back to article That emoji may not mean what you think it means

A survey from Slack and Duolingo has confirmed that the witty emoji you like to drop into your messages could mean something entirely different to the recipient. Emoji have their roots in the text-based emoticons used to express emotion without having to waste valuable bandwidth on fripperies such as emotion. A sequence of …

  1. Dr_N Silver badge

    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    What are you gonna do?

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      Only use these. Well that was a failure I tried to use emojis in my post... Smiley face, smiley face with glasses, smiley face with sunglasses and thumbs up... ;-}. I guess it's back to character based emojis :-{

      There are some problems with your post. :-/

      The post contains some characters we can’t support :-p

      I guess this one is the only one to use! ----->

      1. Kevin Johnston

        Re: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        :-{>

        I think I need a shave

        1. Dr_N Silver badge

          Re: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          Does your pizza not taste good?

          1. willi0000000

            Re: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

            My hovercraft is full of eels.

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      I've always wondered, is there a shrug emoticon facing the other way?

      =^._.^= ∫

      ↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑ Appropriate for my username.

      1. The Indomitable Gall

        Re: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        Yes.

        ¯\_(¯)_/¯

    3. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch

      Re: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      The 17-year old student of Japanese in me can't help seeing katakana tsu in brackets, and the rest of me can't be bothered wasting the effort to interpret the weird lines.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        This draws attention to another difference between generations of emoji.

        The first emoji eg. :¬) could be keyed on a standard ASCII keyboard - AltGr, extended character sets and Unicode came years later.

        The Unicode shrug emoji takes advantage of the adoption of Unicode and thus devices having code pages for character sets other than ASCII installed as standard. What I like (sarcasm) is that the easiest way to use the shrug emoji is to either cut-and-paste the text or install ASCIImoji and type (shrug)?

        Obviously, to use the pictogram emoji more effort is required.

        Aside: Reading the history of the shrug emoji (https://www.theawl.com/2014/05/the-life-and-times-of-%C2%AF_%E3%83%84_%C2%AF/ ), I suspect there has been some licence taken with the truth, so as to create a nice story.

        A little understanding of the development of Unicode and the internationalisation of the Internet, OkCupid rejecting it (at the time) is totally understandable and not "almost strange".

        You can't directly key this emoji on a US keyboard without knowing your way around the Unicode character maps and how to get non-Japanese Windows to show the Unicode Japanese characters. Which given Caroline Eisenmann's LinkedIn profile doesn't give any indication of her having a working knowledge of Japanese and thus a reason to have this character set readily available...

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          "The first emoji eg. :¬) could be keyed on a standard ASCII keyboard - AltGr, extended character sets and Unicode came years later."

          ASCII was a 7-bit child of the '60s. The first keyboard with a Meta Key was the Stanford Keyboard, in 1970. So-called "extended ASCII" (in its wild and various guises) was an 8-bit bastard child of the late '70s. The first emoticon as we know them today was the :-) smiley, in roughly 1982.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't remember where but I saw a claim that the winky emoji shouldn't be used in the workplace because it's unprofessional. Which sparked a long discussion. I'd use it here, but the Reg's comment system says it's unsupported :-D

    1. 42656e4d203239 Bronze badge

      :-D

      shurely you mean ;-D?

    2. cyberdemon Silver badge
      Holmes

      Someone should tell Dominic Raaab

  3. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
    WTF?

    Wha?

    Eyeballs means gossip? I must be really old, because I can't see the connection.

    I'm disappointed that the scream emoji never looks like the Munch. I guess it's because his work is still under copyright. The search URL does nicely instead.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wha?

      <pedant-mode>

      The Munch is of someone (himself) hearing a (n imaginary) scream, not someone screaming

      (Leaving off the closing tag so someone can out-pedant me)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wha?

        > The Munch

        Munch was the artist. The painting is "The Scream" ("Skrik" in Norwegian - no definitive article)

        (also not closing the tag)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wha?

          In his diary in an entry headed "Nice 22 January 1892", Munch wrote: One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. ... I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream."

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scream <-- It's not hard to look these things up.

      2. Swarthy Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Wha?

        </pedant-mode>

        It needed to be done.

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: Wha?

          Otherwise it could go on all night.

    2. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
      Devil

      Re: Wha?

      There's a famous comment about that painting, along the lines of "what if he wanted to paint a dog and people went 'oh it's screaming' and he just said 'oh... yeah, yeah that's totally what it is.'".

      And now you'll never be able to unsee it and for that, I apologise.

  4. sarusa
    Meh

    It's often just the facade of politeness

    I use emojis on the work slack and discord to indicate I've seen your post and 'reacted' (so you don't pout) but I have nothing to say. It's basically just an ACK or Japanese Aizuchi ('yes I heard it').

    For instance where you said 'we'd argue a written message or possibly a chat might go a bit further than a trite picture of a broken heart', yes if a family member died I might leave a sincere message, but most of the time what people are bitching about does not even warrant an actual response, for instance 'I told the barista I wanted a 2-up 3-down frosted whip 5-shot caramel machiatto with rainbow sprinkles and she gave me a 2-up 3-down frosted whip 5-shot caramel machiatto with pink sprinkles, this is literally worse than hitler [sad] [sad] [sad]'. Or 'I haven't paid my rent for 6 months because of covid, it was great spending all that money on Genshin Impact instead and now they're asking me to pay up!11!' So I'll tag it with a :sadblob: and that's all it deserves.

    You might think these are exaggerated, but I swear most of the whining is just this petty. So it's just me not leaving you on read but not actually caring.

    1. sarusa

      Re: It's often just the facade of politeness

      And there's an EXTREMELY useful use case for emoji replies even of the perfunctory insincere type: If I reply with actual text then a normie feels obligated to reply with actual text and then I have to etc. etc. even though we're both already long done saying anything useful.

      Acknowledging a comment with an emoji doesn't require a response from the other person and enables us both to break out of the tyranny of endless vapid responses.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: It's often just the facade of politeness

        "and enables us both to break out of the tyranny of endless vapid responses."

        I solved that years ago ... I don't initiate such "conversations", nor do I respond to them. They quite simply do not exist to me. Sorted.

        Yes, some people think I'm strange because I don't text ... Frankly, I don't give a shit.

        Some of us grew sick of the concept with talk on 4.1BSD in the early '80s.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: It's often just the facade of politeness

        "And there's an EXTREMELY useful use case for emoji replies even of the perfunctory insincere type: If I reply with actual text then a normie feels obligated to reply with actual text and then I have to etc. etc. even though we're both already long done saying anything useful."

        I find those conversations never quite get that far if, once the relevant information has been passed, my last and final response is simply "thanks" or "ta". I find people rarely reply after that. Although, annoyingly, if it's on teams, some people like to respond with a thumbs up button click which means my teams icon on the phone now has an alert on it so I have to clear that too. I suspect I'll have to reduce my final response on Teams chats to doing that thumbs up thing on the other persons last useful comment and hope that ends it. :-(

    2. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: It's often just the facade of politeness

      ACK ACK ACK?

      Mars Attacks?

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: It's often just the facade of politeness

        Ack-Ack Macaque.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: It's often just the facade of politeness

      "a chat might go a bit further than a trite picture of a broken heart', yes if a family member died I might leave a sincere message, "

      Not exactly emojii related, but similar, but was it David Cameron who famously thought LOL meant Lots Of Love and sent a message along the lines of "So sorry your mother died, LOL"

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: It's often just the facade of politeness

        Not quite. That's the embellished version. Here's the actual story:

        https://www.cnet.com/culture/britains-prime-minister-thought-lol-meant-lots-of-love-so-what/

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: It's often just the facade of politeness

          Thanks, not as bad as I thought :-)

  5. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    My work environment is very multicultural and I've learned that what is inoffensive in Western culture can be *very* offsenive elsewhere. Until I've built up a relationship with someone, emojis, nerd in-jokes, banter, etc are kept out of the conversation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How boring. Why should you be the one that accommodates others. Are they thinking about your culture?

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "My work environment is very multicultural and I've learned that what is inoffensive in Western culture can be *very* offsenive elsewhere. "

      That works both ways.

      1. jake Silver badge
        Pint

        "That works both ways."

        Sometimes it works three or four ways.

        Language is complicated. That's what makes it fun :-)

  6. tiggity Silver badge

    Emoji free zone here

    No point using emojis at work as so liable to be interpreted in a different way to which it was intended (especially with a diverse workforce with different cultural backgrounds, widespread geographically too )

    With many co-workers not having English as their first language (& a reduced vocabulary compared to a "native" speaker), main focus is on clear communications - including trying to use clear & simple language (avoiding obscure words even if they are apposite*) - even if it means more verbosity

    Emojis just add extra ambiguity

    * yes that was deliberate use of an obscure word

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Emoji free zone here

      "No point using emojis at work as so liable to be interpreted in a different way to which it was intended (especially with a diverse workforce with different cultural backgrounds, widespread geographically too )"

      Although I work with an international client base, I make a point of using words, speech and Emojis that align with 'my' interpretation of what they mean. As an English speaker, it's not my job or place to try to translate, or consider every possible permutation of how a given utterance could potentially be interpreted by a non-English speaker, because that's an essentially unending task.

      I also ask people to communicate with me in their own native language as much as possible; it's easier and more accurate for them to write in their own language with precise meaning, and for me to translate it and extract the meaning, than it is for them to try to write it in English for my benefit; losing subtlety, nuance, meaning and vocabulary in the process.

      1. The Indomitable Gall

        Re: Emoji free zone here

        " I make a point of using words, speech and Emojis that align with 'my' interpretation of what they mean. As an English speaker, it's not my job or place to try to translate, or consider every possible permutation of how a given utterance could potentially be interpreted by a non-English speaker,"

        If you don't want to adapt your English, then maybe you should learn their language yourself...?

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Emoji free zone here

      >No point using emojis at work as so liable to be interpreted in a different way to which it was intended

      This is the fundamental difference between the ASCII emoji and the pictogram emoji's.

      The ASCII emoji's were a shorthand form of adding emotion to a text and were few and defined, so that it was relatively easy to remember or look up one you didn't know - either to know what it meant but also to see if there was an emoji that conveyed the emotion you wanted to express.

      With the pictogram emoji's there seems to be no such reference. My Andriod phone simply displays lots of pictograms, but without any indication of what they might mean; so giving ambiguity to pictogram emoji's.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Emoji free zone here

        And of course, the ambiguity isn't helped by the fact that emojis aren't actually standardised. The same emoji can look completely different in different programs, or even in different versions of the same program. Some examples shown here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emoji#Cultural_influence - with supposedly the same emoji being represented as either a deformed face with massive earings hanging from its eyes, a face with tears of joy, or a face with small blue ears. Slightly further down the same page - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emoji#Controversial_emoji - you can choose from the same emoji being a pistol, revolver, shotgun, water pistol, ray gun, supersoaker, or any number of other things. You don't need to worry about people interpreting the same picture in different ways, because much of the time you have no idea what picture they actually intended to send in the first place.

        The really silly part is that while some people are going on about how emojis allow all kinds of additional nuance to communication and are evolving into their own language, what they miss is that the entire reason we moved to limited alphabets was specifically because pictograms are a terrible way to reliably convey meaning. A huge amount of art relies on the fact that different people interpret pictures in different ways. Several board games are built entirely around the problem of interpreting pictures. A picture can be worth a thousand words, but no two people agree on what those words actually are.

    3. brianpope

      Re: Emoji free zone here

      "I will not buy this record. It is scratched" ;-)

  7. Captain Hogwash

    Eggplant

    I always thought this meant aubergine.

    1. sarusa

      Re: Eggplant

      Emoji primer for old people normies:

      Eggplant = penis

      Taco = fanny

      Peach = ass

      Skull = funny

      Movie film strip = send me nudes

      Movie camera = x-rated video

      Normal Smiley = being insincere

      Grinning with smiling eyes = constipated or I'm ready to fight you

      And of course this is highly variable depending on the country or your specific ingroup. In Japan the poop emoji can mean 'lucky'.

      But that's the whole point. Having your in-group slang be incomprehensible to outsiders (especially your parents) is the goal.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Eggplant

        Good god, these people must be deformed. I'd see a doctor it looked like that....

        1. Medical Cynic

          Re: Eggplant

          Penis engorgement is one thing, but when it goes purple you have to consider the possibility of poor venous inflow preventing adequate arterial inflow with risk of necrosis!

      2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Eggplant

        And I always thought the 'poop' emoji was shorthand for a Patch Tuesday drop!

      3. dajames Silver badge

        Re: Eggplant

        In Japan the poop emoji can mean 'lucky'.

        Why is there an emoji for "poop" (which the NHS and most British children would call a "poo", but we all know better as a "turd")?

        Why is it not the shape of a turd, but rather that of a chocolate ice-cream with a face?

        Yes, a face, why in the name of all that's faecal does a turd have a face?

        ... and why is that face smiling? It should be grimacing, it's shit to be a turd.

        But then, emoji are all shit, really.

        1. Persona Silver badge

          Re: Eggplant

          Life is more complex than you are imagining, but whatever you do, don't do a Google search containing "turd, face and smiling". Way too many non emoji hits (allegedly) and very NSFW.

          1. MiguelC Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Eggplant

            Don't tell me "two girls, one cup" has nothing to do with ice-cream

        2. NATTtrash Silver badge

          Re: Eggplant

          Which brings a whole new dimension to being shitfaced...

        3. the.spike

          Re: Eggplant

          If I recall correctly it was meant to be a chocolate ice cream, hence the shape. But someone said it look like poo.. and well sh1t sticks!

        4. Mojave Green

          Re: Eggplant

          With the exception of my own and the cat's, the majority of turds I encounter have faces.

        5. Kristian Walsh

          Re: Eggplant

          The shit emoji came, like emoji themselves, from Japan, and its original meaning was “good luck”.

          It's a pun based on the re-arrangment of the syllables in the Japanese for “Good Luck” (literally “happiness-luck”, 幸運, read as ko-uu-uu-n, こううん), and the childish word for shit, unko, (うんこ, uu-n-ko).

          most commonly translated as “poo” or “poop” depending on which side of the Atlantic you reside on.

          Emoji itself is a Japanese term, 絵文字 (emōji) that just means “picture-letters”.

      4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Eggplant

        The logical solution would be just to create a penis emoji, or perhaps two emojis to reflect the typists level of excitement.

        Of course that wouldn't be allowed in the USA, although a gun emoji is fine.

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: Eggplant

          create a penis emoji, or perhaps two emojis to reflect the typists level of excitement.

          I think the latest Unicode approach would be to create a single penis emoji and three(*) ranges of modifiers for erectness, width and length (plus of course the existing modifiers for skin tones).

          (*) Maybe a fourth for piercings.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Eggplant

            Suck on my 8====o emoji.

      5. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Eggplant

        Emoji primer for old people normies:

        [Single set of meanings.]

        I believe Millennials and Gen-Z use entirely different meanings. Like you said, in-group slang.

      6. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: Eggplant

        Having your in-group slang be incomprehensible to outsiders (especially your parents) is the goal

        Which has been going on for many, many years. Cockney Rhyming Slang for one.

      7. Frumious Bandersnatch

        Re: Eggplant

        And of course this is highly variable depending on the country or your specific ingroup. In Japan the poop emoji can mean 'lucky'.

        Yeah, but the kou'un -> unkou -> unko passage is pretty twisty...

    2. NATTtrash Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Eggplant

      I agree! Aubergine! Aubergine! Aubergine!

      Since when did eggs grow on a plant? Had to do something with coming out of chickens right?

      So basically that means that not only emojis can be wrongly understood, even people claiming (yes, I know) to speak the same language have that problem with text. So words. Writing stuff down.

      Hmmm, I think agree with the comment made here: better stop communicating at all. Is rubbish to begin with any way, so better avoid.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Eggplant

        Best way to communicate is with flashing colored lights and a giant electric organ

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Eggplant

          "Best way to communicate is with flashing colored lights and a giant electric organ"

          You mean ....

          1950's Blackpool Illuminations with a Hammond Organ at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom !!!???

          :)

          [UK Specific ..... Northern England]

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Eggplant

            Well Blackpool is where a lot of close encounters of all 3 kinds happen, so .....

          2. Captain Hogwash

            Re: Eggplant

            Hammond is for 60s/70s rock. Surely a Wurlitzer at Blackpool?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Eggplant

              Hammond is Blackpool Tower Ballroom.

              Wurlitzer is Winter Gardens.

              (I looked it up !!!)

              'Close encounters of the third Kind' was definitely *not* a Wurlitzer type organ .... although the film version with a Wurlitzer / 'Reginald Dixon' would be quite funny !!!

              :)

          3. Soruk

            Re: Eggplant

            For some reason I'm reminded of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"

        2. TimMaher Silver badge
          Gimp

          Re: Giant electric organ

          Ooh missus! ——-> icon, not emoji.

      2. Def Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Eggplant

        Since when did eggs grow on a plant?

        The name Aubergine comes to English (via French and Spanish) from the Arabic name al-badinjan which means, "the eggplant". The name comes from the white variety.

      3. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Eggplant

        Yes. I was very confused as a kid. I figured it didn't have eggs in it, but it at least tasted eggy? Nope. It was (and still is) nasty.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Eggplant

        You mean brinjal, of course... ;-P

  8. Art Slartibartfast

    Confusing emojis

    One of the most common examples of emoji confusion is the emoji with two hands together, which is often interpreted as "I pray for you", for example when a family member has passed away. The official name of that emoji is high five...

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Confusing emojis

      Around here, at this time of year, it's smooshing a fruit-fly,

    2. that one in the corner Bronze badge

      Re: Confusing emojis

      Never knew that was meant to be a high-five. Because I've not yet seen it drawn as anything but the hands (add in some upper arms and they'd be golden).

      So not only are we suffering weird picto-euphemisms but also rubbish graphic design <sigh/>

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Confusing emojis

      Emojipedia to the rescue!

