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The Short Version: In the modern dating world — where courtship takes place screen-to-screen as much as face-to-face — people all around the world have turned to the emoji to add dimension to their conversations. However, with over 1,300 emojis from which to choose, it can be hard to know when to use what, and how. That’s where Emojipedia saves the day. The preeminent database of all things emoji, Emojipedia has every emoji — and everything you could possibly want to know about each one.
While pictographs are often associated with ancient cultures — the hieroglyphs of Egypt often come to mind — they have never truly fallen out of use. Pictographs pervade our everyday culture, showing up on menus and traffic signs, bathroom plaques and computer screens. In a world containing more than 7,000 different languages, pictographs can be a nearly universal form of communication.
The latest in the line of graphical languages is the digital emoji — a library of characters designed to integrate into text, augmenting every typed language with a universal set of pictographs. In an era where most communication has been relegated to text messages and emails, the ability to apply an extra layer of tone or meaning can be extremely helpful — especially in the online dating world, where so much of the courtship can take place on a screen.
“Emojis help replace all the body language and verbal cues,” explained Jeremy Burge, Creator of the ultimate emoji reference site, Emojipedia. “Without emojis, you’re quite limited to be expressive, to be amusing.”
Jeremy had a great vantage point from which to observe the emoji evolution, as Emojipedia not only provides explanations of current emojis but also documents the ever-changing uses and newest additions. “The emoji fills in so many gaps — it’s changed what we do.”
With people all over the world using emojis to add clarity — or just personality — to their text-based discussions, there’s no doubt that emojis are becoming a real part of the conversation — ? — when it comes to digital communication. The official Unicode emoji library contains over 1,300 unique characters, and while a great many of the characters are simple illustrations of nouns — car, mountain, candle — there is more to each emoji than meets the screen.
“Each emoji has a story,” said Jeremy, describing how the complexities of the emoji world inspired him to build Emojipedia in the first place. Each emoji starts with a Unicode proposal, and a simple name — “hot beverage”, “camera with flash”. Then, it’s an approximately two-year journey to get from proposal to approval; it can be even longer before the character makes it into a software update. “There’s this bureaucracy to it — it doesn’t just appear.”
The emoji’s story isn’t over once it hits phones; if anything, it has just begun. It’s at this stage, as it becomes a part of popular culture, that the simple noun becomes so much more — adopting meanings beyond their simple definitions. “We start to get this group meaning for an emoji,” said Jeremy, “not just ‘what does this mean to my friends?’ but also, ‘what does this mean to the wider world?’ Emojis mean something different to everybody.”
With so many characters and so many different ways to interpret them, it can be easy to make an emoji misstep. You may just be inviting your beau to the farmer’s market, but the “aubergine” (eggplant) emoji has taken on a very different social meaning.
The easiest way to prevent anything from being lost — or added — in translation is simply to check Emojipedia before you send. More than just definitions, Emojipedia gives you popular culture uses, as well. “It’s this ridiculously in-depth view of every emoji, and everything that could be useful to know about it,” described Jeremy.
While you should always make sure you know what you — and your emojis — are saying, you don’t need to assume that every icon is a potential hazard. Here are a few emojis you can use to spice up the emails and texts in your dating life, risk-free.
Its indecipherable Mona-Lisa smile takes on a touch of whimsy when inverted, the combination giving this emoji great versatility.
Thought of as silly or sometimes sarcastic, the upside-down face is inherently ambiguous. “It can mean literally anything,” said Jeremy, describing the emoji as perfect for a fledgling relationship. “You don’t want to say anything wrong, so you throw that in there as sort of a, `Did I mean that, was I joking?` It’s up to the recipient to decide.”
The wink had been around the digital world for years as an emoticon before becoming an official emoji in 2010.
The wink emoji can be a fun, flirty way to show your comment was intended to be a joke (you don’t actually want pizza for every meal). It’s also the perfect response to indicate that you understood their double entendre — and approved.
While its official name is “face throwing a kiss,” this emoji is often colloquially referenced as blowing a kiss.
Another classic, the kissing face is great for more established couples. It’s a romantic way to tell your partner that he or she is on your mind, without making them feel obligated to immediately respond. “I use that one non-stop with my fiancé,” admitted Jeremy.
Present on every phone and computer we encounter, emojis have become ingrained in the daily lives of most people using digital communication. Going far beyond simple ornamentation, the emoji is definitely a true phenomenon. Showing the signs of burgeoning into a language all its own, the emoji truly demonstrates the continuing power of the pictograph on the human experience.
The emoji even has its own day: July 17, World Emoji Day. Much like Emojipedia itself, the holiday was started by Jeremy because he simply felt it needed to exist. “The emoji has become such a big part of what everyone does. Why shouldn’t it have a day?” Jeremy chose the date based on Apple’s version of the “calendar” emoji, and emoji fanatics everywhere celebrated the first World Emoji Day in 2014.
Like the emoji it celebrates, the holiday has quickly become a world-wide event. This year’s World Emoji Day included everything from special product launches — Emoji Pepsi anyone? — to special emoji exhibits, and, of course, tons of parties. This year also marked the first annual World Emoji Awards, hosted by Emojipedia.
With 15 million visitors every month and counting, Emojipedia is proof that the emoji is no passing trend. The library of emoji characters continues to expand, with more gender equality coming in the future. “It’s fun to have some variety,” said Jeremy, adding, “I look forward to using the sassy man emoji!”