A post from Shady Characters

Emoji, part 5: a trending topic

This is the fifth in a series of thirteen posts on Emoji (😂). Start at PART 1, continue to PART 6 or view ALL POSTS in the series.

So far in this series we’ve seen how emoji were created in Japan, how they made their way into the wider world, and who takes responsibility for them now they’re free to range across our screens. Aside from mentions in a few tech news outlets, however, emoji’s early life went largely unreported. The mainstream media prefers a juicier drama and, in this article, we’ll take a look at some of the stories that have seen emoji riding high — and low — in the press.

It can feel like emoji have been around forever, but Google’s search trends tool pinpoints the surprisingly recent moment at which emoji caught 🔥: it was June 2014,1 a month in which two events in particular caught the popular imagination. The first was the arrival of the seventh edition of a hitherto-obscure technical standard called Unicode, in which the addition of 250 so-called emoji characters was cause for wild celebration. But the associated media frenzy was slightly misplaced. It is true that Unicode labelled 250 new glyphs as emoji, but 248 of them were actually dingbats, taken from Microsoft’s ubiquitous “Wingdings” pi font, and most of those were recommended to be drawn as sober, monochrome symbols rather than joyous, multicoloured emoji.2,3 As we saw last time round, the only genuinely new emoji were SLIGHTLY SMILING FACE (🙂) and SLIGHTLY FROWNING FACE (🙁).4

Even so, it was apparent that emoji had fired the popular imagination, and the second event that occurred in June 2014 was designed to piggyback on exactly this phenomenon. Enter “Emojli”, the first and so far only social network limited to the use of emoji. Emojli was founded on June 30, 2014, by a broadcast engineer named Matt Gray and a YouTube producer called Tom Scott. Inspired by the launch of Unicode’s new emoji, Gray and Scott created a “Coming soon!” website allowing users to pre-register their choice of username (comprising only emoji, of course) on what was, at that point, an entirely fictitious social network.5,6 70,000 reservations later the pair felt duty bound to turn Emojli from a joke into reality in the form of a messaging app that could send only emoji.7

The media, both new and old, could not get enough. Drawing comparisons with another social network named “Yo” (itself a hair’s breadth from outright parody, Yo’s only feature was the ability to exchange messages containing the word “Yo”),8 Emojli was featured by the Daily Mail, Forbes, The Verge, the Washington Post, Time and more.9,10,11,12,13 Soon, news outlets began to widen their search for novel emoji stories. The lack of diversity in emoji skin tones became a public issue for the first time.14 Australian politician Julie Bishop, then president of the the UN Security Council, raised columnists’ eyebrows after spending a day replying to tweets using only emoji.15* Fast Company ran an inadvertently Freudian “Oral History of the Poop Emoji”,18 while NBA player Mike Scott gained a rare mainstream interview because of his extensive emoji tattoos.19

The following year was no different. As President Barack Obama welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the White House in April 2015, the president thanked his guest for Japan’s cultural exports of “manga and anime, and, of course, emojis”.20 That same month, former Wimbledon champion Andy Murray raised the profile of Scotland’s wedding of the year — that is, his own — by posting a tweet about it comprising only emoji:21


Also in April 2015, Snapchat, a zeitgeisty messaging service, modified its apps to use emoji to show relationships between users. “Best friend” relationships, where two users exchanged the bulk of their messages with each other, were labelled with ‘💛’, one-sided relationships with ‘😏︎’, “love triangles” with ‘😬’, and so on. It was a savvy use of emoji, partly because those little symbols conveyed a whole multitude of teenage angsts in a mere thirty-two bits each, but mostly because it propelled Snapchat into the headlines for some free publicity.23 May, too, was another notable month for emoji: the United Arab Emirates made waves when they threatened to prosecute anyone caught using the middle finger emoji (🖕), while over in the UK, the BBC reported that emoji were “the fastest growing form of language in history”.24,25

Matt Gray and Tom Scott shuttered Emojli in mid-2015, tired of providing technical support for what was essentially a joke gone viral (Gray: “We don’t want it to die”; Scott: “We just don’t want it to live either”).7 Alone among the big news outlets, Forbes and Business Insider lamented Emojli’s passing,26,27 but they did not linger long upon it. Emojli was old news, and the firehose of new emoji stories showed no signs of slowing. Kurita’s symbols had taken on a life of their own in the unrelenting glare of the media.

