Friday, September 21, 2007

Emoticons & the Vienna Circle

25th anniversary of the first emoticon. Language Log:

On September 19, 1982 at 11:44 a.m., Scott Fahlman posted this electronic message to a computer science bulletin board at his home institution, Carnegie Mellon University:

19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman :-)
From: Scott E Fahlman

I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:


Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark
things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use


This calls to mind an account I once read of Otto Neurath's response to Wittgenstein's Tractatus (this in the Rowohlt monograph on the Vienna Circle):

In den frühen Diskussionen des Wiener Kreises, die sich eingehend mit dem 'Tractatus' befaßten, wandte Neurath immer wieder ein, daß hier reine Metaphysik erörtert werde. Als Schlick ihm vorhielt, diese viele Unterbrechungen seien störend, erbot sich Neurath jeweils einfach 'M!' zu sagen, wenn die Diskussion metaphysische würde; dann schlug er aber bald eine Verbesserung vor: "Ich glaube, es würde uns allen Zeit sparen, wenn ich jedesmal 'Non-M!' sagte, wenn hier einmal keine Metaphysik getrieben wird!"

In the early discussions of the Vienna Circle, which dealt thoroughly with the Tractatus, Neurath objected again and again that pure metaphyics was discussed here. When Schlick reproached him, saying that these frequent interruptions were annoying, Neurath offered to say simply 'M!' each time the discussion became metaphysical; he then soon suggested an improvement: 'I think it would save us all time, if I said 'Non-M!' every time, if for once no metaphysics is thrust in here!'

[yes, another flatfooted translation; my good German dictionary is in storage]

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