Emojis have been a staple of internet discourse for decades now. The earliest proto-emojis were just colons and parentheses that people added to statements to vaguely resemble sideways smiley faces. Arguably this grew out of the fact that text offers very few context clues when it comes to mood or sarcasm. The emotion behind the text was not always easy to convey, hence the emoji. And look at us now! There are poop emoji toys, and Sir Patrick Stewart voiced said emoji in a movie that cost $50 million to make.
Emojis have evolved far beyond their original intent, and that means they sometimes come with consequences no one could have ever anticipated.
10. Emojis Cost a Couple $2,200 Over a Rental Dispute
An emoji is more than just an image to let people know you’re laughing whilst crying or that you like eggplants. They convey meaning and that means they have a value in certain kinds of discourse. Not just meaningful value but actual, monetary value if at least one European court is to be believed.
Back in 2017, a landlord and a pair of potential tenants were discussing a rental deal in Israel. The potential renter texted expressing interest several times and told the landlord that they “just needed to discuss the details.” The landlord then took down the ad for the property. What happened next? The potential renters stopped texting, and the landlord sued. His argument was that the texters had convinced him they were interested thanks to the emojis they included in their text. There were at least a half dozen emojis peppered into the exchange including a bottle of champagne, a smiley face, and a dancing figure.
Even though no contract had been signed and no formal declaration of agreement made, the landlord felt the deal was in the bag. More baffling was that the judge in the case agreed, awarding the landlord $2,200. Why? It conveyed great optimism and convinced the landlord that he would have a deal. The official argument was one of reliance, that says a party may act in reliance on another’s implied intent.
9. The Crown Emoji Represents Pimping/Human Trafficking
Every emoji is arguably made with an intention. Most are very easy to figure out. The smiley emoji conveys happiness. The crying one sadness. A taco emoji means a taco. It’s not complicated. At least not until it is complicated. Much like words can take on new meanings with context, emojis do as well. No doubt you’ve seen some dubious use of various fruit and vegetable emojis in the past, used in a somewhat illicit context here and there. The DEA even has a whole list of emojis meant to indicate illegal drugs which we’ll touch on later. But things can get even darker, and have turned up in criminal cases before judges.
The crown emoji, which may seem innocuous to most of us. In court documents, prosecutors have cited the crown emoji as being a symbol of the sex trade and exploitation. In specific, it is used to denote a pimp.
Experts in sex trafficking have testified that the crown means a man is identifying himself as the king or pimp of someone in their control. There is an entire language of emojis that law enforcement say is tied to sex trafficking and sex work but, like all language, clearly has innocuous and innocent meaning as well for those who have no idea of the illicit side of things.
8. Jordan Peele Quit Acting Because of The Emoji Movie
Jordan Peele has stood out as one of the best screenwriters and directors of the last decade. He’s won numerous awards, achieved critical and commercial acclaim and continues to wow audiences with his movies that push boundaries and provide a stunning visual experience as well as engaging stories. And to think he started as an actor in goofy comedies including the exceptional Key and Peele sketch comedy show.
Peele has gone on records saying that he turned his back on acting for a very unexpected reason. He was driven to quit acting by the Emoji Movie.
According to Peele, he was offered the role of the Poop Emoji in the film. And that fact that he was considering it created a kind of existential crisis. He was clearly distraught that his career was at that point but he told his manager he’d sleep on it. The next day he asked what the studio would pay and learned that he’d already lost the role to Patrick Stewart. He quit acting right then to focus solely on writing and directing.
7. An Emoji was the Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year in 2015
Arguably fewer things are more lauded as being experts on language and the written word than whoever the mysterious people behind the world’s most well-known dictionaries are. Whether that’s Funk and Wagnall or the folks at Oxford, a “dictionary person” is someone who arguably knows their stuff, at least as far as words go. So it was a real coup for emojis when an emoji was declared the Word of the Year by the Oxford Dictionary back in 2015.
The “face with tears of joy” emoji, or “crying and laughing” depending on your point of view, was chosen to sum up the world in 2015. It represented 20% of all emoji use in that year, making it the breakaway champ by a long shot, far ahead of the second place emoji which only garnered 9% of all emoji use.
The president of Oxford Dictionaries was quoted as saying “emoji are becoming an increasingly rich form of communication, one that transcends linguistic borders.” So whether you make much use of them or not, the dictionary people are on board and they’ve been linguistically legitimized.