In February 2015, as the emoji trend-o-meter crept ever upwards, a dating network called Match.com published the results of a survey of single Americans. Entitled Singles in America, the survey revealed that online daters were more likely than their real-world counterparts to have a full-time job, to be educated to university level or higher and, ironically, to conduct break-ups without the aid of their smartphones.28 But this was not what caught the headlines. No, what the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Time and USA Today29,30,31,32 rushed to tell their readers was that a higher level of emoji use was an accurate predictor of which singles had more sex.33

As with Snapchat, Match.com were not shy in using emoji to attract attention. Press releases and corporate blog posts about the survey were widely quoted, so that we discovered that women who used kissing emoji more than others and who had sex with familiar partners found it easier to reach orgasm.35§ We learned about respondents’ favourite amorous emoji, such as ‘😉’, ‘😊’, and ‘😘’.37 It was all was gently titillating, a Pythonesque nudge and a wink for the internet age, but it rather missed the point: emoji were and had been in use as overtly sexual symbols almost from the beginning.

It is time to talk about the aubergine in the room. And be aware: the following paragraphs contain figurative emoji nudity.

As described by The Daily Dot’s John-Michael Bond in his 2016 article A beginner’s guide to sexting with emoji, the modern descendants of Shigetaka Kurita’s little icons have become a godsend for horny internet users: TACO (🌮), PEACH (🍑) and AUBERGINE (🍆) have made their way into the sexting canon as go-to symbols for the vagina, bottom, and penis, with many other emoji along for the ride. If the taco seems too vulgar, for instance, rest assured that the euphemistic HONEY POT (🍯) and TULIP (🌷) are viable alternatives, as is the rather more risqué CAT FACE (🐱). Correspondents who feel uncomfortable with an aubergine, so to speak, might choose to use a shrimp instead (🍤); or, if they prefer to keep things vegetarian, the once-popular BANANA (🍌).38

The aubergine stands out as mascot of the emoji sexual revolution to the extent that ‘🍆’ has become almost wholly dissociated from real aubergines in favour of its saucy alternative meaning. Writing in the rarefied pages of Duke University’s American Speech journal, lexicographers Ben Zimmer, Jane Solomon and Charles E. Carson trace its emergence as graphical slang for “penis” as far back as 2011, barely a year after it first entered the emoji vocabulary.39 Its star has only risen since then. The aubergine’s first big appearance in the public eye came in 2015, when the photo sharing service Instagram banned searches for ‘🍆’ because it was a surefire way to find penis-related contraventions of the site’s code of conduct.40 A year later, the aubergine was back in the news when a British publicity flack named Jack Kenyon launched eggplantmail.com, a service whereby customers could anonymously send an aubergine to their person of their choice. (Incredibly, this PR disaster-in-waiting lives on today: as Kenyon described it at the time, it was and remains “100% phallic. 100% anonymous. 100% disturbing.”)41 Later again in 2016, condom maker Durex stoked the fire by tweeting a hoax advert for aubergine-flavoured prophylactics.42,43

The peach emoji provides the aubergine’s only real competition in the sexy-emoji-in-the-news stakes, but it hit a bum note in 2016. A glance at Emojipedia’s visual history of the peach demonstrates that through the emoji ages, and across many emoji platforms, the shape of the ‘🍑’ has always leaned towards the gluteal. As with the aubergine, in fact, the peach has come close to shedding its original meaning. In December 2016, for example, Emojipedia found that the top five words used in tweets that also contained a peach emoji were “like”, “ass”, “peach”, “badgirl”, and “booty”, and that a mere 7% of tweets containing a ‘🍑’ actually referred to the fruit itself.44 The peach’s beatification (or debasement, depending on your point of view), was complete.

