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What’s Love Got To Do With It? Barrie's Blog | Barrie Mahoney

'Writing Inspired by an Island in the Atlantic'

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

In 1999, a Japanese designer, Shigetaka Kurita, came up with the idea for 176 emojis when working for NTT DOCOMO, a Japanese mobile phone company. They were intended to help facilitate electronic communication when used with mobile phones and pagers. Emoji is a blend of two Japanese words, picture and letters. I often wonder if it was mere coincidence that the word ‘emoji’ sounds similar to the English word ‘emotion’.

Well, that’s the history part. Do I find emojis useful? No, actually I find emojis intensely annoying and meaningless to put it bluntly. OK, I agree that it is quite useful to put the ‘pile of shit’ emoji or the ‘vomit’ emoji as a response to the more outrageous utterings of Donald Trump or Liz Truss, or some other head banging politician who is speaking out of his posterior on issues, such as the Israeli/Gaza conflict, the Russia/Ukraine war, global warming or other desperately serious matters of the day, but do emojis really help to move the debate forward? I don’t think so.

Has the ‘love’ emoji got anything to do with true love? Is love now just a word to be trotted out on meaningless occasions? It seems that gone are the days when lovesick teenagers scribbled notes to their boyfriends or girlfriends declaring love forever. Instead, lovers must make do with the ‘heart’ emoji, albeit repeated many times, together with lots of kisses. Surely this is not as romantic as opening a crumpled envelope with ‘BURMA’, (Be Undressed and Ready My Angel) or ‘SWALK’ (Sealed With a Love and Kiss) scrawled determinedly across the back of the envelope? Such declarations of passionate love appear to be long gone. I rather like Shakespeare’s words about the meaning of love “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind”. Hmm, I wonder if that would include the ‘heart’ emoji? I doubt that he would have used it.

Looking at my own recent social media posts, I see that they are covered in both ‘likes’ and ‘loves’. Are my contacts and readers really in such desperate love with me, or are they merely expressing appreciation for an article that they have read and presumably enjoyed? Maybe a simple ‘like’ would be sufficient to express their appreciation, but I do find streams of ‘love hearts’ just a tad embarrassing, particularly at my age.

Age, now that’s another thing. Is this emoji nonsense simply an age thing? I mentioned my dislike of emojis to a group of teenagers and those in their early twenties the other day. Initially, I was embarrassed to express my true feelings, as I was quite sure I would be shouted down as “an oldie who has lost the plot”. Surprisingly, this was not the case. There were several nods of agreement, and I was surprised by the comments of one lad who said that he would prefer to write a rap to his girlfriend to express his love, whilst another said he liked writing poetry to his girlfriend. One young lady said that she found ‘love hearts’ to be “too much”. There was only one dissenter who admitted that his written English wasn’t very good and emojis helped him to communicate his thoughts. Honest lad.

Looking up the definition of an emoji, I discovered that “they infuse flat text with personality”, which I guess is one of the reasons that they have firmly embedded themselves within popular culture. I guess this isn’t too different from ancient Egyptians using hieroglyphics to record their stories, although I have yet to see examples of these being used to express love, although I guess there are examples to be found.

If you really are a fan of the emoji, do remember that you can celebrate it on July 17, which is World Emoji Day. Fans can buy and wear a range of exciting emoji apparel and swamp Facebook and X (previously known as Twitter) with messages of emoji love – hearts and all. Apparently, on this day you can also vote on “the most anticipated emoji”; I can hardly wait.

© Barrie Mahoney 2024

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