Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Coming up: the true meanings behind emoji

Recently used emoji from my Snapchat
A significant part of the industrialized world has access to smartphones, and a standard feature with those are hundreds of tiny, colorful icons used to convey thoughts and emotions. I'm talking, of course, about emoji, or 絵文字「えもじ」. A combination of the Japanese kanji for "picture" (e) and "character" (moji), Shigetaka Kurita initially developed them for use by NTT docomo's newest line of mobile phones in the late 1990s. When smartphones--most notably, Apple's iPhone--came to the West a few years later, the Japanese creation was introduced to a wider international audience, and the use of them spread like wildfire.

Much like its predecessor, the colon paired with a left or right parenthesis-- :( or :) --emoji can effectively express ideas and feelings without a single word needed. They're a true modern-day take on the idiom, "A picture is worth a thousand words."

Since Shigetaka's creation was inspired by Japanese manga and pictographs, the meanings behind some of the icons were inevitably lost in translation--or were given new meanings, as I've personally observed. In future blog posts, including one coming soon, I'll be taking a look at the original meanings behind different emoji in the context of Japanese culture, history, and daily life.

So, how about you? Do you use emoji often? What's your favorite?

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