It seems like we have gone full circle.
Man (and woman) first started communicating in a written form over 30,000 ago with cave paintings, depicting animals and rudimentary images of humans. Graffiti was born.
Fast-forward to around 5000 BC and Egyptian and Chinese cultures communicated (amongst themselves) with pictograms and ideograms that represented an object, activity or concept.
These led to Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese characters. So far, so good. Then around 3200 BC, the good burghers of Mesopotamia thought it wouldn’t be a stupid idea to start writing words, and the rest as they say, is history.
So how do we communicate in 2016? Emojis, that’s how. I read an article the other day that “emoji” is the world’s fastest growing language. <face screaming in fear emoji>
Blame one Shigetaka Kurita. The unassuming Japanese chap produced 176 designs for Japanese mobile phones in 1999. There are now over 1,800 emojis. Possibly 1,790 too many.
From cave paintings to hieroglyphics to emoji — maybe we should have just left out the middle bit, making the world’s greatest writers redundant. In the annals of literary history, we could have just leafed past the work of Homer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Tolstoy, Wilde, Austen, Orwell, Hemmingway, Jackie Collins… ok, maybe not her.
Speaking of classic novels, The United States Library of Congress has accepted its first emoji novel — a reworking of Herman Melville’s classic Moby-Dick. It has been 2016-ised into Emoji Dick with the 212,000+ words converted to emoji. I don’t know whether to be horrified or impressed.
The recent breathless launch of the iPhone 7 included new emojis, “women playing sport”, “woman in a turban”, the gun emoji has apparently become a water pistol, there’s now a “man getting a haircut”, and a “man wearing bunny ears”. As one does, though not simultaneously. There is now basically every type of parent / child / gender / family emoji you can poke a stick at. I assume there is still a stick emoji for the iPhone 7. I’d personally prefer a headphone jack emoji.
Being an iPhone person, I assume other smartphones have their own emoji, including an explosion emoji for a certain Samsung smartphone. <smiley, winking face, poking out tongue emoji>
We survived the rise of mobile phone text-speak, which wasn’t all that GR8, you often had no idea what the hell other person meant. I’d normally just ring them up and get them to explain it. Which kind of defeated the purpose.
It will be interesting to see where all this emoji business ends up. I suppose one day we will be reading online newspapers and magazines written in emoji form, though I suggest that will be when we are in our autonomous flying cars eating our food tablets.
*Apologies to John Lennon for that atrocious headline.
©Steve Williams 2016
*This piece also appeared in The Huffington Post Australia: Emoji All The People