It’s one of the largest events of the year and is attracting a buzz all over the globe.  From television screens to print, social media to online news there’s no media outlet that hasn’t covered it.  The FIFA World Cup you ask?  No. The Commonwealth Games? Not quite.

Mark the month of July in your diaries everyone because at long last a new collection of emojis is being released.  Two hundred and fifty to be precise.

Detect a slightly cynical tone?  Don’t get me wrong, I love emojis as much as the next person but I’ve got to admit that I was surprised at the extensive level of press coverage the story generated.  From The Independent to The Guardian, the BBC to the Telegraph, headlines such as: “A middle finger emoji is coming to a phone near you” ran rampant.

So what’s all the fuss about these strange little symbols?  The icons were first introduced by mobile networks in Japan (the word emoji means “picture character” in Japanese) and gained worldwide popularity in 2010 for their fun and quirky nature.

Science and technology reporter for The Independent, James Vincent, explains how they work: “Essentially what emoji you can use depends on which are chosen by Unicode – an industry standards body that makes sure text is rendered and read by computer software in a consistent manner. Like most standard bodies they’re low-key but a big deal: every time you type something on a laptop, tablet or smartphone, your device will be using Unicode’s ‘dictionary’ to match what you and other people see.”

And it seems that people are more than a little excited at the prospect of being able to send their friends an icon of a ‘man in a business suit levitating’, the ‘Vulcan salute from Star Trek’ and of course ‘reversed hand with middle finger extended’.

In today’s social media landscape the saying ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ couldn’t be more accurate.  But with an estimated two-thirds of teachers allowing children to get away with text message speak and slang in class, let’s not forget that a smiling emoji can’t replace a good old fashioned hug or actually saying those two little words: “thank you”.


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