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This smiley face is either a perfectly fitting typo or the world's first emoticon

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It turns out that the emoticon might be a bit older than we originally thought. Literary critic Levi Stahl has found what could possibly be the first instance of a ":)" in Robert Herrick's 1648 poem "To Fortune." Stahl checked to see if it was just a typo in the edition of Hesperides that he owns, and says that he found the smiley intact in the authoritative two-volume edition of Herrick's work published last year by the Oxford University Press. Stahl explains that the poet's work was rife with humor, so this likely isn't a "punctuational oddity." If true, it'd beat the previous record-holder's age -- a transcription of an 1862 speech by Abe Lincoln -- by some 200 years. That isn't quite the final word, however. The New Atlantis (a scholarly journal about tech and society) writes that this probably isn't the case, and the only real way to tell if the emoticon was Herrick's intent would be to look up very early editions or his original manuscripts. The 19th century version it found didn't have the parentheses, however, and thus it ruled that the smiley was likely the result of a modern editor's insertion :(

[Image credit: Robert Herrick]

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