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Cingular applies to patent smileys :@

All your emoticons belong to us?

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Cingular, the United States' largest mobile phone network this week applied to patent emoticons, better known as smileys.

The application refers to selecting emoticons on mobile phones or handheld devices over a wireless, and makes 35 claims in all. Although it uses the word 'emoticon', the application doesn't acknowledge that mutant punctuation has been livening up online communications since at least 1961.

As seems to be the practice these days, the specific 'method and system' proposed is not disclosed. But all your favorites are present and correct, including - and we quote verbatim:

) Smile ;-) or ;) Wink :-D or :D Big smile :-)) or :)) Very happy :0) Big nose smiley |-) Cool! >:-) or >:) Evil grin >;-> or >;> Evil grin with a wink :-X or :X My lips are sealed }:-) or }:) Devilish :-{circumflex over ( )}) or :{circumflex over ( )}) Tongue in cheek :-P or :P Sticking out tongue :-& or :& Tongue tied :op Puppy face 0:-) or 0:) Saint :-)8 or :)8 Happy wearing a bow tie 8-) or 8) Happy with glasses #-) I partied all night %-) or %) Drunk :-###.. or :###.. Being sick %-( or %( Confused :-0 or :0 Shocked :-o or :o Surprised :-| or :| Indecision :'-( or :'( Crying :'-) or :') Crying of happiness :-( or :( Sad

We guess that "brick of enlightenment falling on patent examiner's head" has yet to join the smiley dictionary.

You can find the outrageous application here.

Emoticons surely owe their ancestry to Victor Borge's phonetic punctuation, which older readers may remember.

And the most delightful commentary ever written about the practice of using emoticons, Geoffrey Nunberg's celebrated radio piece A Wink is as Good as a Nod - where Nunberg imagines the literary greats employing the technique.

As ASCII gave way to multimedia, we're proud to say that The Register has been at the forefront of developments. We've attempted to bring the practice up to date, with our 2001 proposal of Humour Tags. A suggestion borrowed more recently - but alas, without any apparent irony - by earnest "citizens journalists", with the idea of Honour Tags. ®

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