For anyone that’s just emerged from a twenty-year hiatus trapped near the earth’s core that may be unfamiliar with Internet slang, FTW can mean For The Win or Fuck The World or Free The Whales or What The Fuck backwards. LOL means Laughing Out Loud or Lots Of Laughs or Lots Of Love or Lick Oggleby’s Lederhosen (to an imbecile). Knowing Le Clown as well as I do, I don’t think his post’s title was shorthand for “For The Win Lots Of Love [Insert Emoticon]”.
His post was a concise and witty rant about foregoing emoticons and simply owning what it is that one is trying to communicate.
If you’re saying, “Fuck The World”, it’s ridiculous to add “Laugh Out Loud” and a Smiley Face emoticon. We get it; you’re feeling like one of life’s losers. Own it.
In general, I loathe emoticons. I am well enough equipped to mangle the English language on my own without the addition of shallow symbols or acronyms, but I do revert to Internet shortcuts when writing texts. In my overall writing, I make a conscious effort to use these abbreviations sparingly. I would sooner sever a digit than use slang or emoticons in business email. I admit that my job as Minister of Tile is the embodiment of a comedy of errors, but I do try to give the illusion of being professional.
Recently at The Grind my computer was rendered inoperable when my hard drive became infected with a nasty virus that took a day to clear. I spent several hours on the phone with my company’s IT support service. Never once was I compelled to Laugh Out Loud.
After work, I was walking down West Broadway to the Chambers Street subway station en route to The Land of Gin and Tonic.
As I was passing Balloon Saloon, I encountered a giant yellow balloon Smiley.
I emitted a low growl:
Me: There’s the bastard that started this emoticon hysteria!
Smiley: I’m going to outlive you! LOL!
That elicited the one Internet slang term I have had reason to use in daily life.
That does not mean With The Flowers.
Later, I Googled Smiley and learned from Wikipedia that its first known appearance was in 1953 on a poster for a film called Lili starring Leslie Caron. Apparently, it also appeared five years later, on the poster of another Caron vehicle, the multiple Oscar-winning Lerner and Loewe musical, Gigi. What blew the little that remains of my mind was the first time that Smiley appeared in a film. This was a drama written and directed by Ingmar Bergman called Port of Call, described in Wikipedia as follows:
“… this 1948 Swedish film deals with adolescent sexuality, promiscuity and abortion in a frank and open way that would have been impossible to portray in Hollywood films of the same period.”
Where Smiley fit in that story, I have no idea. The Swedish title of the film is Hamnstad, not, to employ a Le Clown-ism, “Hamnstad LOL ”. Knowing the Bergman film canon as well as I do, this Glum face would seem much more appropriate than Smiley.
I purchased that Glum greeting card approximately twenty-five years ago. I have had so many friends I could have given it to, I regret not purchasing it by the case.
In 1963, a commercial artist named Harvey Ball was paid $45 to create a happy face symbol to raise the morale of employees at a Massachusetts-based insurance company. In ten minutes he created the yellow Smiley. Less than ten years later, Smiley exploded when two Phildelphia-based brothers Bernard and Murray Spain used it on novelty items including mugs, bumper stickers, and tee shirts. If you loathe the phrase, “Have a happy day,” blame Gyula Bogar. By 1972, a New York-based button manufacturer, NG Slater, produced 50 million happy face buttons. The population in the US that year was 209,896,021. If the average US household was comprised of four people (mine was comprised of six that year plus my dog, Mean Streak), there were 52.5 million households. Figure that almost everyone in the country had at least one of those irksome buttons.
Yes, when I was thirteen I had one, too. You could not escape Smiley. And now forty years later, Smiley continues to thrive on the web. This vacant symbol and cockroaches will likely survive nuclear war. I’m not feeling very Lick Oggleby’s Lederhosen about that.