I like to keep the emoticons conversion on my blog as a whole but there are occasions in which specific strings should not be converted to emoticons. The most recent instance on my blog came in a comment.
Found the answer here:
One method is to use spaces, but extra spaces are distracting. So, the best way is to replace the parenthesis with its ASCII code: “& #41;” (without quotes or space).
A bit hacky, but useful.