Short take: "smiley face" - OED WOTD

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Mon May 10 03:13:15 UTC 2010

The 1971 lamp ad is without doubt a black-and-yellow standard image.
There is a picture in the ad and you can clearly see the design--in
fact, it's a ball design, as well as the Ball design. The craft 1968
design seems to be the same image. But I would certainly argue that
the OED definition uses the Ball design as an example of a smiley
face, not as the prototype. When teachers sign student papers with a
"smiley face", they do not use the trademarked design--they usually
draw a checkmark with two dots for eyes.

What would be the reason not to have a "smiley face" as a "special
compound", as the OED seems to file them, back in 1957? Does it have
to be trademarked to be "special"? More importantly, how is the 1968
one different from 1957? Even if one reproduces a famous design and
the other does not, the actual usage is similar. Remember, the phrase
"smiley face" was not trademark--just the black-and-yellow design.


On Sun, May 9, 2010 at 10:27 PM, Amy West <medievalist at> wrote:
> Ron, Arnold, anyone feel free to jump in to educate me at any point:
> I'm not going to address the 1968 one about the kid using orange
> paper and buttons to make a smiley face on his craft in Norwalk, CT
> -- that's still post the Harvey Ball development (and didja notice in
> the first 1971 cite -- it said "Ball Smiley Lamp"). [Being in
> Worcester, I've got an agenda.]
>>[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.
> This may or may not refer to the yellow and black design, or
> something akin to it.
>>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!
> This doesn't seem to refer to anything akin to the yellow and black
> design at all. So, would it just be a "generic" use: just a
> self-explanatory use of the adjective "smiley" modifying "face."
> While the OED def refers to the yellow and black design, the MWC11
> def doesn't ("line drawing of a smiling face"), so they could use
> that 1957 antedate, couldn't they?
> ---Amy West

The American Dialect Society -

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