Beware the eggplant, and other tips from USA TODAY tech columnist Jennifer Jolly.
If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then it’s no wonder Emoji mishaps can be so devastating these days.
Using a thumbs-up versus a heart during the early days of dating can crush a budding romance. Sending an emoji from an iPhone to someone with an Android phone can turn the dancing girls emoji into a playboy bunny (Google’s Woman With Bunny Ears). And how would you like to be the Minister for Foreign Affairs who’s in hot water for using the “pouting face” emoji when describing Russian President Vladimir Putin?
Here’s a quick down and not-so-dirty guide to using the wired world’s latest Emoji-lingo without getting egg(plant) all over your face:
Rule #1: Beware the eggplant.
The first rule of emoji is simple: If a symbol looks like a particular part of the human body, that’s exactly what it is. Yep, all around the world the eggplant emoji has nothing to do with the hot new vegan recipe. Instead, it’s arguably the most sexually suggestive of all the symbols. Or, as late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel said, the “eggplant emojis are the modern equivalent of spelling BOOBS out upside down on your calculator.”
Unless you’re sexting, it’s best to avoid the eggplant all together, along with anything else that might have a dirty double entendre such as the taco, hotdog, joystick, peach, cherries, and the splashing sweat symbol, to name a few.
Rule #2: Other emoji you’re using wrong.
There are a whole bunch of much less sordid symbols we’ve all been using wrong too. Like the smiling poo. This “funny” crowd favorite is actually supposed to mean “luck.” Emoji’s are derived from Japanese culture, and apparently a whole lot of meaning is lost in translation. I plan to keep using many of these the same way I always have, but it’s fun to see just how far afield our interpretations have gone:
💁 This woman holding a hand up says, “look how fabulous I am,” to me. It’s really an information desk person and is supposed to say, “how may I help you?”
👐 The open hands sign looks like, “stop,” to me. Wrong again. It’s supposed to say, “openess or here’s a hug.”
🙇 This little guy who looks like his brain is about to explode? It’s a bow, a sign of respect.
💫 The swoopy star? Means “dizziness.”
🙆 And the woman I’ve used several times to say, “you’re blowing my mind,” is really supposed to be saying, “okay.”
Rule #3: Emoji’s are okay for work. Sometimes.
In a recent survey, one-in-four Americans said that they’ve used emoji in digital communication at work. This is tricky ground, as Hillary Clinton now knows all too well, you need to be careful when, where, and how you use emoji’s at work. Emoji typically add to ideas rather than replace words. When you’re emailing, dm’ing, or texting with a colleague, use emoji’s at the end of a written sentence to provide color or emotion. Don’t try to soften a blow or snarky comment with a smiley face (😃). That’s the emoji-equivalent of “no offense,” which as we know, is pretty much always offensive. Steer clear of using emoji’s with your boss or potential new client, unless they do it first. Never use an emoji if you don’t know what it means. (Note #1.)
Rule #4: Learn proper emoji sentence structure.
For the most part, emojis act like punctuation, providing cues about how to understand the words that came before them. I think of them as next generation exclamation points — a sort of exclamation point 2.0. To that end, emoji’s should typically come at the end of a sentence or thought. They also need to respect linear time and action when you’re using them to tell an entire story. For instance, in sets of two or three emoji, the stance comes before actions or other signals. Here are a few examples from Emojisaurus, a website that provides emoji translations of popular phrases:
Going from left to right, we get the phrase, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”
Here’s another one you’ve heard a million times, in emoji form: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
Did you know you could Rickroll someone using nothing but emojis? “Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down … ”
Rule #5: The Emojipedia. Yes, There is such as thing.
Finally, when in doubt, consult the almighty Emojipedia. It’s the closest thing to an official emoji reference guide we have to date. You can look up names, get a sneak peek at emojis that may appear on your phone in the future, and see what your favorite smileys look like on other devices. Just be careful. Looking up the official name of Face With Look Of Triumph might finally explain the steam flying out of that guy’s nose, but it doesn’t mean the person you send it to will have any idea what you’re talking about. After all, if you had to look it up, what’s the chance your friends will know what it means?
Have you ever used an emoji the wrong way? I love commiserating, so please share your funny stories in the comments section.
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