Do you remember when nuance was communicated through punctuation, a rich variety of words and the cadence of a carefully scripted sentence?
No more. Oxford Dictionary just announced that the word of the year is the ‘Crying with Laughter’ emoticon.
The Oxford University Press teamed up with keyboard-app company SwiftKey to find the most popular emoticon. To quote Time, ‘According to their data, the “Face With Tears of Joy” emoji, also known as LOL Emoji or Laughing Emoji, comprised nearly 20% of all emoji use in the U.S. and the U.K., where Oxford is based.’ They chose this emoticon because, as they said in their press release, ‘Emoji have come to embody a core aspect of living in a digital world that is visually driven, emotionally expressive, and obsessively immediate.’
Visual, emotional and immediate. Just looking at the reaction to the terrorist attacks for the past week, that is a very accurate snap shot of the digital world today.
As an emoji user myself, I must admit that little ‘This is so funny I’m almost peeing my pants’ emoji has a lot of traction in my Whatsapps and other social media. I use it to let people know my message has a funny tone, or that words can’t quite express how toats hilar they’re being. In a way, it adds back in some of the more spontaneous expressions and phrases from regular conversation and actually HELPS add nuance to texts that can so often be misinterpreted.
And no doubt if Dauphin from Shakespeare’s Henry V dropped a masturbation joke / wisdom nugget today (‘Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting’) he’d end the sentence a lot differently (amiright, lol jk :p)
That’s the whole concept behind the hilarious book ‘Texts From Jane Eyre‘. To quote the site, this book is a ‘whimsical collection of hysterical text conversations from your favorite literary characters.’ You can read a pretty funny excerpt here.
What we communicate is so strongly shaped by how we communicate. Smoke signals have a very different tone to papyrus, and an email sounds different to a whatapp. A phone call and a coffee just aren’t the same.
Let me just end this with a little strip of poetry – one where the words speak stronger than emoticons ever could.
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
W.B. Yeats (1865–1939)
“He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven”
from the Collected Works of W.B. Yeats