Some people use emojis sparingly, some with abandon; some are practical while others are creative; even emoji meanings are highly personal—smiley poop comforts my friend, grosses out my mom, makes my sister think of changing diapers. Emojis today are in a similar fluid state as the English language in the 16th century: Anything goes and everything is up for debate. Back then you could spell anything any which way—Smith, Smythe, Smyth. Even Shakespeare varied the spelling of his own name. Punctuation was also a mess; rules for standard use didn’t get locked down until the invention of the printing press.

Just as we eventually agreed on the rules of English, so might we eventually agree on a single, global understanding of emojis. In an interview for The Verge, original emoji designer Shigetaka Kurita admits this is a dream of his: “It would be great if we could compare, and have that lead to people starting to use things in the same way.” Though nearly everyone in the world has access to emojis we all have a slightly different understanding of the characters and phrases. It’s a fantastic, utopic dream, and not a new one: Liebniz algebra, Esperanto, and Blissymbolics are just a few of many failed global language experiments over the centuries. Emojis are an accidental member of this fraternity, and there’s no telling now whether it’s here to stay or has reached its peak.

Mary Mann writing in Matter about the “poetry and honesty” of emojis.

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