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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.


Do For All

Pioneer-Photo-Albums-Embroidered-200-photo-Live-Laugh-Love-Frame-Album-P13883104Nine years ago when I first became a grandmother, I bought a small burgundy photo album to hold a few pictures of my Grand.  And I told David’s mother, my daughter,  “I’m making David his own album.  A few pictures of him each month. When he’s older, he might like it. ”

Daughter nodded, smiled, and said, “You know, Mom, what you do for one grandchild, you’ll want to do for all.”  Why, oh why, didn’t I take that as discouragement and pretend I’d never thought about this idea?  When Grand # 2 was born, I put her pictures in a green album.  Grand #3’s pictures are in a bright red album.  Now, I have six Grands and six different colored albums.  I never imagined that stuffing a few photos behind plastic sleeves would mushroom into a major under taking.  And sometimes I wish for the old days when a roll of film was developed at the drugstore and I simply got all the pictures developed, good and bad ones.

Now I spend hours, choosing photos and cropping and enhancing and using all those other edit options.  I’m overwhelmed as I decide which pictures to have printed for each Grand.  My older Grands, ages 5, 7 and 9, have taught me a thing or two.  They flip right past those cute baby poses of themselves lying on their stomachs or looking at the camera.  My Grands like the story photos, the action shots.

I order pictures – many, many pictures.  Sometimes six of the same photo.  Everyone needs a family Christmas picture.  And then I have a huge stack of pictures, waiting to be sorted and labeled, that lay on my desk, sometimes for weeks.  I’m determined to label because I have two generations of pictures with no dates or names.

Finally, I have six stacks of pictures and I get out the albums, turn on a little lite jazz music and put all those pictures in plastic sleeves.  And then I make sure my Grands see their new pictures the next time they visit.

They look at their albums and say, “Gran, why is Pop pushing me in a wheel barrow?  Is that at our house?”  It was at his house. The day Pop set up a sand pile in his yard.  That picture was made six years ago.  Why had my Grand never noticed it before?

“Is this when Daddy built that big sand castle at the beach last year?  It looks like I’m pouring water on it.”  He did.  And this Grand poured water as fast as her daddy could build.

“Look at me!  I’ve got chocolate all over my face!”  It was her 4th birthday.

“That’s the day I learned to jump off the diving board!  Did you know I was really scared?”

During those few minutes as my Grands turn pages and talk, I’m convinced that these six albums are worth the time and effort.  I promise myself that the next time I won’t fret and spend so much time choosing and editing.  Even if there’s just one picture for each Grand for each month, that’s enough.

Last week my nine-year-old Grand asked, “Gran, are you going to make a picture album for the new baby too?”  I can’t stop now.  Daughter was right.  What I did for one, I want to do for all.