Businesspeople Excited About New Vagina Emoticon

Were you aware that emoticons are being used by adults, not just 14-year-olds on AOL Instant Messager, MySpace, Twitter, or whatever the kids are using these days? Now professionals are signing off emails with a smiley or winky face, and it's either a helpful way to convey tone, or a sign that we've all become illiterate and will soon be watering crops with Gatorade and taking health advice from Dr. Justin Long.

The New York Times blows the lid off the trend in an article that feels like it could have run at any point in the past decade, but was actually published today (I double checked the date). Perhaps I'm over the idea of emoticons in the workplace because as someone who writes online for a living, much of my communication with coworkers is done via email and IM (and we already discussed the great emoticon debate nearly two years ago). However, it seems even jaded bloggers can learn a thing or two about the dangers of expressing yourself symbolically through punctuation. For instance, did you know that there's an emoticon for "splayed lady parts"? Allow the paper of record to explain:

Emoticons can produce another layer of confusion, however: they don't always read the same way across different technical interfaces. "In the text function of my BlackBerry there is a sidebar menu of emoticons (how ridiculous is that?) that shows the yellow smiley faces, except they are also crying and raging, and winking and blowing kisses, etc.," Dr. [Lisa M.] Bates wrote. "I sent a fairly new acquaintance a ‘big hug' emoticon - which, for the record, was ironic. But anyway, on his iPhone it came up with the symbols, not the smiley face, which don't look anything like a big hug. From his perspective they look like a view of, er, splayed lady parts: ({})."He then ran around his lab showing colleagues excitedly what I had just sent him. Half (mostly men) concurred with his interpretation, and the others (mostly women) didn't and probably thought he was kind of a desperate perv."

Knowing the shorthand for gaping vagina (with spikey piercings on either side) is certainly going to come in handy! For example, the next time I need to convey to my significant other that there's trouble in my nether regions and I need him to pick up some Monistat, I'll text "({}) :-(" and he'll get the message. Need some tampons? Just write, "({}) ===—~~." There's no way teenage boys will take this symbol and give it an disgusting, non-anotomical meaning!

But beware: Not everyone will be receptive to your new mode of communication. In fact, some will be so offended that they'll have a totally irrational response to seeing punctuation used in a nontraditional manner. From the Times:

Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that writers and teachers of writing are among the last emoticon holdouts. "I am deeply offended by them," said Maria McErlane, a British journalist, actress and radio personality on BBC Radio 2. "If anybody on Facebook sends me a message with a little smiley-frowny face or a little sunshine with glasses on them, I will de-friend them. I also de-friend for OMG and LOL. They get no second chance. I find it lazy. Are your words not enough? To use a little picture with sunglasses on it to let you know how you're feeling is beyond ridiculous."

Before you start using emoticons with abandon, make sure the recipient won't be deeply offended by your attempt to digitially smile at them.

If You're Happy and You Know It, Must I Know, Too? [NYT]

Earlier: The Great Emoticon Debate Rages On ;-)

Image via Lasse Kristensen/Shutterstock.