      > Two hands placed firmly together, meaning please or thank you in Japanese culture.

      > Rarely used as a high-five, despite often being suggested as one by emoji keyboard search features.

      > Folded Hands was approved as part of Unicode 6.0 in 2010 under the name “Person with Folded Hands”

      https://emojipedia.org/folded-hands/

    4. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

      Re: Confusing emojis

      That explains it.

      I saw that the other day on a group chat about something positive. I understood the emoticon to be positive in response, but I had no idea what.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Confusing emojis

        I once asked a colleague what an emojii in a message to me meant. He explained it to me. I replied "Obrigada". He said "what?" I said, "Thank you in Portugese". he said "why didn't you just say thankyou". I said, "if you sprinkle your conversation with random foreign "words" and expect me to understand, I'll do the same to you. He stopped using emojiis.

        1. Scott 53

          Re: Confusing emojis

          Perhaps he was confused because you didn't say "Obrigado", assuming your gender aligns with your username.

    5. iron Silver badge

      Re: Confusing emojis

      You may be amused to hear there are a whole bunch of new emojis coming that are also called high-five. They look like one of those praying hands on its own.

      Personally I think all the hand emoji are poorly concieved and designed, none of them look like what they are supposed to be but like they mean something else.

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Smiley

    I never use emojis at work. I do use the smiley, which is not an emoji for me before I was using it before emojis existed.

    If I'm texting with someone I know, I can use the wink smiley occasionally, but that will be the extent of it.

    With my wife however, I'll use whatever emoji fits my SMS the best.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Smiley

      "With my wife however, I'll use whatever emoji fits my SMS the best."

      Personally, I talk to my wife. Easier, faster, and gets more information+feedback across than typing.

      Remember, it's a telephone. tele meaning "far" + phone meaning "sound, voice". A thingie you have a conversation over at a distance.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Smiley

        I think you'll find these days it's a smartphone. s meaning "it's" + mart meaning "a place where you spend money" + p meaning "piss" + hone meaning "improve"

        A device to encourage you to spend money, and piss away any chance at self-improvement.

        1. NATTtrash Silver badge

          Re: Smiley

          I think you'll find these days it's a smartphone. s meaning "it's" + mart meaning "a place where you spend money" + p meaning "piss" + hone meaning "improve"

          I would argue the s stands for "shit" or "shitty", and hone for how the device has improved the method for far away people to reach into your pockets (and life).

  10. Zimmer
    Meh

    The question is...

    A quote from Lewis Caroll: “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

    ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

    ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

  11. jake Silver badge

    Pictograms ...

    ... are so limiting, and so easily capable of leading one astray. Use English (or other language of choice) if you want to get your point across with minimal misunderstanding. There is a reason that archaeologists argue over the meaning of ancient rock and parietal art, and trick-cyclists argue over the meaning (if any) of the finger painting of very young children.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Pictograms ...

      >are so limiting

      That's why China had poetry for 1000s of years before we had 'Erik's axe' scratched in runes

  12. securityfiend

    Obligatory XKCD

    https://xkcd.com/1953/

  13. b0llchit Silver badge
    FAIL

    Younger generations overall were more likely to say the recipient misunderstood an emoji.

    The younger generation creates and uses a language using emoji that is now equally ambiguous than "standard" languages using letters and words.

    That is to be expected. Language is ambiguous.

    1. that one in the corner Bronze badge

      > Language is ambiguous

      Not really.

      Your *use* of language *can* be ambiguous - and that is a Good Thing (hence poetry and punes).

      But language can also be used with great clarity (as with the poetry, usually by people better at it than myself).

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      The younger generation don't speak properly and you can barely understand them - said by everyone over 40 since Ug the caveman

  14. Cederic Silver badge

    No.

    "The IT industry being what it is, those emoticons evolved into emoji"

    We're not accepting the blame for that. That's on the users. We still use ASCII.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: No.

      TINW

      But yes.

  15. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "there are 3,633 emoji in the standard at time of writing"

    So we effectively have an entire new 'vocabulary'. However it's one without any evolutionary process or specific cultural background as it's being invented piecemeal on the fly by all and sundry. Consequently it's inevitably even more difficult to interpret correctly than any extant pictographic script. Ancient Egyptian was bad enough as it ultimately aggregated pictograms from multiple different regions, so it finished up with several pictograms with common meanings and multiple meanings for a lot of the pictograms. But at least all of these had recognisable origins that could be traced back to when the archaeologists were faced with translating the ancient texts.

