Writing Emoticons in Moss

Categories:  Fellow Alumni: David Banks

Emoticon, stitched with DMC rayon embroidery floss on 14-count light green Aida by Deviant Art user ~crafty-manx

Today they got to learn how to make moss graffiti. After a quick botany lesson they were allowed to paint whatever they wanted onto a large canvas drop cloth. What surprised me the most, was the overwhelming desire to simply write their names. If they didn’t write their names, they usually wrote a short phrase. Out of about 80 students, there were only a handful of drawings. Almost every student decided to write text. Some of that text, strangely enough, took the form of emoticons. Why would anyone choose to draw an emoticon?

This is interesting for two reasons. First, it flys in the face of popular belief that kids are allergic to writing of any kind. Texting, Facebook, and Twitter may not demand proper grammar, but it does get kids (even at very young ages) to write. Schools could benefit from capturing this desire to write, if they can effectively route it through language art curriculums. Schools should install browser plugins and other software that –instead of the usual spell check– runs kids through grammar and spelling lessons before the text is released to Facebook.

While learning old grammar and spelling rules are important, educators should also be on the lookout for new forms of expression. Emoticons are the product of linear typing styles. There is, seemingly, no reason to hand-write an emoticon. And yet…

While I didn’t have the chance to ask, I do not think the whole message is meant to be read, “Imperfection Is Beauty broken heart”. Rather, the emoticon implies an inflection and tone meant to be read, not spoken. Is this a new literary device, or is there a pre-internet analog? I feel as though emoticons, properly considered, force us to reconsider the very basics of written language.

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