A new language. 🙀

When looking at the written language and how it has transformed in the transition to text messages and online chat we see that abbreviations and the condensation of words occur. These changes are carried onward to the next form of writing.


I remember the time used k instead of OK in online chat. This is probably the saddest example of my laziness in my teens. When did typing two letters become such a hassle that one had to abbreviate. Nevertheless, that laziness carried on and made me probably the kind of person I am today; wanting to reduce effort to get to my intermediate goal.

When the iPhone introduced keyboard shortcuts I even went as far and put in a shortcut that replaced a typed k with a 👍.

I love emojis. They bring conversations to life. They bridge those moments where your conversation partner might miss-interpret the sentence you wrote due to the lack on tonality and body language present. But there are moments when someone replies with a single emoji, then I am left there pondering about the meaning of a 😁.

The wired article titled Emoji–Trendy Slang or a Whole New Language? dives into topic. They put it perfectly:

Emoji have the same limitations. When was the last time you used emoji to discuss a past or future event when it wasn’t in response to a question?

Emoji are limited, but not only by the missing of linking words (I believe they can be omitted in conversations, but more on that later). Emoji originated in Japan and carry the culture from there within them. I bet I have barely used characters such as 💮 or 🎏.

But beware of the thought: It is simple just add cultural emoji for Germany, the country I am from. Where is that Oktoberfest emoji?

This is the wrong approach, I say. We see that with the introduction of skin tone modifiers the whole emoji world just became a stupid ton more complex in its use and its practical application. I understand and am for the reduction of skin tone differentiation, but this can simply happen by changing the appearance to the yellow base version of the emoji.

I wonder how, if they ever, android devices will adjust to skin tone modifiers – I hope they just ignore it. The emoji used on android are mostly gender and skin tone unspecific.

Image courtesy of emojipedia.org

Lastly we have the different looking emoji on different platforms. I take the famous praying hands emoji, which was covered in media due to the misuse as “high-five”-emoji. On Android this would never happen, because I used it as “blowing my nose”-emoji … and thus I was still wrong.

Traget group specific emoji interpretation and definition

We see that the one difference in interpretation is the platform one is using. Also the background the person comes from, and not to forget the combination of emojis used as contextual unit.

Emoji will not be universal any time soon. They will not be able to build full sentences. They can build a contextual unit such as: 🏃🏻🇩🇪️✈️🇺🇸

You probably guessed that I hurry to my flight from Germany to the United States of America — but you had to guess.

But this is as far as this new language can go — and as it is still bound to target group specific definitions we can loosely refer to it as emoji slang.

Where do we go from here?

Well that is what will get really interesting. As the usage of picking emoji manifests in scrolling through emoji palettes and picking the right one, re-opening the keyboard, moving to a different part of the palette picking the next one, this usage does not let us gain speed in typing. It is actually rather cumbersome.

Solution one:

Intelligent emoji suggestions, based on the text context as venmo does it to autocomplete emoji to your transactions.

Solution two:

Keyboard shortcuts. take my k = 👍 for example.

Solution three:

Natural language processing where machine learning is applied to process sentences written and thus read out tone, emotion and eventually sarcasm. But that raises the question whether this much effort is worth using simply to emotionalise conversations artificially – I doubt it.

Right now it feels best to leave it as it is but improve the way we input emoji, thus enabling users to use emojis more often and more easily in the hope to eventually reach the point on its own where certain slang definitions of emoji units arise.

An afterthought

With twitter recently changing the ⭐️ action to a ❤️ action a thought comes to mind. Since when did ❤ mean liking something. Linking something is so influenced by Facebook and thus linked to the 👍.

I❤️NY means I love New York doesn’t it?

So we have another conflict. And when it comes to love and like the gap is quite large in my mind.

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