    So it does seem a little impractical to assign 5.5% of the Unicode space (so far) to pictograms with no assured specific meanings (particularly as many may well become obsolete quite fast as fashions change).

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: "there are 3,633 emoji in the standard at time of writing"

      Take a look at the Book From The Ground by the Chinese artist Xu Bing

      100 page novel entirely written in pictograms (link is to a view of some of the pages). I have a copy, it's surprisingly readable (a bit Bridget Jones for my taste, but there you go).

      What I find interesting is - it's readable in all languages. So while in one sense emoji are terribly for communication, in other sense they are magnificent in that they completely transcend language boundaries. To be fair there's not an Aubergine in sight - of if there is, it means "aubergine". You do need a certain common vocabulary - a picture of an egg timer for waiting isn't going to mean much to someone without a computer.

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: "there are 3,633 emoji in the standard at time of writing"

        "a picture of an egg timer for waiting isn't going to mean much to someone without a computer"

        It will also mean something to someone with sand glass egg timer in the kitchen (I have one) - or someone who knows about sand glasses in general.

        Admittedly there are folks today that can't read a dial clock as they only know about 'digital'. But incidentally a dial clock is not 'analogue' - it advances in discrete steps of typically between 2 and 0.2 seconds as the escapement is released by the pendulum or balance wheel.

        1. TimMaher Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: escapement

          Interesting point @mike but could you not also argue that the hand has to move from one point to another?

          That makes it different from a digital one that only displays one state and does not normally show a relative position unless we choose the dial version. And that is just a trick for the eye.

          Hmm. Don’t really know.

        2. GBE

          Re: "there are 3,633 emoji in the standard at time of writing"

          But incidentally a dial clock is not 'analogue'

          Some are. Truly analog clocks that were driven by synchronous AC motors used to quite common. You don't find them as often these days, but there are still some around.

      2. mistersaxon

        Re: "there are 3,633 emoji in the standard at time of writing"

        Are we all still ok with the 3.5” floppy as an icon for “save” (or “write to disk” or “commit work up to this point” or whatever you understand happens when you click that icon)?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: "there are 3,633 emoji in the standard at time of writing"

          Now that you mention it, I'm not sure where or when I last saw that icon for save/save as. I think it's been deprecated for some multiple other random pictograms that various designers think means "save" these days.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: "there are 3,633 emoji in the standard at time of writing"

            You don't use LibraOffice?

            To be fair, I had to look to be sure. I use <alt>F, S or <alt>F, A ... Icons? What icons?

          2. aizuchi

            Re: "there are 3,633 emoji in the standard at time of writing"

            Those who currently use the Pluma text editor, with the MATE desktop environment, see the 3.5" FDD icon for 'Save the current file' in their toolbar. Same for the Xed text editor with the Cinnamon and MATE desktops on current Linux Mint.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: "there are 3,633 emoji in the standard at time of writing"

      They even made a Dr Who about it.

    3. Bill Gray
      Headmaster

      Re: "there are 3,633 emoji in the standard at time of writing"

      "...it does seem a little impractical to assign 5.5% of the Unicode space (so far) to pictograms..."

      Sadly, Unicode has 0x110000 = 1114112 code points (the odd number has to do with the inner workings of UTF8 encoding). So we've wasted a bit over 0.3% of the available code points on emoji thus far. I don't think the emoji madness will stop until most of the remaining ~million (US) code points have been assigned to them.

  16. lglethal Silver badge
    Go

    Let it be...

    It's not a problem that people get confused. Imagine if everyone understood what it meant perfectly!!!

    To quote the late prophet Douglas Adams "Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation."

  17. CynicalOptimist

    This article sneers at the idea of not replying to all messages with a written response. Just the volume of messages these days makes that impractical. Plus for me, I'm not that great at quickly crafting an appropriately worded response to every message I get that - I don't fret as much about getting the tone wrong with an emoji (but I still fret a bit)... but as the article points out, I am reliant on the recipients having the same understanding of the emoji and the context it is used in as me - I think our shared understanding is getting better though. As an example, in the early days, I interpreted the thumbs up as a bit snide or sarcastic - but I've come to accept that it is almost always used genuinely. I used to get a bit put out by people texting me instead of calling me - but that now seems like an hilariously antiquated point of view.

  18. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

    What in the 13 colonies is an "eggplant"

    1. Andy Non

      An aubergine, but why anyone would want to communicate such an item as a picture is baffling, as is the case with most other emojis.

      1. that one in the corner Bronze badge

        Aubergine - but where is the Star Anise?

        Don't recall the last time we had aubergine in the house, where are all the *useful* emojis?

