By invitation: The rise of the emoji has left author Jane De Suza rather worried
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By invitation: The rise of the emoji has left author Jane De Suza rather worried

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Nov 26, 2015 17:10 IST
Jane De Suza,HT48Hours,Oxford Dictionaries
Jane De Suza is the author of the Humour Thriller, The Spy who Lost her Head, and the SuperZero series for kids. (Photo: Ananya Sreedharan)

And he said to her, “I less-than-three your colon-closed-bracket.”

Get used to this, warn the Oxford Dictionaries, that last bastion of words, of alphabets strung together to make sense. The word of the year is a non-word. The many thousands of words we have didn’t make the cut. Sorry. Colon P. The winner is a word-less. Oh okay, the word for it is emoji.

A laughing, crying, annoyingly confused, conveniently inarticulate, politically incorrectly yellow fellow with no hair.

An emoji is borrowed from Japanese to denote a character that conveys an emotion. And Oxford Dictionaries declare in their blog post that it was chosen “as the word that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015”. This emoji made up 20 per cent of emojis used in the UK in 2015; 20 per cent of people were smiling-crying. Damn right, our mood was confused.

Settled then. Everyone is colon-closed-bracket. Except, the writer in me says in a stubborn voice that I’m trying hard to silence — that’s not a word. The dictionary itself defines Word (n.): a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or sometimes alone) to form a sentence. So how exactly do I say this emoji in speech? “Thank you for this award, I say, I’m yellowed with blue tears?”

I want to hammer to pulp this grinning-sobbing thing that’s insinuating itself into my tapestry of words, but I can’t. I admit to a niggling sense of awe. For the Oxford Dictionaries, who braved the scepticism of many to name a non-word, who proved themselves timekeepers of the way generations communicate, the beacon of change and not of obstinacy.

Let’s face it, pun intended. These yellow faces are the face of modern communication in a time when no one has time. These emojis are beseechingly easy to fill in the blanks with. An endless forward from an important person? Smiley face with tears. A picture of a friend’s kid eating the dog’s food? Smiley face with tears. You don’t have to compose a reply. You don’t have to worry whether your response is appropriate. Heck, you don’t even have to think. The confused yellow fellow does it all. And if you want to show your boss just how much you appreciate his witticism — add a quartet of yellow fellows. Allweeping through their smiles.

This picture paints a thousand words. In fact, it beat a thousand words to get to the top. It beat ‘refugee’ and ‘dark web’ and even beat the ‘lumbersexual’ who was ‘on fleek’.

It’s a word. It’s a pain. It’s an emoji. It’s been filling in the blanks since 1990. And is it really the way future generations will huddle over coffee and communicate? Will they argue and propose and compose poetry in little yellow faces? Let us pontificate, like we did over the brexit (another word-of-the-year that ate dust) our wexit — the exit of the word.

First Published: Nov 26, 2015 00:00 IST