What’s with the catcow and dogoldfish?

Date:December 8, 2003 / year-entry #153
Orig Link:https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20031208-01/?p=41593
Comments:    26
Summary:Am I the only one who find these icons bizarro?

Am I the only one who find these icons bizarro?

The catcow
The dogoldfish

The first time I saw them, I thought the first one was a cow and the second one was a goldfish. But apparently they're a cat and a dog.

I never understood the need for these emoticons in the first place. If you need to add a smiley face to indicate that you're joking, then you need to work on your delivery.

Comments (26)
  1. Evan DiBiase says:

    I think emoticon usage tends to change based on the generation; I’m 19 and tend to use them to differentiate between seriousness and lightheartedness (consider "Bye." versus "Bye :-)"), while my 14-year-old sister seems to use things like "lol" and "cya" more than I would and emoticons less.

  2. Ziv Caspi says:

    Emoticons are very useful when the conversation has to cross cultural or language barriers. When you try to be funny in a language you don’t speak well, emoticons are some kind of insurance that nobody will take you seriously when you didn’t mean to.

  3. Ziv Caspi says:

    BTW — I think the left margin in comment paragraphs is a bit too narrow, Raymond. The letters virtually touch the border.

  4. Serge Wautier says:

    Speaking of generations, i’m neither an ‘early-teen’ nor an ‘elder-teen’, rather a ‘very-post-teen’, the kind who even remembers the dark ages when people didn’t have cell phones or, wait… Internet connections ! :-)
    Does it explain why I’ve never seen these icons before and wonder where you guys have seen them ?

  5. w.h. says:

    I think the main thing about emoticons, as compared to working on your delivery, is that it’s unambigously smartass, as opposed to smartass by means of delivery. This also works for cases where you are on an open forum and wish to avoid being trolled by somebody choosing to ignore the sarcasm and take you literally true.

    This leads into a funny work story where people were sending "scull" icons back and forth during a bug session, at least partially to jokingly assign blame.

  6. MilesArcher says:


    As an ancient, you’ve probably not gotten involved with the phenomenon of MS Messenger or other IM systems.

    Fellow Ancient

  7. Mike Swaim says:

    I’d say that CatCow’s a homage to Apple’s "Moof," the DogCow.

  8. Jeroen-bart Engelen says:

    Also not pre- or elder-teen, more of a minor adult (27 yrs old). I also remember the time where a cell-phone meant you’d have to drag your car around with you and ‘Internet’ was something no-one ever heard of. Still, as soon as I started using e-mail I started using emoticons. Granted I generally only use :-) and ;-) and :-( (although I must confess with MSN Messenger I use more, just because I like the nice gx :-) ) <– See, there is one!!
    I use it to convey emotion using writing, where in a normal conversation you could read it from my face. If I make a joke IRL you’d see me smile, but with an e-mail it’s not possible to tell the meaning behind the remark.
    I must confess I have no idea where a cat and a dog can be useful for. And why MSN Messenger features a devil (6), but no angel (aside from the smiley with the halo).

  9. Jack Mathews says:


    Is the only way to find out if you’re in "full screen" mode to install a WH_SHELL hook and examine the WINDOWACTIVATED messages. Is there no simpler way to query?

  10. Mike Dunn says:

    I use the dog/cat emoticons with my partner, to mean "thanks a lot, that’s great of you". Because they’re so cute, the image is like making puppy-dog eyes when asking for something. For ex
    Me: I was sick this weekend, so I don’t have the updated help files for the release today
    Him: That’s ok, I was out partying so I slacked off work too
    Me: (dog) thanks man

    But on the subject of smileys, I see a generational thing happening now that I read boards where high school aged kids frequent (I’m 31 btw). My generation uses :) style smileys, while the young ‘uns favor the ^_^ style, which I personally can’t stand. ;)

  11. Jeroen-bart Engelen says:

    I recently found some websites from 13 year olds. The language is terrible. We use normal english with some abbreviations and some smileys. Th3y L1K3 T0 T4Lk L1K3 Th1s. I can’t read half of it. Oh and on my webiste I put an e-mail address to people can mail me. They put up a MSN Messenger handle (which _is_ an e-mail address) so someone can ‘MSN’ them.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I love it when I paste code like for (;;) and it changes that to a smiley face (sarcasm).

  13. Steve Hiner says:

    Try to figure this one out: type (?) into messenger and you get a question mark in a circle with ASL below it.

    What’s up with that? My friends and I have tried to figure out what it’s supposed to mean but so far we have no clue.

  14. (6) says:

    Age / Sex / Location ? Used a lot in chat rooms

  15. Raymond Chen says:

    The (?) gets me all the time. I use that to mean "I don’t get it" or "I’m not sure", but now it makes me look like a perv.

    (And I fixed the margins in the comments. Thanks, Ziv, for pointing that out.)

  16. (6) says:

    It’d be kinda nice if MSN had IntelliSmiley, to transfer your ‘:)’ into a smiley after you’ve typed it. That way you could vet your comment before sending it.

    The (R) catches me out every time, most times when I’m facetiously saying something like ‘IntelliSmiley(R)’ :) Causes many a strange looks, especially when MSN’ing my work mates.

  17. Andreas Häber says:

    Yeah.. I usually write (?) in e-mails and such if I’m not quite sure if what I write is true. Would be nice if the nice people at MSN changed (?) to be something more like the question-mark icon in the MessageBox API, and created something like (ASL) for that perv-emoticon :P

  18. Mike Dunn says:

    Try typing (%) into MSN sometime, you get a pair of handcuffs! (which, depending on the context, might make you appear more of a perv than (?)) ;)

  19. tekumse says:

    I guess it was time for Festiivus airing of grievances ;-)

  20. phaeron says:

    I think I remember typing "Windows XP" into an IM program once, and getting the latter part turned into an emoticon….

    Speaking of bizarro icons, care to comment on the SULFNBK.EXE icon in Windows 95? :)

  21. You know you have a problem when you write :) while writing a letter…oh well.

  22. e8johan says:

    My biggest problem with smilies is that I almost always use them after funny, *ironic* comments. The problem is that I put comments between parenthesesis (how do I spell that? :o)) and then the problem with the closing parenthesis occurs.

    Of course there is the solution to do a left-handed smiley "(-:", but that makes it harder to read, as the reader usually does not expect such a character combination.

    As was pointed out earlier too is software that replaces for example ":-)" with a picture. This can screw up code seriously, but also limits the creativity with, for example, noses ":o)", ":^)", ":-)", eyes ":-)", "8-)", ";-)", "|-)", length ":)", ":-)"…

  23. Frederik Slijkerman says:

    And how about when you type a bit of C++ code:
    std::string oops;
    :s turns into something funny as well.

  24. Centaur says:

    What most annoys me in MSN Messenger is the parentheses-smileys, like when you write "y=f(x)" and get the argument transformed into a boy, or a girl, or whatever, I don’t remember. I wonder if web forums were already using graphical emoticons when MSNM was being designed. Many forums have the :some_word: form for non-obvious smileys, this is substantially less ambiguous, although it can cause trouble with C++ namespaces :)

    Anybody remembers what this one was supposed to mean? :)
    O C=}%~^~{F~=-

  25. Joe says:

    Mike, Mike, Mike…. The Dogcow’s name is Clarus. It _says_ "Moof!"

    See http://developer.apple.com/products/techsupport/dogcow/ for more dogcow lore, including the original Tech Note #31: http://developer.apple.com/products/techsupport/dogcow/tn31.html

  26. MilesArcher says:

    The folks at 1 Inifinte Loop have too much time on their hands.

Comments are closed.

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