        1. Scott 53

          Re: Aubergine - but where is the Star Anise?

          You, er, don't want to know what the star anise emoji will be used for.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Shopping list

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      See every Mafia movie of the last 50 years for 1 answer.

      "What in the 13 colonies is an "eggplant""

      Aubergine

      or

      Not very polite [in italian] slang for a Black man ..... usually spoken by an older Mafiosa !!!

      (Still don't understand what the emoji is for !!!)

      1. xyz

        Re: See every Mafia movie of the last 50 years for 1 answer.

        Yup an eggplant is a black person trying to be white and an oreo is a white person trying to be black... As told to me by my black neighbour (15yo). Anyway my emoji for when I'm pissed off is "I AM PISSED OFF". I find this doesn't lead to confusion. :-)

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: See every Mafia movie of the last 50 years for 1 answer.

          I remember being confused watching a US film and a black guy called another black guy a coconut. I thought it was just some "in group" racist slang that someone of a different racial group would be slammed for using. I think it was a few years later I found out it was a huge insult for one black guy to say that to another black guy.

  19. FatGerman

    Too bloody many

    I like the thumbs up. It's useful at work for, as one commenter has already remarked, notifying that you've read a message but have nothing further to add. But on my phone now when I click the emoji button I get presented with about a hundred screens of different pictures and I don't know what any of them mean and I can't find the two or three I do inderstand. Imagine if you had to type English by choosing every word from a list instead of building them up from 26 characters. So I stopped using emojis because it's now quicker to type words. Except for :) - that one still works, for obvious reasons.

    1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

      Re: Too bloody many

      If you're on Android there'll be a recent or section somewhere. Your thumbs up should be there.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Too bloody many

        colon thumbsup colon space colon close-bracket

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Too bloody many

          They have emojis for the intestines?

          Or are you saying

          "Thumbsup colon" - your prostate exam

          "colon space" - revealed an internal lesion of the digestive tract

          "colon close-bracket" - for which you will require surgery (stitches)

          ?

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Too bloody many

        Or it will be, eventually, after you spend 20 minutes finding it that first time. :-)

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Too bloody many

      Imagine if you had to type English by choosing every word from a list instead of building them up from 26 characters.

      Welcome to the Chinese Input Engine.

    3. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Too bloody many

      "I like the thumbs up"

      We all 'understand' it now to mean agreement or acceptance. But in the Roman arena it meant "kill him".

      1. The Mole

        Re: Too bloody many

        Not really, in the Roman arena it meant agreement/acceptance of the gladiator holding the sword over someone's neck to kill him. Except (apparently) sometimes the gladiator asked the opposite question of should he be spared and then thumbs up meant agreement to him being spared.

    4. nijam Silver badge

      Re: Too bloody many

      > I like the thumbs up.

      There's some dispute as to whether or not Roman-era gladiators would agree.

  20. anonanonanonanonanon

    Too old and eyesight is too bad

    I simply can't tell the difference between many of the face ones, is it smiling a lot? a slight smile? unhappy/grumpy one? They get used in chat at work on individual comments, generally if I approve of something, I give the thumbs up one, but when someone writes something that makes me unhappy, not terrible, like, "I tried that suggested fix you did and it didn't seem to work", I want to put a little sad face but can't tell which one it is from the little picker menu. If someone has already reacted, I can at least just click one of the existing ones.

    I have learned a few more, the little party popper for "Yay, something finally fixed" and The beers one for "Anyone for a beer after work?"

    I still generally just use :) and :( in my text messages, but hate the apps that convert them to emojis

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Too old and eyesight is too bad

      Apple's voice assistants can read them out for you. I discovered that you can get texts read out to you whilst driving, for example. It can be... entertaining.

    2. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Too old and eyesight is too bad

      Even worse when pasting code into a chat window. I did send colleagues all sorts of smileys, thankfully it was clear from the context that I was not hitting on them...

      1. anonanonanonanonanon

        Re: Too old and eyesight is too bad

        Ha! I keep getting caught out because I nearly always use a colon before giving an example, like so:(example code that annoyingly began with a bracket)

        1. Soruk

          Re: Too old and eyesight is too bad

          Similarly, Microsoft Teams vs MAC addresses. Halfway through your server MAC address you've got a sunglasses emoji [#include <emoji/facepalm.h>]

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Too old and eyesight is too bad

            That's one of the reasons I have *ALL* of the "assistive" features turned off on my phone, eg auto-complete and the like. It's a work phone and if I'm sending an SMS, email, whatever, it's often technical. "Helpful" spelling corrections or auto-completes are invariably wrong because the words or acronyms don't exist in the dictionary. I'm still trying to figure out how to turn of "auto emojii" in Teams and Whatsapp :-(

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It gets worse when they look different across platforms

    and users don't realise it. Example: http://ssb22.user.srcf.net/law/cleaver.html

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This confusion wouldn't happen…

    > respondents were split on the face-throwing-a-kiss pictogram – romantic or platonic?

