Larry David called it: New York Times uses emoticon in headline

Dylan Stableford
September 29, 2011

The story that is leading the New York Times homepage at the time of this writing on Thursday uses an emoticon in its headline. A smiley-face replaces the word "Happy" atop an article by Benedict Carey about a study on the emotional patterns of Twitter users.

It is a watershed moment for the paper of record. In 2007, an article by Alex Williams about emoticons featured a headline that was bookended by them--"(-: Just Between You and Me ;-)"--and emoticons were used the headline of a 2002 article about a milestone in evolution of the smiley-face ("Happy Birthday :-) to You: A Smiley Face Turns 20"). But Thursday appears to be the first time an emoticon was used to convey information in a headline.

"Just to be clear, the :) is not in the print headline or the e-headline sent to electronic devices," Jacob Harris, a senior software architect at the Times, explained on Twitter. "It's just some homepage fun."

The paper is believed to have first used an emoticon in print in 1862, when a typo in the transcript of a speech by President Abraham Lincoln created a winking smiley-face.

As NPR's Eric Athas pointed out on Twitter, during an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" this year, Larry David worried that this would happen.

Here's the "Curb" clip: