Yeah, I know that's an oxymoron. But it's not.
Emoticons are like a smiling face. They are, by definition, not verbal. They are designed to replace words.
They're efficient. Instead of writing, "I am smiling", I can just put in a smiley emoticon. Great invention!
I actually don't like them. I know, that's my problem, but it means that instead of creating a smiley emoticon, I write "Smile." Or "Laughing."
Which would not add up to much by itself, except I also sometimes write "sigh", or "shrug", or "he smirked", or "she lowered her eyes". Which is to say, just as there is a pool of emoticons I can use, there is also a pool of pithy verbalisms I can use.
The transition is that I use these like other people use emoticons, and I think of them in the same way.
As far as I know, other people do. It is perfectly normal to write:
I looked at her out of the side of my eye.
Jane Austen could have written that. But, recently, people are sharing photos where one person is looking out the side of their eye at another person. Maybe that's just me, but I don't remember seeing them and now they seem common.
Of course, if it was to be a proper verbal emoticon, we need something other than looking-out-the-side-of-my-eye. And we have it -- to side-eye someone.
And that's a verb, we probably need to turn it into a noun to make it an emoticon? Like maybe . . .
I shot her a side-eye (The Almost Sisters, Jackson)
Jane Austen could not have written that.
Well, emoticons efficiently express emotions. Perhaps it is no surprise that we are inventing verbal equivalents. They seem effient, so I predict this trend will continue.
Rules, we have to have rules! First, I think we have to count acronyms as funneling into this trend. IMO is not a verbal emoticon, because there's no emotion. But LOL is.
Second, "He arched his eyebrows" is getting close. I know that means he is questioning something. I don't have to see him arching his eyebrows to know that -- the phrase has trnscended its physical roots.
But I think we need something shorter. And maybe a noun.
He gave me an eyebrow arch.
I haven't seen that. But I would feel comfortable writing it.
Or "He gave me a stare of death" seems a little long, but I think it's intended as a verbal emoticon, and it has been turned into a noun. Maybe "death stare" counts. It also makes sense that there could be a slow transition to verbal emoticon: Recognition, shortening, nounifying.
Our grammar will bend to accommodate verbal emoticons. Since real emoticons can just appear anywhere, it will be the same for the verbal emoticons.
Sigh, I can try to look it up on the internet.
They are a new type of one-word sentence, and (as in the above) a stand-alone phrase.
In the world of internet communicating, there is even punctuation to mark a verbal emoticon -- it is surrounded by asterisks. The Urban Dictionary provides a definition ("A way of setting off a word that gives what you're writing a 'tone' without actually leading the reader to believe that you're saying the word." XadaTan), traces that back to 2006, and gives as examples *cough* and *bitch slaps*.
A recent example:
Actually, that is a brilliant idea! *Thunks forehead* I should have thought of that sooner! (ScarletM.Sinclaire)(
In a book, quotation marks would probably be used, and they would make the asterisk unnecessary.
"Actually, that is a brilliant idea!" Thunks forehead. "I should have thought of that sooner!"
April 7, 2018, asterisks added 4/18