I <3 emoji

I <3 emoji
Emojipedia: The online encyclopaedia of emoji.

Culture Vulture

When the news came late last year, I did not immediately (heart) the announcement.

The Global Language Monitor in its annual survey of English words had ranked the heart-shaped emoji the world's most popular word, used billions of times a day. The Texas-based media company arrived at the result by analysing the frequency and usage of English words across the Internet, including sources such as Twitter.

Yes, I make a living stringing letters into words, sentences and thoughts but, no, I did not wring my hands because a pictograph had edged out the tools of my trade in the battle of words.

To say the result portends the death of the written form is a gross exaggeration and one only has to read Emoji Dick, a crowd-sourced translation of Herman Melville's Moby Dick into emoji, in lieu of the original to know.

To the book's credit, it is in the collection of the United States national library, the Library of Congress.

What left me flummoxed was that a personal favourite, the smiling-face-with-smiling-eyes emoji - as named by emojipedia, the online encyclopaedia of emoji - did not beat the heart emoji to the top of the list.

Yes, I use and consume enough emoji to care about which of its more than 700 pictorial symbols, from a smiling pile of poop and flexed bicep to a bouquet of flowers and steaming mug of coffee comes in first in the popularity stakes.

My affinity with emoji began around 2008 when it was taking off on the Google-owned e-mail service Gmail. I mostly used the pictorial symbols when sending instant messages on the e-mail browser.

I imagine my glee at flashing the rock-out emoji - index finger and little finger sticking out of a clenched fist - to friends at the end of an online chat then was similar to the delight cellphone users in Japan felt a decade earlier in the late 1990s when emoji came into use there.

Emoji, which means "picture character" in Japanese, was created by an employee at the Japanese telco company NTT Docomo to beat the competition in a tight market. The simple cartoonish images injected fun into text messages and e-mail messages and appealed to the baby boomers of a digital age.

It quickly caught on among users and telco carriers in Japan, then overseas, and it has since become a part of the zeitgeist.

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