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Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text

Date Published: Last Update:2015/06/03 Pop Culture & OTAKU , ,

An emotion icon, better known by the portmanteau emoticon is a meta-communicative pictorial representation of a facial expression that, in the absence of body language and prosody, serves to draw a receiver’s attention to the tenor or temper of a sender’s nominal verbal communication, changing and improving its interpretation. It expresses — usually by means of punctuation marks (though it can include numbers and letters) — a person’s feelings or mood, though as emoticons have become more popular, some devices have provided stylized pictures that do not use punctuation.

Emoticon History

In Western countries, emoticons are usually written at a right angle to the direction of the text. Users from Japan popularized a kind of emoticons called kaomojis (顔文字, often confused with emojis in the West) that can be understood without tilting one’s head to the left. This style arose on ASCII NET of Japan in 1986.

kaomoji

A “jaw-dropped” kaomoji.

As social media has become widespread, emoticons have played a significant role in communication through technology. They offer another range of “tone” and feeling through texting that portrays specific emotions through facial gestures while in the midst of text-based cyber communication.

Kaomoji

Users from Japan popularized a style of emoticons (顔文字, kaomoji) that can be understood without tilting one’s head to the left. This style arose on ASCII NET of Japan in 1986. Similar looking emoticons were used by Byte Information Exchange (BIX) around the same time.

These emoticons are usually found in a format similar to (*_*). The asterisks indicate the eyes; the central character, commonly an underscore, the mouth; and the parentheses, the outline of the face.

Different emotions such as (“)(-_-)(“), are expressed by changing the character representing the eyes, for example “T” can be used to express crying or sadness (T_T). T_T may also be used as meaning ‘unimpressed’. The emphasis on the eyes is reflected in the common usage of emoticons that use only the eyes, e.g. ^^. Looks of stress are represented by the likes of (x_x) while (-_-;) is a generic emoticon for nervousness, the semicolon indicating sweat that occurs during anxiety. Repeating the /// mark can indicate embarrassment by symbolizing blushing. Characters like hyphens or periods can replace the underscore; the period is often used for a smaller, “cuter” mouth or to represent a nose, e.g. (^.^). Alternatively, the mouth/nose can be left out entirely, e.g. (^^).

Parentheses also can often be replaced with braces, e.g. {^_^}. Many times, the parentheses are left out completely, e.g. ^^, >.< , o_O, O.O, e_e and/or e.e. A quotation mark “, apostrophe ‘, or semicolon ; can be added to the emoticon to imply apprehension or embarrassment, in the same way that a sweat drop is used in popular and common Asian animation.

Microsoft IME 2000 (Japanese) or later supports the use of both forms of emoticons by enabling Microsoft IME Spoken Language/Emotion Dictionary. In IME 2007, it was moved to Emoticons dictionary.

Further variations of emoticons may be produced by using combining characters, e.g. ٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶ and ᶘᵒᴥᵒᶅ.

These emoticons can be used also with [ ] instead of ( ), or without the parentheses at all in some of the cases. There is also the \(0O0)\, indicating a hooligan or crazed behavior, and the (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧.

In the next post, we will discuss meanings of popular kaomojis.
References:

1. Emoticon. Wikipedia.

2. Images from AC-Illust

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