(Unicode)

Step aside words with letters, because for the first time an emoji is the the word of the year.

The heart-shaped emoji (or ❤, if you want to get more technical), is the top word in Global Language Monitor’s annual survey of English words, phrases and names. The Texas-based media company develops the lists by analyzing the frequency and usage of English words across the Internet, including sources such as Twitter, as well as the top 250,000 print and electronic new media sources.

❤’s topping the list marks the first time a graphic symbol has held highest ranking on GLM’s annual survey. In 2013, “404” was the top word,  and “Apocalypse” and “Armageddon” were the top words in 2012.

Some will surely lament ❤ being the top word as one more sign that the English language is crumbling and soon high school seniors will be writing “TBH” in college essays. But why not accept this news as a sign of human ingenuity, that necessity breeds invention and we are becoming increasingly efficient at communicating with one another? There is no longer a need to use extra space and time by employing a bunch of different letters to convey a word such as “heart” or refer to a concept as complex as “love.” Just type out ❤ , and boom, you’re done.

The nonprofit Unicode Consortium maintains character software standards, including the emojis that emerged in 1990s Japan and have recently exploded in popularity. They often appear in color when used on mobile platforms. (You’re probably accustomed to seeing the heart emoji in bright red.)

Unicode points to emojitracker.com, which shows the real-time usage of emojis at any given time on Twitter.

“The English Language is now undergoing a remarkable transformation unlike any in its 1400 year history — its system of writing, the Alphabet, is gaining characters at amazing rate,” GLM president and chief word analyst Paul JJ Payack said in a release.

And that’s a development you may either ❤  or hate.

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