    …if we had a proper rogering emoji.

    Maybe a whole Kama sutra section?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This confusion wouldn't happen…

      ... that links to an audio clip of "Why don't we do it in the road?"

      If these are for "smart" devices then let's use the audio dimension to disambiguate unless you really mean "I can't decide."

  23. nijam Silver badge

    A picture is worth a thousand words. 999 of them wrong.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      All the right words. Just not necessarily in the right order.

      (With thanks to Eric Morcombe)

  24. Vincent Manis

    I too have eyesight that makes decoding emojis at normal text size very difficult. Further, I can't be bothered to learn the input methods for emojis. I have a compose key set up for typing accented letters, and so I can type <compose> : ) for a smiley. Apart from that, the whole emoji business leaves me cold, and therefore my response to it is <compose> p o o.

  25. DS999 Silver badge

    Emojis are just like slang

    Young people use words in ways that older people don't, so they take on new meanings. People from other cultures don't understand slang unless they've been exposed to that culture.

    So it is hardly surprising that people in China, or older people in the US, don't know the meaning of the eggplant emoji. They similarly probably know the meaning of more recent slang terms like salty, snack or yeet either. I'll bet there are some emoji meanings most Chinese are familiar with that would leave me scratching my head, so it works both ways.

    Emojis are just an extension of language, it isn't surprising that emojis would get slang meanings just like words do.

    1. Diogenes
      Headmaster

      Re: Emojis are just like slang

      The flip side of this is ignorance eg the other day on of my students asked me "Which is faster an elephant or a Sopworth?" I asked "over what distance?' which ruined the joke - I was supposed to ask "What's a Sopworth?" to which his response would be "about 2c".

      After looking at me as if I had grown 2 heads for a little while he asks "Why did you ask about the distance?" I said "Because Sopworth made planes before and during WW1. Never heard of the Sopworth Pup, Camel and triplane I suppose?" - Response was "How do you know all that shit? A: I've been around for a long time, and read a lot of books.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Emojis are just like slang

        I hate to be the one with the pedantic correction, but the Camels and Pups of WW1 (as flown by famous fictional pilot James Bigglesworth) were made by Sopwith, not Sopworth.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Emojis are just like slang

          Yep and while maybe you know that as a Brit, I know it because of the Peanuts comic/cartoon and Snoopy the WW I flying ace.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Emojis are just like slang

          "made by Sopwith, not Sopworth."

          True, but the difference is barely perceptible when speaking as opposed to typing/reading :-)

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The kids today hey!

    In my day papyrus was too expensive to waste with squiggles.

    And don’t get me started on the price of vellum!!

  27. ChaosFreak
    FAIL

    Actually, emoji don't come from emoticons

    The word emoji does not derive from emoticon, as is commonly believed.

    Emoji is actually a Japanese word. "E" (pronounced "ay") means "picture" and "moji" means alphabetical character. So, emoji literally means "picture character" in Japanese.

    Emoji became popular in the 1990s in Japan as the spread of mobile phones led to the popularity of texting. However, emoji are much older than that. The original Japanese word processors from the 1970s and 1980s which used proprietary character codes all included emoji in their character sets.

  28. Screwed

    Why don't flag emoji display on Windows?

    The one large group of emoji I would use if I could are flags of the nations. But...

    "Emoji flags are supported on all major platforms except Windows, which displays two-letter country codes instead of emoji flag images."

    https://emojipedia.org/flags/

    Thank you, Microsoft.

    So, for my purpose, I collected the images of flags from Emojipedia (chose the Apple ones as they looked best to me), and embedded images. At the cost of significant tedium doing so, and document size inflation.

  29. Ozchemist

    Before emojis .......

    Well before emojis were a thing (in the 1980's) shorthand existed for interoffice communication.

    There was the old standards - SNAFU, RTFM, WTF (or its extended version - WTFIGOH?!)

    I had an paperwork exchange (pre-email) with my direct superior at the time who was "old school cool" and returned an expenses slip (for a "client lunch") that went something like :

    = WTFIGOH?

    == CL

    = FECL!

    == Y - FECL - T&J (the clients) WTGT "JP" (known house of ill repute) FT&A

    = OK. WTF.......

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