The world’s first emoticon may have existed long before computers, smartphones and the Internet ever even existed.
A literary critic has discovered what could be the first smiley face buried within a poem from 1648.
Robert Herrick’s poem “To Fortune” includes what appears to be a smiley face in a very appropriate place.
Levi Stahl, publicity manager for the University of Chicago Press, posted the discovery to his blog earlier this week, which was originally spotted by The Atlantic.
Here’s an excerpt from the poem, where the smiley face can be seen in the second line:
Stahl found the smiley face in the copy of Hesperides that he owns, and checked it against the new, authoritative two-volume edition of Herrick’s works published by the Oxford University Press last year.
“The emoticon is still there,” Stahl wrote.
It’s still unclear whether or not the ancient emoticon is just a typo or if it’s there intentionally, but if so it would precede what was believed to be the world’s first emoticon by about 200 years. A transcript of Abraham Lincoln’s speech from 1862 published by The New York Times shows what appears to be a winky face hidden within the text.