July 17 has been marked as the official World Emoji Day. An odd combination of numbers you might think but it makes logical sense since the date shown on the calendar emoji is July 17th. Why July 17th then? Well, 15 years ago on July 17th, iCal premiered the MacWorld conference.
Go further back 3 years more and you’ll uncover the origins of this popularised form of communication amongst children and youths. In 1999, Shigetaka Kurita, a Japanese telecommunications planner, invented these tiny pictograms inspired by comics and street signs. Contrary to popular belief whereby the term “emoji” is an abbreviation of “emoticon”, “emoji” is actually an amalgamation between the Japanese words for picture (e-) and character (moji).
Source: Google Translate
In our digital milieu, emojis are the currency of affability. Add a simple ? at the end of a seemingly weighty request in words and it saves you from coming off as a demanding ice queen who has no time for your pity parties. Being uncomfortable with blatant, loud worded expressions of affirmation, those who struggle with expressing emotions through lifeless text have found emojis life-saving. Instead of writing “love you!”, include a ❤️ in its place. Perhaps you cringe less adding emojis because you can’t hear that little voice in your head when you read them. Without an aural stimulation, you are less overwhelmed by the shyness that comes with communicating your innermost feelings. That being said, overload on emojis representing extremities such as ?, ?, ?, and you get a mass of hysteria.
Emojis have not only made being expressive for the emotionally dull possible, it provides a gateway for comprehension between people who do not have a common language. It can be considered a form of pictorial pidgin language. Pidgin languages were created to ease communication between Europeans and non-Europeans. They include simplified words, sounds or body language identifiable from different cultures. Instead of Google translating foreign language songs, many people have been using emojis to illustrate the lyrics instead. Albeit not the best way to understand the song thoroughly, one is still able to catch the gist or elements of the song through the visual cues even when they do not speak the language.
Katy Perry’s Firework song lyrics in Emoji
Emojis have also provided a whole new avenue for creative expression. Los Angeles-based artist, rapper and director Yung Jake has gone beyond seeing emojis as individual pictograms. Using them for their colours and tones, he incorporated them into astonishingly realistic portraits of celebrities such as Willow Smith, David Bowie and Gigi Hadid.
Whilst it may seem like emojis is the millennial mode of conversation, it is reminiscent of pictograms from primitive ancient times. It all boils back down to the basics. When we were children, we learnt words through visuals. Scour through any pre-school kid’s learning materials and you’ll find them equipped with plenty of images and colours. Without imagery, how will words convey any message or anything at all? Without words, pictures still speak (a thousand words). Emojis have grown to be such a popular form of language, Oxford Dictionaries named the “face with tears of joy” emoji ? its Word of the Year in 2015. Chevrolet even released an entire media advisory for its Chevrolet Cruze written in emoji.
In the upcoming list of emojis, more emoji options will be added catering to the increased awareness of social justice and equality in our world today. You can forward to having “woman with headscarf”, “bearded person” and many more options in your emoji keyboard. Ringers can also get ready to start spamming their other fellow ringers with the elfin-looking emoji.