Left-looking eyes

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In the Dumbing of Age strip from a few days ago, Amber has been traumatized by the violence associated with a kidnapping, which has left one of her friends in a coma:

The mouseover title: "<_< <_< <_<"

For those who don't speak emoji, "<_<" represents avoiding eye contact due to feeling "guilty" or perhaps evasive for some other reason.

The next day's strip continues the thread:


  1. Andrej Bjelaković said,

    July 11, 2020 @ 9:33 am

    Err… that's not how I've been using it these past 13 years.
    Which is a kind of annoyed side glare.

  2. Laura Morland said,

    July 11, 2020 @ 10:56 am

    If we're talking about this emoji https://emojiterra.com/face-with-rolling-eyes/, then I've not been using it that way, either!

    My understanding is that this emoji has nothing to do with "avoiding eye contact," but is a simple EYE ROLL.

    For example: "I got to work late because I left my metro pass at home.. again! eyeroll emoji" [= indicating (amused) annoyance with myself for doing something mildly stupid]

    A more subtle variation on this phenomenon was reported in a story I read (in the New Yorker?) over a dozen years ago, when emojis first became widely popular. It was a woman's first-person narrative relating her experience of having been invited out to dinner on a "first date" with a new guy. In the course of ordering her meal, the server proposed something she didn't like, and she stuck out her tongue.

    Like this: https://emojiterra.com/face-with-stuck-out-tongue/

    Her date interrogated her: "Did you actually just make an emoji with your face?" [Words to that effect; it was much better written in the original, and I don't believe that the term "emoji" was yet in common use.]

    According to the narrative, that meal was the last she ever saw of her date!

  3. David said,

    July 11, 2020 @ 11:01 am

    A very old Iranian idiom: "Chap chap behm negah nakon" — sp? — literally "Don't look at me left left" — meaning more or less, "Don't give me the stink-eye."

  4. cameron said,

    July 11, 2020 @ 12:04 pm

    The post is not referring to the rolling eyes emoji, or to any emoji, but to an emoticon.

    The Persian expression chap chap negah kardan, literally to look left-left at, could be translated as "to give the stinkeye" as David suggests above, but I think a more neutral translation is "to look askance at"

  5. Michael Watts said,

    July 11, 2020 @ 8:15 pm

    I would have called it "shifty eyes", and I've only ever seen it pointed the other way, but the usage is familiar.

    Here are some equivalent utterances:

    Q: "Who ate the last cookie?"
    A: "I have no idea *cough*"

    Q: "Who ate the last cookie?"
    A: "I have no idea <_<"

  6. Viseguy said,

    July 11, 2020 @ 9:58 pm

    In my experience, sinister eyes can look left, right, or right at you. It's your gut that tells you if they're "left-looking" or not. How that translates into emoji-talk is above my pay grade.

    PS: I do distinctly remember my mother coaxing me to use my right hand when I wanted to use my left. As someone who uses a fountain pen to write left-to-right, I heartily say, "Thank you, Mom!"

  7. linda seebach said,

    July 12, 2020 @ 9:58 am

    The way to use a fountain pen unsmearingly when writing left-to-right is to slant your paper parallel to your (left) forearm /
    instead of parallel to your right forearm like this \

    I had a battle royal with my second-grade teacher over that, and my father had to intervene.

  8. David Marjanović said,

    July 12, 2020 @ 10:30 am

    Right-handed people write right-to-left by holding the pen under the line, not on it.

    Mirroring everything also works; no scratches, no smears. When I was in elementary school over 30 years ago, nobody left-handed was told to write with the right hand anymore.

  9. Viseguy said,

    July 12, 2020 @ 4:04 pm

    @linda seebach and @David Marjanović: I hear you, and meant to express no anti-sinistral bias — though I see now that I did. Truth be told, I've often wished I was ambidextrous (and ambisinistrous). I sometimes wonder why this skill isn't cultivated as a matter of course, though it might be like swimming against the tide for most people, and perhaps more than most parents could manage.

  10. Philip Taylor said,

    July 13, 2020 @ 5:38 am

    "no anti-sinistral" bias. Somehow in my mind I came to believe that you had written "am not a leftist" and began to wonder (not for the first time) how the "-ist" suffix can denote diametrically opposed perspectives. If we accept the received wisdom of today, then to be a racist is abhorrent, while to be a feminist is highly commendable. How did this conflation and confusion come about ?

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