This might go some way to explaining the collective shout of anger sent up in November 2016 when Apple changed the appearance of the ‘🍑’ in a test version of iOS, its mobile operating system. The new, rounder and generally more believable ‘🍑’ was part of a general overhaul of Apple’s emoji that gave existing symbols a lick of paint and added new ones to bring iOS into line with Unicode version 9.0. Reaction was swift and dismayed and, such was the power of emoji, much of it emanated from parts of the media unused to caring about the minutiae of software beta testing. “I, for one, am furious”, wrote Charlie Warzel of Buzzfeed in an opus that bemoaned the neutering of the peach emoji as “the worst kind of gentrification of the internet”.45 At Cosmopolitan, Elizabeth Narins considered that “shit has hit the fan”,46 while an unimpressed EJ Dickson of Glamour likened the new design to “one of those foamy Fisher Price balls your teachers made you use in gym class because they were afraid of getting sued by the parents”.47 Apple’s new peach had gone pear-shaped.

To its credit, Apple backed down almost as soon as the scale of the outrage became clear. The first polemics on the family-friendly ‘🍑’ redesign were published at the start of November 2016; the very same writers and news outlets were reporting on the reinstatement of the older, fruitier peach barely a fortnight later.48,49 And so it is today that the ‘🍑’ has returned to its euphemistic roots: it, and emoji in general, remain attentive to your bedroom needs.

In their brief existence, emoji have colonised almost all aspects of online communication. We live in a world in which businesspeople have to be reminded not to use ‘🍆’ in formal emails;50 where Julie Bishop, the emoji-loving UN official, can give an interview using only emoji;51 and where Patrick Stewart, Shakespearean stalwart and Star Trek’s Jean-Luc Picard, can voice a talking
‘💩’ in an animated movie designed solely to capitalise on tween emoji fever.52 Like all forms of communication, however, ubiquity has its down side (and not only because, I am led to believe, The Emoji Movie is terrible): the more often people use emoji, the more often emoji find themselves employed in less than innocent circumstances.

That emoji could have a less savoury side was foreshadowed in 2013 by its ASCII ancestor, the emoticon. In July that year, a medical researcher named Dr Robert Ferrante was arrested in West Virgina for poisoning his wife, Dr Autumn Klein, with a cyanide-spiked energy drink. Among the evidence presented by prosecutors was an exchange of text messages in which Klein asked her husband, “Will [the energy drink] stimulate egg production too?” Ferrante replied with a smiling emoticon. It may not have been the first time an emoticon was used in court, but it does seem to have been the first time the media picked up on it. CBS News, People, the BBC and others made special mention of Ferrante’s manipulative use of a smiling face.53,54,55

The next criminal emoticon to appear in the news predated Ferrante’s but was only reported in 2014, a year later, when another grim murder case went to trial. On November 29th, 2009, a Twitter user named Lacey E. Spears had posted the following tweet:

My Sweet Angel Is In The Hospital For The 23rd Time :( Please Pray He Gets To Come Home Soon.56

Spears’s “Sweet Angel” was her son Garnett, as her followers knew, but the sentiment in her tweet — and its jarring emoticon — was in grotesque opposition to the truth. Spears had fed Garnett toxic amounts of salt in order to hospitalize him and, in doing so, to elicit sympathy from friends, family and other well-wishers. The 5-year-old Garnett died in 2014 and Spears was put on trial in New York for his murder. Her lawyers tried to portray her as a doting mother by citing her tweets (including the one above) and highlighting her frequent use of emoticons as proof of her loving intent, but the jury was unconvinced and she received a 20 year sentence in 2015.57,58,59

Emoji joined the macabre party in April 2014 with news of a shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in which the suspected murderer had taunted the sister of his intended victim by text message. “It’s a chess game,” Christopher Levi Jackson wrote, “I’m up two moves a head … try again. Bang bang, bang.” For emphasis, the message ended with 27 gun-related emoji, leading police to arrest Jackson on the strength of his graphic threat.60 In January the next year, at the other end of the country, NYPD officers apprehended one Osiris Aristy for a Facebook post that contained a string of violent emoji, claiming that they “caused New York City police to fear for their safety”.61 Emoji were now grounds for arrest.

