Short take: "smiley face" - OED WOTD

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sat May 8 09:29:58 UTC 2010

Smiley Face Dec 1971 --> 1957 [Yes--BEFORE its "invention"]

First, a slight improvement with three new hits for 1. in 1971. The
first one is readily accessible and comes with a picture! The other two
are in PQ and GNA tends to mangle the advertising text. The ads are
largely very much like the one cited in the OED.
Your Choice .
Beaver Country Times - Google News Archive - Sep 15, 1971
A -HAPPY FACE LAMP with the new smiley face. Matching shade base in new
hot wet look. Our reg ular 3.99. BALL SMILEY LAMP. Happy face on glass
6" globe. ...
Related web pages

Display Ad 67 -- No Title
Pay-Per-View - Los Angeles Times - ProQuest Archiver - Sep 3, 1971
I-. OUTDOOR ART MART 660 N. La Clenega at Melrose. Every Set. & Sun. 10
am-7 pm. Fine Art .1 S-. Poriit-Fr* Adnilsiosalnd Parking. Special show
on Labor Day ...
Related web pages

Display Ad 335 -- No Title
Pay-Per-View - Los Angeles Times - ProQuest Archiver - Aug 15, 1971
113 SMILEY face Toakkati, Untie. suit& Lmstiff Re. ar. Alkirt $11,5M
JACK go$$ NEW EX. RISING GLEN RD. lit flout glass Map. Tilling written
1554 SAN Touch ...

But what these indicate is that by late summer of 1971 "smiley face" was
ubiquitous, not novel. Given the dictionary (and Wiki) description, this
is not surprising.

Sure enough, it goes back further.
The Hour [Norwalk, CT] - May 28, 1968
Kids Make Victorian Crafts During Visit to Museum. By Colleen Emsing. p.
A2/3 [GNA page 33 of 45]
> James Sylvester, 10, stuck orange tissue paper on his box and made a
> smiley face out of buttons, while Mary Willis, 7, covered her box with
> butterflies.

Still, if kids are putting it in their art, along with butterflies,
that's an indication of widespread recognition.

Sure enough, we get one /before/ it was supposed to have been devised!
[Hopkinsville] Kentucky New Era - Feb 13, 1961
A Bo-K of Balloons For Your Valentine. By Beth Schmidt. p. 8/4 [GNA page
5 of 50]
> Balloon bouquets can be selected and arranged in a variety of ways.
> For instance, on this year's anniversary, you can send your loved one
> assorted colors of balloons with "Happy Anniversary" printed on them.
> Or for that small child who's celebrating his birthday, how about a
> dozen "Smiley Face" balloons, arranged with party decorations to
> accompany the bouquet.

The last one is a bit ambiguous, it would seem. But the design is
obviously of a piece.
Sarasota Herald-Tribune - Magazine Section - Family Weekly, Sep 8, 1957
[GNA date Sep. 7--other sections confirm that this date is wrong.]
Junior Treasure Chest. Ed. by Marjorie Barrows.
Do-It-Youself Carnival. By Jane McHenry. p. 14 [GNA page 42 of 55]
> First, make a carnival greeter to prop against a tree or fence. Tape a
> paper plate to a mop head for a face, arranging the string strands on
> each side for hair. Draw a big smiley face on the plate!

Sure enough, the same insert (Family Weekly) is found in another
newspaper in GNA:
Park City Daily News [Bowling Green, Ky.] - Sep 8, 1957 [Again, the GNA
date is wrong--in both cases, multiple dates are included in the same
scanned file.]

There is a photo of the mop greeter, but the details are too fuzzy to
make out the features. To put it in perspective, the page follows a
two-page spread ad for Edsel.

There are a few GB hits for "smiley face" for 1911-1922, but, in two
cases it's a nickname for a character and in the other three a
description of an actual person, therefore falling under smiley a. 1.

