Thus when I arrived at the redundantly-named Nina's Coffee Cafe I felt ready to take on the world. At least I felt that way after my first couple cups of coffee which I secretly fortified with Kahlua and the emergency scotch I carry in the trunk of my car (the supplements I mentioned earlier).
"Aargh! What piece o' the world should we take on today, Hulles me boy?" I arsked meself. As you can see, I was feeling piratical, which I think resulted from my pillaging and looting a gaggle of cute and initially quite naïve young Hulles blog groupies that had flocked to my bed the night before. I even swung a couple from the yardarm, which at my age is no small feat. "Yargh," says I.
The piece of the world that I choose to talk about today is emoticons, switching tenses because it's now, now. Arrrg.
I have never used emoticons, which if you're from Planet WhatThe... are the things at the end of sentences that people create using punctuation to indicate little faces of some sort. One of the reasons I don't use emoticons is that you have to tilt your laptop on its side to read them. By the way, this is also why I don't read my emails on my desktop computer with the 19" monitor at home.
Another reason I don't ever use emoticons is because I grew up in the 70's. The 70's were when the Smiley Face was invented, presumably as part of a fiendish plot by the Symbionese Liberation Army to subvert the American public and turn them into sex zombies or something. It almost worked too, I'm here to report. Anyway, in those days round yellow discs with happy little grins on them were everywhere. Back then if you stood on a pedestrian overpass that surmounted a busy freeway and urinated off the side (assuming you are a guy), you would piss on about 500 Smiley Faces attached to various places on the cars whizzing by (so to speak). You would also piss on a few Unsmiley Faces on people in convertibles, but hey, they knew the risk when they put the top down. Also, the "500 Smiley Faces" assumes that you'd been drinking cheap American beer for some hours beforehand and were capable of maintaining a steady stream; this was usually the case with me whenever I tried this experiment. However, if you'd only been drinking milk e.g. you'd probably only get about 200 Smiley Faces, maybe 300 max. Of course if you'd only been drinking milk you would remember to start off with your back to the wind as well, so there you go, it's a tradeoff.
So what I'm saying is that Smiley Faces were everywhere, and I became thoroughly sick of them after the first couple of years. By the end of the 70's I would fly into a berserk rage at the sight of one. This led to a couple of unfortunate incidents in shopping malls where I would see a baby cooing and gurgling in his stroller and chuck him over the third floor railing. Therapy and medication have gone far to alleviate this condition, I'm happy to say, so no worries on Thursday if you bring your kids to the Hulles Late Happy Hour. Besides, W. A. Frost doesn't have an upstairs so you're good on that score as well.
Anyway, as a result of the above trauma I don't use emoticons, not even "Lick," the only one which tempts me. But you should feel free to use them yourself; don't let my prejudices stand in your way.
One of the ways I've noticed that emoticons are useful is to explain that the content of the sentence as written doesn't necessarily reflect the intent of the writer. This is called prevarication. For instance, when I read "Hulles, you suck and if there was any justice in this world you'd be encased in concrete next to Hoffa in the Meadowlands," I become somewhat nonplussed. If, however, there's a little grin emoticon at the end of the sentence I say to myself, "Hunh. They must be kidding then. Isn't that cute? How could I possibly take offense after seeing that adorable little gizmo they stuck on there?" This after tipping my laptop onto its side, of course.
Perhaps a better way (to me) of accomplishing the same end as using emoticons is to place little stage directions within asterisks, like this *grin*. I almost never use these either but I like them better. For one thing, I can read them at home on my desktop. For another thing, they add drama to writing when used with taste and discretion. To illustrate, I think that the following sentence conveys the proper emotion better with the asterisk-phrase than without: "*snorts derisively* Hulles, I wouldn't sleep with you if you were the last man on erf!"
Different people use different asterisk-phrases, however, and sometimes it's not entirely clear what the person means if you're encountering the phrase for the first time. For example,Terri Schaefer often uses '*g*'. Since I'm not a complete idiot I think the odds are good that this means *grin*, but I'm not positive. If I used it, it might well stand for a puzzled *guh?*, something that occurs in my world much more frequently than grinning. Terri did explain to me that in the USAF they weren't allowed to use images in emails so they went to the abbreviated asterisk-phrase as an alternative and the habit lingered on. And by the way, she *g*'s a lot when she writes which I find quite endearing, as long as it means *grin* and not something like *go fuck yourself*.
However, since I am nothing if not curmudgeonesque I would propose a change in usage for these asterisk-phrases, and that's to have them appear in writing as they do in nature. That is, the phrases should show up in a sentence at the time they occur, not where it's convenient to stick them.
Here's an example: when I broke up with a recent girlfriend the legacy she left me was a case of crotch crickets and a nasty tic in my left eye *tic*. So if what I'm *tic* saying were to become general *tic* usage, these little asterisk*tic*-phrases would be appearing *tic* all over the place. Fortunately the tic went away when I was blinded by the intellect and integrity of the next woman I dated *sneer*.
The Hulles Asterisk-Phrase Natural Occurrence Principle (no, no acronym, I'm not going to say it again so I don't need one) has *fart* lots of possibilities, however. I would dearly dearly love to receive an email similar to this:
I am an avid fan of your *orgasm* blog, and whenever I read what *orgasm* you write, I find myself trembling *orgasm* with...
Of course I would immediately know it was from a woman, even before reading the signature. A guy would write one sentence with an *orgasm* in it and stop in the middle of the sentence and send the email and go on about his business.
So you see, even I can admit that emoticons and their Republican cousins the asterisk-phrases can be useful. I simply choose not to use them when I write as a matter of style. I usually take the little bit of extra time and try to indicate what's going on using standard English: "'Dammit, I dropped the toothpaste!' Tom said crestfallenly." It just seems to me that for some *belch* reason people enjoy my writing more when *fart* I don't use emoticons and asterisk-phrases. I'm not sure why that *fartfartfartfartfarrrrrrrt* is, but I think I'll just stick to good old-fashioned English and let you all go nuts with the fancy new stuff.
P.S. On a related topic: just for once I'd like to have a complete set of comments for a Hulles blog entry where nobody says "lol." I don't care if there are Lots Of Lesbians, I like lesbians just fine and I don't see what the big deal is that everyone should always bring that up. Get with the 90's, people.