Emoji’s criminal associations have only intensified since those first provocative salvos. In December 2014, for instance, papers reported that three Muslim siblings were arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare airport as they boarded a flight to Istanbul on the way to join Islamic State in Syria. The prosecution cited a tweet sent by the 17-year-old sister, who expressed her appreciation of a grisly IS propaganda video with a heart emoji and a smiley face — proof positive, the prosecution said, that she planned to join IS.62 In 2015, as the trial began of Ross Ulbricht, accused of running a notorious online black market, Ulbricht’s defence lawyer successfully argued that emoji in his client’s written correspondence should be presented in full to the court so that there would be no mistaking their true intent.63 And as if to prove that geography is no barrier to emoji appearing in legally fraught circumstances, in 2017 an Israeli landlord successfully sued prospective tenants who had replied to his advert of a house to let with a text that read:

Good morning 😊 Interested in the house 💃🏻👯‍✌️☄️🐿🍾… Just need to discuss the details… When’s a good time for you?64

So encouraged, the landlord took down his advert only to miss out on potential rental income when the clients dropped out without warning. The judge in the case opined:

These icons convey great optimism. Although this message did not constitute a binding contract between the parties, this message naturally led to the Plaintiff’s great reliance on the defendants’ desire to rent his apartment.65

These and other cases have peppered the headlines in the past few years. As they have come and gone, two things have become apparent.

First, emoji (even when gun-shaped) do not reliably constitute smoking guns. A grand jury in the case levelled against alleged Baton Rouge shooter Christopher Levi Jackson were unconvinced that his 27-emoji rant communicated intent to commit murder and declined to prosecute;66 similarly, the NYPD’s complaint against Osiris Aristy was dismissed by a New York grand jury that decided “🔫🔥🔥🔥👮🔫🔫” was not enough to send the 17-year-old to jail.67 Conversely, nor are emoji get-out-of-jail-free cards: black marketeer Ross Ulbricht was ultimately convicted and sentenced to life in prison, so whatever goodwill his lawyer hoped might be conjured by a friendly emoji or two singularly failed to materialise.68

Second, the shifting technological and semantic sands on which emoji are built makes it uniquely difficult to rely on them as evidence. It’s tempting to look at Aristy’s cartoonish water pistols, for instance, and wonder why New York’s finest felt threatened in any way — but in 2014, when Aristy posted the offending message, his ‘🔫’ emoji would have appeared as realistic guns. It was only in April this year that Facebook joined other major emoji platforms in rendering the PISTOL as a harmless plastic toy and thereby taking the menace out of Aristy’s messages.69

These are complex issues and, despite having been taken up by the crime beat journalists, law students and legal scholars who take an interest in such things,70,71,72 it remains to be seen how emoji’s place in court will shake out. To coin a phrase, as far as emoji are concerned, the jury is still out.

So much, then, for the good, the bad and the sexy of emoji news. For all this coverage, perhaps the most telling emoji-related headline of 2018 is one that does not fit into any of the above categories. It appeared on the New York Times website on December 23rd, 2018, and it read:

Does This Look Right to You? HOLLA🎄D TONNEL73

To put this in context, the Holland Tunnel is a road tunnel that crosses beneath the Hudson from Manhattan to Jersey City.74 Each year for some years the tunnel’s tollbooths have been decorated with giant Christmas decorations in the shape of two wreaths and a Christmas tree. Here is the scene in 2007:

Holland Tunnel in December 2007
The Holland Tunnel in December 2007. (CC BY-ND 2.0 image courtesy of Flickr user “Kingfox”.)

The first wreath fits neatly over the ‘O’ in “HOLLAND”, but here the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey parts ways from civilised society. Rather than place the Christmas tree over the geometrically friendly ‘A’, the Port Authority hangs it on the antagonistic ‘N’. (The second wreath is placed over the ‘U’ in tunnel, which is certainly frustrating, but at least the ‘U’ and the implied ‘O’ that replaces it are both vowels.)

