Today is the ‘Happy Birthday’ of those adorable, tiny, frivolous, and internet-friendly graphemes known as emoji (the plural is the same as the singular), the colourful and glorified cousins of emoticons. Since 2014, Emoji historian Jeremy Burge, Founder of Emojipedia, has earmarked July 17 as World Emoji Day. The day has been observed every year to promote its usage on social media platforms!
The word ‘emoji’ has its roots in the Japanese words where ‘e’ stands for picture and ‘moji’ means character. Created in 1999 by Japanese artist Shigetaka Kurita, who was employed with a mobile communications company.
While developing a new internet platform that allowed only a limited number of characters, Kurita hit upon the idea to use images to represent words. This enabled users to communicate lengthy messages with less data. They made their debut display on the internet as blurry, pixelated characters in varied hues. A decade later, Unicode, an international computer encoding standard, made emoji collectively available across different browsers, search engines, platforms and devices. This implied that people around the world had access to the same emoji lexicon and connected with the same ‘emoji language’.
With the advent of WhatsApp, more than 3500 emoji representing food, animals, birds, moods, time, objects, activities, body parts, and what not, have gone mainstream to become an integral wedge in our lives.
These cute little images expedited the path for a mixed array and selection for the succeeding generations. They are best used to convey messages or express our emotions — happiness, fun, gloom, disappointment, approval, anger, disgust or any temperament, and activities, place etc in just one pictograph. It is also fun to fill up social media with amusing, absurd, silly images.
Unicode also responsible to validate new emoji for roll-out across different devices and models, ratified the newest lot of emoji in September 2021 in Emoji 14.0. These include the popular melting face, troll, coral, lotus, empty nest, hands, brown beans, wheel, index pointing at the viewer, X-ray, sexy lip bites, ring buoy, mirror ball, biting lip, low battery, apart from two gender-neutral emoji with skin tone modifiers — pregnant person and person with crown. Now, you can use an emoji instead of words to express your emotions.
Most of the users are confused and form their own connotations about each emoji. Shaik Alsaba, artist and designer with CEIA Magazine, explains, “The one with tears goes off-target as people mistake it for sobbing while it implies laughing so hard you cry. The smirking face conveys flirting but it is often unwittingly used to show sarcasm. The see-no-evil monkey is used by some to convey ‘my bad’ but it stands for ‘can’t believe what he is seeing’.”
Are you speechless, then use the face without mouth; arms raised to make a circle indicates your approval or OK. Dotted lines around a character can signify a hidden or invisible person. But it can also figuratively mean a state of depression, loneliness, timidity, compliance. Use the emoji as and how you interpret as long as the person intended to, understands it the way you have meant it to be.