Emoji and hand gestures

There’s a lot of misinformation about emoji(s) floating around.

Aside from the question of whether the plural is “emojis” or “emoji,” we have plenty of people who think the word is etymologically related to “emoticon” and “emo”—but it’s not! The latter two are clearly derived from English “emotion,” but an emoji in the original Japanese is e-moji, or picture-character. It’s purely coincidence that the “mo” syllable is part of the first morpheme in “emoticon” but part of the second morpheme in “emoji.” (In other words, it’s emot-icon but e-moji.)

OK, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s turn to the big picture. In a recent blog post, Superlinguo Lauren Gawne discusses the gap between formal (written) communication and informal (oral) communication. This gap has long bothered me, ever since I experimented with a variety of voices in my English papers when in high school, but obviously I knew nothing about emoji back in the ’60s. So I was mostly focused on how and when it was okay to use informal communication in a written document. Fortunately I had an English teacher in 12th grade who welcomed such experimentation, even though he himself was very much a classicist (as was I at the time). A related book that had an enormous effect on me at the time was anthropologist Edward Hall’s The Silent Language, first published back in 1959—which was not about written language nor (of course) about emoji nor about informal speech. It was about gestures and other nonverbal communication in a cultural context.

It’s all intertwingled.

Read the entire BBC article that Gawne links to for the full connection with emoji and gestures. You can find out about why emoji are useful and even necessary.

I still don’t use them very much. 😸

Categories: Linguistics, Technology