Irritation with this odious tradition boiled over in the run-up to Christmas 2018, leading to a petition on Change.org that in turn prompted the NYT to weigh in with its emojified “HOLLA🎄D TONNEL” headline. The Port Authority capitulated a few days after the Times’ article and let the public vote on the placement of the decorations; the voters, to their credit, demanded that the Christmas tree be moved to the ‘A’ and the second wreath removed altogether.75

What are we to make of this? For one thing, the public can be trusted to make the correct decision at least some of the time. But for our purposes, the true moral of the story is this: emoji are no longer merely driving the headlines. From this point on, they are quite capable of being the headlines.

“Emoji”, Google Trends, 2018. 
Jeremy Burge, “Unicode Version 8.0”, Emojipedia
“Emoji Versions & Sources, v11.0”, Unicode.Org, 2018. 
Karl Pentzlin, “L2/10-429: Proposal to Encode Three Additional Emoticons”, 2010. 
Emojli, “Emojli - the Emoji-Only Network Launches Soon! Register Your Username Now at http://emoj.Li”, Twitter, June–2014. 
Parmy Olson, “Bye-Bye, Words: An Emoji-Only Social App Is Coming”, Forbes, 2014. 
Victoria Turk, “The Creators of Emojli: ’Don’t Build an App’”, Motherboard, September–2014. 
Steven Tweedie, “The Rise, Falter, And Future Of Yo”, Business Insider, June–2014. 
Victoria Woollaston, “App That Only Lets You Communicate Using EMOJIS Launches - and Even the Usernames Are Made up of Emoticons”, Daily Mail Online, September–2014. 
Tara Tiger Brown, “My Emojli Username Is TigerHeartTiger - What’s Yours?”, Forbes, August–2014. 
Jacob Kastrenakes, “Emojli Is a Chat App That Only Lets You Send Emoji”, The Verge, June–2014. 
Jessica Stahl, “Quiz: Is Your Emoji Game Ready for the Emoji-Only Social Network?”, Washington Post, July–2014. 
Laura Stampler, “Emojli: Social Network That Uses Emojis Only”, Time.Com, July–2014. 
Andrew Cunningham, “Apple’s Working to Introduce More Diverse emoji—what’s the Holdup?”, Ars Technica, March–2014. 
“Julie Bishop Twitter Emoji Use Is Winning Her Fans.”, Mamamia, 2014. 
Sarah Kimmorly, “#WorldEmojiDay Is on the Same Day As Emoji Fan Julie Bishop’s Birthday”, Business Insider, July–2015. 
Jeremy Burge, “World Emoji Day FAQ”, World Emoji Day
Lauren Schwartzberg, “The Oral History Of The Poop Emoji (Or, How Google Brought Poop To America)”, Fast Company, 2014. 
Sam Laird, “Express Yourself: NBA’s Mike Scott Explains His Sweet Emoji Tattoos”, Mashable, October–2014. 
Matt Alt, “How Emoji Got to the White House”, The New Yorker, 2015. 
Katie Baillie, “Andy Murray Predicts Entire Wedding Day in Epic Emoji Tweet”, Metro, April–2015. 
Andy Murray, “Tweet”, Twitter, April–2015. 
Caitlin Dewey, “Snapchat’s Controversial Emoji Update: An Explainer for the Old and/Or Confused”, Washington Post, April–2015. 
Mari Shibata, “The Middle Finger Emoji Could Land You in Jail in the UAE”, Motherboard, 2015. 
Anna Doble, “UK’s Fastest Growing Language is... Emoji”, BBC Newsbeat, 2015. 
Erin Griffith, “Emojli Emoji Social Network to Shut down”, Fortune, June–2015. 
Matt Weinberger, “Emojli Emoji-Only Social Network Shuts down”, Business Insider, June–2015. 
“Singles in America 2015”, Match.Com, 2015. 
Jess Zimmerman, “Are You a Smug Emoji Snob? Chances Are you’re Not Getting Laid”, The Guardian, February–2015. 
Chris York, “Emoji Use Linked To Great Sex Life And Better Orgasms”, The Huffington Post UK, February–2015. 
Laura Stampler, “Match.Com’s 2014 Singles in America Survey: What Emoji Say About Sex”, Time, February–2015. 
Mary Bowerman, “Emoji Users More Likely to Have Sex, Survey Finds”, USA Today, February–2015. 
Justin R. Garcia, “So Emojional{\ldots} Why U.S. Singles Use Emojis”, Match.Com, 2015. 
Caitlin Dewey, “Using More Emoji Does Not Mean you’ll Have More Sex {>}:-(”, Washington Post, February–2015. 
“Happy National Orgasm Day!”, Match.Com, 2015. 
Darcy Raymond, “Swipe Right for (Love)”, MacEwan University Student Research Proceedings, 2017. 
Emma Finamore, “The More Emojis You Use, the More Sex You Have”, The Independent, February–2015. 
