What is common between Indian WhatsApp uncles and Kim Kardashian? It’s the use of emojis. From namaste to poop.
US reality star Kim Kardashian threw her daughter North West a poop emoji-themed birthday party recently. And this doesn’t sound nearly as weird as it should. This is because at this point, everyone has a relationship (love or hate) with the annoyingly adorable poop emoji.
This is the inherent polysemy of emojis, which are fast becoming an indispensable part of human communication. A smiley face emoji can relay a simple smile, a passive aggressive message, be patronising, ironic, convey anger or even refer to a serial killer. The sheer range is truly astounding.
Today, emojis start a conversation, can politely end one, offer a reprieve, help lazy people converse, make emoting a lot easier and most importantly, convey entire thoughts through one or more icons.
Confused how your message will sound to someone who can’t see your face or hear your tone? Send an emoji. Even on Facebook, the ‘like’ button was never going to be enough, so now you can click the emoji you are feeling after seeing a post — sad, ‘care’, heart or ‘haha’.
In effect, emojis have a similar function to what vocal fry (speaking in a grating and deliberately lower register) has in speaking, or perhaps the additional communication that gesticulating with your hands conveys. It has a distinctive character and is also admittedly considered annoying by a lot of people. But also, it’s indispensable now and is going nowhere . Even though a Bangladeshi cleric has called ‘haha’ emoji haram when used to mock people and declared a fatwa against it this week. There’s also a debate about whether emojis should be admitted as court evidence (a man in France who was convicted for threatening his girlfriend had sent the gun emoji).
Read more: The Print