Last Word

What your most frequently-used emojis say about your life

Forget grammar and punctuation. You want a pizza nowadays, you send an emoji. Just be careful you don't order a stripper instead

10 May 2020 - 00:00 By
The word emoji combines two Japanese words: 'e' (picture) and 'moji' (character).
The word emoji combines two Japanese words: 'e' (picture) and 'moji' (character).
Image: 123RF/inkdrop

I was chatting to my friend, Mikaela, the other night on WhatsApp about something or other when I mis-emojied. I meant to use the grateful-praying-hands emoji and instead tapped the feeling-down-with-hands-on-desk-and-lines-above-head one.

I've never used it before but it slipped into my rotation of regular emojis this week alongside the usual suspects: both of the laughing-with-squirting-tears-heads, the fingers crossed emoji, the wide eyes, the turd, the head explosion and the who-knows-lady.

I damaged my knee a week ago doing lockdown aerobics so my emoji use has taken a sadder turn than usual. You can generally judge how your week has panned out by your "frequently used" emojis. If it's all clapping hands, champagne and the red heart, you're doing fine.

During lockdown, though, most of us have added a baking emoji and I see the cleaning ones have been making an appearance among my regular emojis. I didn't even know they existed.

But back to my feeling-down-with-hands-on-desk-and-lines-above-head emoji typo (emojo). In the past few years emojis have joined grammar and punctuation, perhaps even passing them on the information super highway.

We can hardly write a sentence without using them and their second cousin, the GIF. I caught myself saying LOL in conversation recently but quickly sent myself to bed without supper to think about what I'd done.

There are also different kinds of emoji personalities - those who use them widely, stringing whole sentences together, and emoji snobs who take great care to find rare, interesting ones you don't see often, and those who select a few and use them as a sort of personal signature.

My guy has two staples, the wide-smiley face and the rainbow. These two have been in his frequently-used batch every week since the beginning of frequently-used batches. Another guy in one of my groups always uses the pulled-muscle-arm, whether it's relevant to the conversation or not.

I've never met him IRL but when I do I'll be really disappointed if he doesn't do Sha Na Na Bowzer arms at the end of every sentence.

I also have a friend who uses the blowing-a-kiss emoji regularly in lieu of any written response. Maybe it's just me - after all, tone is hard to tell in a WhatsApp - but I find that one passive-aggressive.

Some emjois feel like they have ulterior motives. That blow-kissy one reeks of 'you can kiss my butt'

Why not use the praise hands in the air or the flame one instead? Neither of those feel like they have any ulterior motives. But that blow-kissy one reeks of "you can kiss my butt".

The thumbs-up one also feels patronising. Or maybe my "tell" is showing, I've definitely used it in place of an italicised "Sure, whatever!" before.

Emojis were invented in 1998 by Shigetaka Kurita, an engineer at a Japanese phone company. The word emoji combines two Japanese words: "e" (picture) and "moji" (character). It is communication simplified to its most basic task, understanding. You no longer need to be able to read or even speak the same language to have a basic conversation or order a burger and fries.

That said, they aren't without their own misunderstandings. People regularly disagree on what they mean. As I write this my friend and I are disagreeing about what that feeling-down-person-with-hands-on-desk-and-lines-above-head emoji really means.

For her it symbolises daydreaming while Google says it's a "woman bowing". The praying-hands/ thank you is also often misunderstood. And what's that bamboo shoots one all about?

The first emoji pack consisted of 176 basic images. I checked to see if the aubergine appeared in this early iteration. After all, sex is the oldest profession in the world and the aubergine has to be the unofficial emoji representation of sex. But clearly nobody sexted until the aubergine emoji was introduced in 2010.

It's amazing how history repeats itself and we are back to communicating through hieroglyphics. I wonder if cavemen or the Egyptians made typos while creating cave paintings or carving hieroglyphics on a stone. There's no Tipex or delete button on a stone tablet. I picture an archaeologist peering at a message: "And then you were chased by a hearse. wait, did he mean a horse?"

In the US you can order a pizza by SMSing a pizza emoji. Then you confirm your order with a thumbs up and it's a done deal. So surely the day can't be too far away when you can order anything by emoji. I'm likely to make an "emojo" and instead of ordering a box of donuts click on the Saturday-Night-Fever-dancing-guy. Then 30 minutes later there'll be a stripper at my door with extra sprinkles.


Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.