John-Michael Bond, “A Beginner’s Guide to Sexting With Emoji”, The Daily Dot, December–2016. 
Benjamin Zimmer, Jane Solomon, and Charles Carson E, “Among the New Words”, May–2016. 
Amanda Holpuch, “Instagram Ban on Emoji Has Sexters Searching for Fruity Alternatives”, The Guardian, April–2015. 
Chitra Ramaswamy, “Real Life Emoji Sexting: Would You Post Someone an Aubergine?”, The Guardian, March–2016. 
Durex Global, “#BreakingNews: We’re Launching an Exciting New Savoury #condom Range - Eggplant Flavour! ? #CondomEmoji”, Twitter, September–2016. 
Arjun Kharpal, “Durex Announced an Eggplant Flavored Condom for a Very Serious Reason”, CNBC, September–2016. 
Hamdan Azhar, “How We Really Use The Peach”, Emojipedia, September–2016. 
Charlie Warzel, “Emojis Are Becoming Hyper-Realistic And That Is A Bad Thing”, BuzzFeed News, November–2016. 
Elizabeth Narins, “People Are Panicking About the New Peach Emoji Because It Doesn’t Look Like a Butt”, Cosmopolitan, November–2016. 
EJ Dickson, “Apple’s Peach Emoji No Longer Looks Like a Butt”, Glamour, November–2016. 
Julie Gerstein, “Apple Brought The Peach Butt Emoji Back, Thank God”, BuzzFeed News, November–2016. 
Romain Dillet, “Apple Brings Back the Peach Butt Emoji”, TechCrunch, 2016. 
Lydia Dishman, “The Business Etiquette Guide To Emojis”, Fast Company, July–2016. 
Mark Di Stefano, “Julie Bishop Describes Serious Diplomatic Relationships With Emoji”, BuzzFeed News, February–2015. 
“Patrick Stewart to Voice Poo Emoji in The Emoji Movie”, The Guardian
Crimesider Staff, “Autumn Klein Update: Robert Ferrante, Pittsburgh Medical Researcher, Accused of Poisoning Doctor Wife With Cyanide”, CBS News, July–2013. 
Steve Helling, “Dr. Robert Ferrante Accused of Killing His Wife, Dr. Autumn Klein”, People, November–2013. 
“Pittsburgh Scientist Charged over wife’s Cyanide Death”, BBC News, July–2013. 
Lacey E. Spears, “My Sweet Angel Is In The Hospital For The 23rd Time :( Please Pray He Gets To Come Home Soon...”, Twitter, November–2009. 
“Defense in Case of Woman Accused of Poisoning Son With Salt Faces Uphill Battle, Legal Experts Say”, May–2015. 
“Emojis As Evidence: Recent Developments”, Berkeley Technology Law Journal, 2015. 
Associated Press, “Lacey Spears, Who Killed Son With Salt, Gets Leniency in Sentencing”, New York Times, April–2015. 
Ryan Broussard, “Text Message Helps Detectives Find Suspect in Shooting”, The Advocate, July–2014. 
Katie Zavadski, “Brooklyn Teen Arrested for Emoji-Laden Threats Against NYPD”, New York
Kevin Sullivan, “Three American Teens, Recruited Online, Are Caught Trying to Join the Islamic State”, Washington Post, December–2014. 
Benjamin Weiser, “At Silk Road Trial, Lawyers Fight to Include Evidence They Call Vital: Emoji”, New York Times
Ephrat Livni, “An Israeli Judge Ruled in That Emojis Show Intent for Legal Purposes”, Quartz, May–2017. 
Ido Kenan, “[Emoji] Show Intention to Rent Apartment, Says Judge”, Room 404, 2017. 
Joe Gyan, “Grand Jury Takes No Action in Baton Rouge Murder Case, Suspect to Be Set Free”, The Advocate, October–2014. 
Holly Richmond, “Should Emoji Hold Up in Court?”, Center for Digital Ethics & Policy, 2015. 
Sam Thielman, “Silk Road Operator Ross Ulbricht Sentenced to Life in Prison”, The Guardian, May–2015. 
Jeremy Burge, “Google Updates Gun Emoji”, Emojipedia Blog, 2018. 
Eli Hager, “Is an Emoji Worth 1,000 Words?”, The Marshall Project, 2015. 
“Emojis As Evidence: Recent Developments”, Berkeley Technology Law Journal, 2015. 
Rebecca Berels, “Take Me Seriously: Emoji As Evidence”
Michael Gold, “Does This Look Right to You? HOLLA?D TONNEL”, New York Times, December–2018. 
“History - Holland Tunnel”, The Port Authority of NY & NJ
Jen Maxfield, “Port Authority Moves Holland Tunnel Wreaths After Majority of Commuters Vote for Change”, NBC New York, December–2018. 
In a gratifying coincidence, Bishop’s birthday takes place on July 17 — which is the date of World Emoji Day,16 as founded by Jeremy Burge, the mastermind behind Emojipedia. Burge chose the date in reference to Apple’s calendar emoji (📅), which itself commemorates the launch of Apple’s iCal calendar app.17

