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What is an emoticon?
According to, Wikipedia, an emoticon, sometimes called a smiley, is a sequence of printable characters such as :), ^-^, or :-) or a small image that is intended to represent a human facial expression and convey an emotion. Emoticons are a form of paralanguage commonly used in email messages, in online bulletin boards, or in chat rooms. The word emoticon is a portmanteau based on emotion and icon.
In Internet forums, text emoticons are often automatically replaced with small corresponding images, which came to be called emoticons as well. In some versions of Microsoft Word, the Auto Correct feature recognizes basic smiles such as :) and :(. Many popular instant-messaging (IM) tools perform such replacement automatically when receiving a message. Originally, these image emoticons were fairly simple and replaced only the most straightforward and common text strings, but over time they became so complex that the more specialized emoticons are often input using a menu of sometimes hundreds of emoticons. Often these menus go beyond the realm of emoticons and also have other objects such as musical instruments and can sometimes make sounds upon receiving the message.