You could say it started with the simple, round smiling yellow face back in the historic happy hippy days of the 1960s. It’s when Yellow Smiley was first created. Love, peace, smiles and all that jazz.
For decades, Smiley was just Smiley – the iconic symbol that communicated happiness in any and every language. The word emoji hadn’t even been invented yet.
But the future had much in store for Smiley as he (or maybe she) made the leap from hippy culture hard copy to modern day digital. This happened in the late 1990s in Japan, where the first emojis originated on cell phones. The simple Yellow Smiley exploded into myriad round yellow faces – from happy to sad to winky-face and everything in between.
Along with emotional emojis came objects, ideas, the weather and so on. There are infinite possibilities for communicating about food, travel, animals, plants and anything else an emoji artist can create. If you can draw it, you can emoji it.
The Japanese couldn’t keep their emoji ingenuity a secret for very long. A decade or so after their inception, Smiley and his friends made the digital trip over to the U.S. (and other countries worldwide), and pretty soon everyone was using the face with tears of joy to communicate how they felt about being able to express their feelings with a single click of the keyboard.
It might feel like emojis have been around for a long time (feels that way to me). But here in the U.S., it’s been less than a decade.
The first cell phones with readily available emoji capabilities were released in the U.S. in 2011. According to Emojipedia (which actually exists), there are currently 1,851 emoji characters, with another 69 set to be released in June of this year.
We currently have lots of yellow emoto-faces to choose from, including smiling, dizzy, worried and confounded. There’s also smiling cat face, people with bunny ears partying (so many uses for that one), thumbs up, thumbs down, various colored hearts, camels (one and two humps), blood type emojis, zodiac emojis, fire, water, beer, wine, pizza, French fries, toilet, bomb and pile of poo – just to name a few.
Emojis continue to evolve. They became racially diverse in 2015. Gendered emojis hit our screens in 2016. Some of the 69 scheduled for release in June include vomiting, a brain, zombie (male and female), breastfeeding (female), broccoli (unisex) and a giraffe (a little past April’s due date, unfortunately).
If my facts are correct, it took until 2017 to get a breastfeeding emoji, but we’ve had access to the smiling pile of poo as well as two options for camel for years. Anyone besides me see some irony there?
Emojis aren’t just multiplying. They are diversifying – beyond text messages and social media – into the courtroom, boardroom, big screen, dictionary and even the doctor’s office.
Legal experts are discussing whether emojis should be admissible in court. A movie and stage play – starring emojis – have been made or are in the works. Oxford Dictionaries named the face with tears of joy emoji as its 2015 word of the year.
At least one online service helps potential patients find doctors and schedule appointments using emojis instead of words to describe their medical conditions. For instance, combining the cat emoji with a sneezing smiley face indicates allergies. A heart combined with fire equals – you guessed it – heartburn. So. Very. Clever.
Which obviously brings us back to the pile of poo. The possibilities for diagnosis are practically endless. I’d give that a smiling thumb’s up – or in emoji-speak: J C
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.