How on earth did we ever cope without emojis? It has become a vital human need to have a tiny little image to perfectly encapsulate anything we think or feel or do. It’s actually possible to say pretty much anything with a cartoon or two.
For example, send an image of a beer glass and a big question mark to a friend. The recipient knows they’re being invited to join you for a pint, no? And it saves you all that hassle of actually typing out a sentence or, God forbid, actually calling them.
Oh, then again, you might actually type in the words ‘beer’ and ‘question mark’ because WhatsApp, Telegram et al often then helpfully bring up a suitable cartoon on your behalf.
It all started out simply as a colon and an open or closed bracket to define smiley-faced happiness or sadness, or you could have used a semi-colon instead – that was a wink. Then came an actual yellow smiley face and a thumbs aloft and all that, and then it grew into trees and shrubbery, animals and cars and buses, the weather, buildings etc, plus the ability to represent a little shrug or ride a skateboard.
Ethnicity wasn’t a problem either, after a little while. It morphed from simple Homer Simpson yellow into a selection of shades and hair colours.
Anyone who actually needs a lesson in what each of these things means would have to be exceptionally dim, though one of those single finger salutes can send out a very wrong message if the recipient is a little bit short-sighted.
And I bet there are some twisted meanings known only to those in the know, combining the correct set of little cartoons could imply all kinds of wrong. The flirtatiously inclined, for example, have long managed to combine things like an aubergine or red chili and a pair of cherries, plus peaches and other fruit, to drop sexually suggestive hints. To other people, it might just be a shopping list.
Now, guess what? There’s a whole raft of new ones on the way. The next batch of 217 will “reflect the chaos of 2020.” Hang on a sec, we all had to live through it, does it really require reflecting in tiny little cartoon form? There was already a little virus emoji, I know because I’ve been sending it to people for ages.
Anyway. Most of these new beauties are actually just updates of ones you already know, with additional skin tones and such like. But here’s some new ones we’ll be able to choose from: a heart mending itself, a heart on fire and a face in the clouds and a ‘vaccination needle’.
There is also the vital edition of a bearded lady avatar (AKA Benny from ABBA) plus a ‘gender neutral’ bearded face. Dunno about that one. For me, and yes – I admit it openly – I am a neanderthal, but: beard = bloke.
And I can tell you right now, if I send that new bearded lady emoji to one or two of my ‘special’ female friends – I’m gonna be in big trouble, oh yeah. “You saying I need a shave?” “You calling me a bloke?” “You think I’m a bit butch?” Etc. It’s a minefield.
There is actually a body that creates these things, the California (of course) based Unicode Consortium. A committee of clever folks from Apple, Google and Facebook etc who meet once a year. This next batch is called Emoji Version 13.1 and there is even, should you need it, an Emojipedia that politely defines each one.
The ‘Face Exhaling’ one can mean relief, a sigh of disappointment or exhaustion. Or someone having a sly cigarette maybe? The ‘Heart On Fire’ emoji means lust, desire or, maybe, someone with a touch of heartburn after a long lunch.
And the new ‘Mending Heart’ emoji is the opposite – obviously – of the broken heart one that’s already out there. It indicates healing or sympathy for someone going through a rough patch.
The boffins say the face in the clouds one is ‘ambiguous’ – it could define fogginess, confusion, “or even a sense of calm bliss.” Nah. I have a mate who smokes way too much weed, I know exactly what it will mean to him.
There is also a set of multi-racial ninjas, presumably for those oh so common moments when you need to alert a friend to their imminent asssination by the models from a United Colors of Benetton advert.
This from the Emoji gang: “The Unicode Consortium is a volunteer organization and we would be completely without new emoji in 2021 if it weren’t for the dedication of many volunteers who make this possible.”
Thanks. Dunno how I would survive without you guys. Some people, though, are furious. The new emojis have already created ructions amongst people out there trying to save the planet. There are too many images of gas guzzling machines such as cars and planes and not nearly enough about renewable energy.
Never mind polar bears having to learn to surf on a tiny slither of ice where before there had once been a vast ice field, the rejection by the consortium of a wind turbine emoji could actually set back the climate change debate. That nasty consortium said a wind turbine looked too much like a windmill, and that one has been around for ages.
These little cartoon creatures are now welded deep into our culture, there was even a kids movie that came out in 2017 starring a load of emojis.
Donald Trump may have used a Twitter turbo-charge to fuel his race straight through the doors of the White House, but all some future politician needs is to become the emoticons master and he or she will be anointed King or Queen of the USA. Probably forever.
Who needs English, Spanish, Chinese or Russian? Emoticons are like Esperanto, that invented language that never quite caught on that we were supposedly all going to be speaking oneday.
Emojis. Isn’t this how cavemen and cavewoman communicated all those years ago? Draw a bison and a spear, or a big bloody lion with massive teeth. Yup, Uggo and Ugga, they got the message.
Pretty soon emojis will become a language in and of themselves. Fair enough, it seems it’s all we really need.
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