29 Nov 2015 17:14 IST

Read between the emojis

With a smiley being Word of the Year, take a look at what some of these oft used emojis mean

So the Oxford English dictionary has named another picture-related entity as Word of The Year. Remember ‘selfie’ was the WOTY in 2013? Well, this time, it’s not even a word: it’s the emoji itself.

I have been using it all along to represent my unbridled mirth at funny statements and catty remarks. Only, I now find it’s officially called ‘Face With Tears of Joy’, which was certainly not my emotion. It wasn’t that sort of grateful-emotional response, however uplifting the stimuli. In any case, I don’t think the recipients of my emoji questioned the choice or even stopped to think about it.

Do you know them?

This brought me to a question: How well do you know your emojis? As I found out, I had a lot to learn. Another emoji I used to convey uncontrollable laughter turned out to be a ‘disappointed but relieved face’ emoji. If the droplet of water springs from the corner of the eye, it’s ‘tears of laughter’; if it emanates a little lower, it’s a bead of sweat, and symbolic of stress. Who knew? Then there’s the emoticon I often use to snort in ridicule. The face has a most unpleasant expression and what looks like two white jets of steam coming out of its non-existent nostrils.

Now I find that it’s a ‘face with a look of triumph’. But Emojipedia (yes, there is one, as I just discovered) tells me it’s ‘a face with air coming out of its nose, in a proud yet disdainful way. Commonly used for representing frustration at a situation,...’ So maybe I got some of it right. The ‘face throwing a kiss’ actually looks like it walked into a wall and got one side of its face flattened and its mouth gashed, while ‘the persevering face’ looks downright sad.

Who is the better of them all

The Great Emoji vs Language Debate is on, but then, it’s said a picture is worth a thousand words. Why be vocal, when an emoticon will do? Recently, when the foundation stone ceremony for Amaravati, the new capital of Andhra Pradesh, was held, many from the State hoped the Prime Minister who attended would announce a financial package to help with the construction. He did not. An update on social media expressed disappointment, accompanied by two emojis — a cow and a commode. That’s all we got, the friend who had posted it was saying. (I checked with him, and he confirmed it.)

I like the food and travel emojis. I’m always looking for a reason to use them. However, what I thought was an emoji for water or rain turned out to be sweat. The rest of the emojis on my phone are a blur. There are road signs, zodiac signs, religious icons and mobile phone signs. There are the politically correct emojis with various skin tone, gender and faith affiliations. There are some I can’t even begin to describe. No wonder many of them don’t lend themselves to easy use!

The smileys — and the weepies, I suppose you can call them — do. They are bright and illuminating, in more ways than one, for emphasis or clarification. When you’re texting and chatting on phones and computers, they provide the intent and intonation that’s present in face-to-face communication — and let the others know you mean something only as a joke, for instance. With some other emoji, I’d rather spell out what I want to say than send an obscure icon and have the recipient at the other end wonder what it means, or worse, get the wrong idea.

Look up lists of the least used emoji and you may not even find some of them on your phone. Mashable mentions a ‘left luggage’ icon that I cannot find on my phone. Not that I would have understood it. The next is a ‘vibration mode’ icon that does exist — a heart encasing a mobile phone. Even had I noticed it, I would have thought it meant ‘I love my phone’.

Now, as I’ve been thinking of emojis ever since the OED made its announcement, I find myself using them more often. I just noticed that the praying hands emoji I used this afternoon translates into what looks like a palm tree on a desktop. Some just appear as tiny boxes. Not a great help, when you want to say just the right thing. But the words or emojis debate is one that will endure and only expand, with the recent rise to fame.

Meanwhile, tell me, what new emojis would you like to see? I want one for ROFL. And WTH.