July 17 was World Emoji Day. Anyone can declare a World Anything Day, but my local library thought it was important enough to give it part of a sign, along with Cell Phone Courtesy Month.
They didn’t think it was important enough to give accurate information, though. It does tell us something about how non-tech people think of emoji. Here’s the content of the sign, with commentary.
“emoji, e-mo-ji, noun.” If the intent is IPA vowels and English consonants, that’s close enough. Good start.
“The definition of emoji is an image, often of an expressive cartoon face, that can be used to convey emotion in writing on cell phones or in online chat.” That’s completely wrong as a definition. An emoji is a character, and that’s not mentioned (though “in writing” alludes to it). Some emoji portray faces, but most don’t. Their use isn’t confined to phones or to online chat. As a statement about emoji, it isn’t strictly wrong, but a definition is supposed to say what something is, not how it’s frequently used.
“The word is derived from a ombination [sic] of the words emotion and kanji, meaning a Japanese character.” This is totally and utterly wrong. 😠 The person who made the sign thinks it’s an English portmanteau word that alludes to Japanese for some reason. The word (絵文字) is Japanese. It means picture character. It’s related to “kanji,” which uses the same root for “character,” but isn’t derived from it. It sounds similar to “emoticon,” but that’s a happy coincidence.
There’s a movie about emoji, which as I’m writing this has 7% on Rotten Tomatoes’ tomatometer. It’s set in Textopolis, so the makers may at least know that emoji (not “emojis,” please!) are text characters. The plot concerns a multivalent emoji, one that can have different expressions at different times. There’s real precedent for this; some emoji can have skin-tone modifiers. XKCD has suggested a vomiting modifier.
Most people just have fun using emoji, or get into trouble misusing them, so the technical issues aren’t important to them as long as they don’t use illegal emoji. I do wish libraries would get their information right, though. 😞