But while it’s easy to see this idea as simply silly — or as the next phase in the inevitable decline of language as we hurtle towards our dystopian future — what’s most intriguing about it is exactly the opposite. Far from oversimplifying communication, it promises to transform every exchange into a puzzle waiting to be solved.
Each image has been imbued with some symbolism that needs to be teased out. Is that picture of an anthropomorphic poop meant to be a literal poop or a conceptual one? Does it combine with the flamenco dancer next to it to suggest the idea of bad dancing? Or with the earth to make a statement about how humanity’s unwillingness to take strong enough steps to protect the environment could be leading us into a climate crisis of catastrophic proportions?
Writing and reading in emoji becomes a complicated dance between creator and consumer, each side attempting to understand how the other’s brain might imagine the world and then impose that interpretation onto a finite set of tiny images.
That’s probably too much credit to give an app that was created largely as a joke. But here’s the point: Talking only in emoji is hard. Reading only in emoji is even harder.
So in the interest of practice (and definitely not because I was procrastinating at work), I’ve crafted some fairly recognizable phrases using only emoji. Take your best guess – can you figure out what they say?
Genre: TV taglines you might say wistfully while staring into the distance
(Hint: It’s not, as colleague Adam Kushner guessed, “Yes, I agree we should wait until beach season and take the whole family, plus ma’s corpse.”)
Genre: Phrases you might gasp at a girlfriend in horror (mock or otherwise)
Genre: Music lyrics I only sort of understand but still might throw into conversation to sound cool
Genre: ’80s movie quotes that make you feel ready to take on the world
Genre: Phrases we all probably used seriously at some point, but which now may only be employed sarcastically
Genre: Art-themed phrases that make you sound pretty deep
Genre: “SNL” lines that you might say to someone when you’re annoyed, and because it’s from a TV show you can totally get away with it and they can’t even get mad
Genre: Movie phrases you might quote in a moment of turn-of-the-millenium nostalgia
Genre: Famous lines from literature that, it turns out, have a lot of real world applications
Genre: Played out Internet pranks (that, admit it, you still sometimes laugh at)
Challenge genre: Pseudo-rap breakdowns from life-changing pop songs
Want the answers? Here you go.