As for Smiley Face 2., I know the emoticon was in use when I first used
Multics at MIT in late 1983, and, certainly, when Project Athena rolled
in in early 1984, endowing every student with an e-mail account. But I
do not recall anyone referring to it as "smiley face" or "emoticon"
until later. And finding early use in print is more difficult.

This PQ entry might be worth checking out--perhaps it has more history.

Pay-Per-View - Chicago Tribune - ProQuest Archiver - Oct 19, 1988
"Well," she explained very sincerely, "the smiley face has been around
since the '50s and '60s, you know, so I guess they decided to bring it
back. ...

Two InfoWorld articles popped up for 1988, but the OED already got the
earlier of the two. Then there is this:

How we communicate: the most vital skill? - Page 114
Martin K. Barrack - Social Science - 1988 - 203 pages
Humor is usually signaled by voice inflections and body signals. Since
E-mail is
straight text, the smiley face :-) is used instead to signal humor. ...

Wiki--and Microsoft--credit Scott Fahlman  with the first electronic
text smiley, but the original email does not refer to a "smiley face".


-------- Original Message --------
smiley face, n.        DRAFT ENTRY June 2001

orig. U.S.

Brit. /{sm}sm^Ili feIs/, U.S. /{sm}smaIli {smm}feIs/  [< SMILEY a. +
FACE n.]

     1. A round, cartoon-style representation of a smiling face,
originally and chiefly black on yellow.
   The design was originally devised by Harvey Ball, U.S. commercial
artist, in 1963, for the State Mutual Life Assurance Company (Worcester,
Mass.), as the logo of a corporate friendship campaign. It is freq. used
as a symbol of hope, peace, solidarity, etc., esp. in youth culture
(associated esp. in the United States with the 1970s). It is also
specifically associated (chiefly in the United Kingdom) with the Acid
House movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

1972 Times 1 Dec. 20/3 China{em}new from France with the Smiley face in
black on yellow. In packs of four: cups and saucers, £255; tea plates
£2.45. 1986 D. LEAVITT Lost Lang. Cranes (1987) 198 Brad's eye roved the
room, which had recently taken on a second identity as an art gallery
and was filled with murals depicting the deconstruction of the smiley
face. 1989 Chicago Tribune (Nexis) 15 Feb. (Style section) 18 Inside the
throbbing, strobe-lit Acid House clubs,..nothing symbolizes the endless
'don't worry be happy' mentality more succinctly than Smiley Face... The
non-stop grin.becomes explicitly linked to the use of the now-popular
club drug Ecstasy. 1993 R. HUGHES Culture of Complaint i. 50 The image
of the fetus...made a bizarre appearance at the closing ceremonies of
the 1992 Olympic Games,..flashing a fixed white grin as inane as a 70s
Smiley-face sticker. 1999 Dallas Morning News (Electronic ed.) 10 Aug,
The Worcester Historical Museum, in exhibit notes, reported that 'the
smiley face came to symbolize mindless optimism and bland conformity'.

     2. In electronic communications: a symbol which (viewed sideways)
represents a smiling face, formed with keyboard characters and used to
indicate that the writer is pleased or joking. In later use: any of a
number of different 'faces' so represented, indicating a variety of
emotions; an emoticon. Cf. SMILEY n. 1.

1988 InfoWorld 22 Feb. 17/3 E-mail users therefore use a stilted, but
necessary, convention when expressing humor. It's a symbol called the
smiley face. 1994 St. Louis (Missouri) Post-Dispatch (Electronic ed.) 15
Aug., The lack of intonation and other cues used to convey irony,
sarcasm and self-deprecation in speech can lead to misunderstandings on
the screen. (This is where a well-placed smiley-face or two comes in
handy.) 2000 USA Today (Electronic ed.) 13 Nov. (heading) Smiley faces
in e-mail go way beyond :-)... Internet users themselves make up the
smiley faces, better known as emoticons.

The American Dialect Society -

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