6. Moby-Dick Has Been Rewritten in Emojis
Moby-Dick has been a mainstay of high school English classes for years now. It’s safe to say it’s one of the most well known and well-read books in history. It’s been translated into over 22 different languages for people around the world to enjoy. And alongside those more easily recognizable languages is one translation that uses no words at all. There’s an emoji version of the book and it’s even held in the Library of Congress.
“Emoji Dick,” as it’s called, was translated by a man named Fred Benenson. He was one of the early users of emojis back before they became so ubiquitous. Along with friends, he’d have whole conversations in emoji and the idea came up in conversation one day about whether someone could write an emoji novel. Benenson tweaked the idea to be a translation rather than an original work and opted for Moby-Dick, being both well known and in the public domain.
He crowd-sourced some of the work and the result is a word for word (more or less) translation from English to Emoji.
5. The DEA Produced An Emoji Drug Decoder
Remember in the early 2000s when the media was very much trying to terrify parents by exposing them to the secret, dangerous world of their children’s texting? Articles were published in major media outlets letting parents know the insidious true meaning of their teens’ texts as it related to drug use and sex. Turns out everything a kid was saying was potentially life threatening. But then that died down, and we all moved on. Until the same thing happened but this time with emojis.
The DEA, that’s the Drug Enforcement Administration, actually published an “emoji drug decoder” guide so parents could learn what their child must clearly be addicted to based on emoji usage. The surprised face means marijuana! An emoji with its tongue out means cocaine!
The decoder was published in 2021. Its intent was to show people how emojis can be used in the world of illegal drug activity. No word on how many emoji dealers the DEA has stopped but they do claim to have linked the two so who knows?
4. Australia Allows Certain Emojis on Car License Plates
In Australia, 2019 was the year emojis became a legal way to identify people, at least in certain circumstances. Emojis became a permissible item to have on your car’s license plate. Like any vanity plate, there was an extra charge involved with getting an emoji. And, as you might expect, they kept a tight rein on what emojis you were allowed to use in case anyone was planning on trying to get something with illicit meaning put through. Only five of the more positive emotion smiley faces were allowed.
Also worth noting is that the emoji isn’t technically part of the actual plate. Which means if you have one and you lead the police on a high speed chase, they’d just call in the letter and number part, they wouldn’t have to put out an APB for the sunglasses emoji.
3. Emojis Make People Eat Healthier
As we’ve seen, emojis have long since made the leap from screens into the “real world.” There are movies, games and toys. But there are also signs and prompts to make you a better person and it seems like they’re working. In this case, emojis can make you eat healthier.
Research in 2016 showed that if you use emojis and arrows to point people towards healthier food choices in the grocery store, they will shop accordingly. And this doesn’t mean buying all the junk they normally buy plus fruits and veggies, they actually substituted healthy food for unhealthy choices.
In another study, children ages 5 to 11 were shown a series of happy emojis associated with healthy food options and unhappy emojis with unhealthy food choices. Half were then set loose in a mock grocery store to choose four things they wanted. Healthy choices were “emolabeled” with smiley faces and unhealthy ones had frowns. Half went down an aisle with no such labeling.
The result was that 83% of kids chose at least one healthy option. A similar experiment in a Cincinnati school cafeteria resulted in the vegetable consumption going up by 62%, all thanks to emoji labels.
2. Emoji Users Tend to Have More Sex
Does your emoji use say anything profound about you as a person? Can people glean information about you based on whether you use them or not? Research has suggested there’s one assumption you can make about people who uses emojis and that’s related to their sex life. Emoji users have more sex than non-emoji users.
In a survey of over 5,000 conducted by Match.com, they discovered that 54% of singles who used emojis had sex the previous year compared to 31% of those that didn’t.
An additional study done by the Kinsey Institute showed that the more often you use emojis the more likely you are to go on dates and the more sex you’re likely to have. This was backed up by another smaller study which brings us up to three separate studies that all show the same result. Do with that what you will.
1. Emojis Have Been Legally Considered Terroristic Threats
Obviously emojis convey emotion and meaning but what about negative meanings and emotions? And now just a red angry face. What about actual threats? Legally speaking, that is entirely plausible and emojis have even been labeled terroristic threats in the past.
In 2017, a 17-year-old posted two emojis on Facebook as a status update. One was a police officer, and the other was a gun. The gun emoji was pointing at the police officer emoji. There was no text-based threat included that was directed at police, though he did type some vaguely menacing words that were generally threatening. The implication against police came from the emojis themselves.
New York police charged him with making terroristic threats, a charge that carried a potential seven-year sentence. That specific charge was later dropped. This was after a grand jury decided not to indict, not because the police thought better of it.