, Vol. 11, _The Snow Image and
> Uncollected Tales_, p. 50.)  Another example, in the 1833 "The
> Canterbury Pilgrims":  "At all events I did fail, and you see me here
> on my road to the Shaker village, where, doubtless, (for the Shakers
> are a shrewd sect,) they will have a due respect for my experience
> ..."  (page 127).
> I suspect one will not find examples for Hawthorne, and perhaps other
> writers of his time, on the Web -- editors may have "modernized" such
> quaint punctuation in later print and scanned or transcribed editions.
> In the transcription of Lincoln's speech, I see a short pause in the
> comma before the opening parenthesis; and I see a longer pause in the
> semicolon before the closing parenthesis, a longer pause which
> suitably precedes the longer pause of an "and".  Modern punctuation
> would omit the comma before the opening parenthesis, as well, and
> simply put a comma after the closing parenthesis.
> In the article cited by Grant, only James Simon comes close.  He is
> first quoted as saying "But looking further down the page, there were
> more examples that other punctuation was within brackets." But he
> later is quoted saying ""It may be a rare but archaic practice not
> seen today."  I think it was not rare in the 19th century.  (I must
> admit, however, that I don't have a provable explanation for the
> space before the semicolon.)
> Joel
> At 1/19/2009 06:14 PM, Grant Barrett wrote:
> >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
> >
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