As an aside, this series owes an enormous amount to Burge’s site. Short only of certain Unicode minutiae, Emojipedia is the emoji reference source. It’s well worth a few moments of your time to have a look around. 

See Emojipedia for the full list
Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post was one of the few columnists to point out that correlation does not equal causation, and that increased emoji use did not necessarily lead to increased sexy times.34 
Mind you, in 2017 a psychology student named Darcy Raymond studying at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Canada, found that emoji use in dating profiles correlated with a lower perceived intelligence on the part of the profile’s owner. You win some, you lose some.36 

5 comments on “Emoji, part 5: a trending topic

  1. Comment posted by Bill M on

    Thanks for the fine series on the emjoi. I’ve always looked at these as a bit of non-sensical clutter although I have used a few. I never knew how, where, or when they were developed. I thought they started as a play on the ascii generated characters and expanded to living color.

    Nice work and all 5 parts are an interesting read.

    Have a Great 2019!

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi Bill — thanks for the comment. I’m glad you’re enjoying the emoji articles, and there are more to come!

  2. Comment posted by Steve on

    I enjoyed the series very much. However, I will not be using any emojis to indicate how much I enjoyed it. Sorry, I’m just old school. Thanks.

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi Steve — thanks for the comment! No emoji necessary.

  3. Comment posted by Garth on

    The Duke University researchers could only trace back the aubergine as stand-in for “penis” to 2011 because they were looking at the wrong language! They’ve been a phallic symbol in Japan for a long time.

    For all the media hype about emoji being a new “universal language”, this is the only example I can think of of cultural connotations making that sort of jump with an emoji; it’s more common for emoji to pick up entirely different connotations (and sometimes even denotations, in the case of the INFORMATION DESK PERSON being reinterpreted in the West as “sassy hair-flip” instead of “helpfully presenting information”).

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