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: