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Everything You Want to Know about Emojis

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 5.00.59 PMMany text messages I receive include emojis and almost every time they make me smile. Did the inventor of those digital images or icons create them just for amusement? Why are those pictures called emojis? Can anyone create one?

According to the online Oxford dictionary, emoji, is a Japanese word and ‘e’ refers to picture and ‘moji’ means letter or character. In the late 1990’s, Shigetaka Kurita who worked for a large Japanese mobile communication company invented emojis because he wanted a way to messages and pictures using limited data. Much like my generation used shorthand, emojis were created as a way to send messages in an abbreviated format. Kurita’s idea was simple; one character or image communicated what required several words and more data on electronic devices.

Emojis quickly became a widespread success in Japan. In just one month, Kurita came up with the world’s first 180 images. He first looked at people’s expressions and created faces, including several smiley faces, and he expanded faces, such as adding a drop of water to symbolize nervousness and a light bulb over a head to show ‘flash of an idea.’

Kurita also turned to pictograms, designs displayed to give the public information. He’d served as chair of a committee to make signs for the 1964 Olympics, and those pictograms created for Olympic sports at that time are still used. In addition, pictures indicated directions, restroom facilities, restaurants, emergency exits, and no smoking areas. Faces and pictograms comprised the original palette of emoji choices and have been widely used in Japan since 2000.

Soon iPhones, Androids, and major operating systems displayed emojis and the choices grew by leaps and bounds. Anyone can submit an idea to the Unicode Consortium, a group of volunteers, most from tech firms, who votes on proposed symbols. This non-profit group strives to standardize digital text that can be used with different computer software in hundreds of different languages.

Unicode has released 1,624 emojis, with many more options such as skin tone of a screaming woman. Original emjois are brought to life after thousand-word proposals and multiple voting sessions by the Unicode volunteers. About 200 new images were released last year.

Oxford dictionary’s word of the year for 2015 wasn’t a word. A picture – an emoji. Officially, it’s named Face with Tears of Joy. Laugh until you cry. A bright yellow smiling face with tears. The Oxford website states that it was chosen because it reflects the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of the year.

You either love or hate these digital images. I’m in the love camp. When Daughter sent a text with a picture of one of my Grands covered lines made by a green permanent marker, and Daughter’s only comments were a Wide-eyed Face and a Face with Tears of Joy, I knew Daughter restrained her anger and saw the humor her child’s mess. When I agree with the restaurant Husband suggests, a simple thumb up tells him I like his idea. A happy birthday message to Grands (on their parents’ phones) includes a birthday cake and sparklers.

Emojis aren’t going away and I’m glad. But if you disapprove or are skeptical of using these images, one will be released soon just for you: A Face with One Eyebrow Raised.

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