Emoticons are the often annoying vernacular of typographic symbols used to lend flavor to email. For the most part we all stopped speaking of them, let alone using them, at least a year ago — things like :-) for happy and :-( for sad, not to mention the slew of related alphanumeric codes, such as “BTW” for “by the way” and “IMHO” for “in my humble opinion.” But some trends just won’t die, and a relatively recent digerati abbreviation is worthy of mention. Popping up for some time now on emails, especially on music-related email lists, is “NP” — which stands for “now playing.” The writer tags the end of an email with the name of the song or album he’s listening to, more than likely on headphones hooked to the CD player of the computer on which he’s doing the typing. Like the best emoticons, “NP” can be a valuable window on the psychology of your correspondent. When someone tags a sentence with :-) she may be happy or she may be trying to put a smile on a less-than-friendly missive. When someone writes you an email about a failed romance and tags the end with “NP: The Jam’s Snap,” there’s nothing to worry about, but when it reads “NP: Blue Monday,” a phone call may be in order. An “NP” in music-related correspondence serves as, perhaps, the ultimate act of one-upsmanship. A writer who tags an email with a CD by a hearty avant-gardist, such as Alvin Curran or James Tenney, is really saying, “Yeah, I do listen to this stuff.” (Sure, he could be lying.) But “NP” can also have unintended consequences. There’s nothing like reading a come-on from a would-be admirer — or a lengthy email treatise on some heady subject — only to find, at the end, “NP: Dream Theatre’s When Dream and Day Unite” or “NP: The Lion King.” At which point, depending on the reader’s point of view, the value of that email may have diminished considerably.
Not sure which issue of epulse this appeared in, but it was redistributed in a post to the “postcard2” list on February 15, 1999 by a member of that list: mail-archive.com/postcard2