Proper grammar and Americans have never gone hand in hand. As you may presently yourself fully be aware of, our grammar sucks. While this has been in a steady decline in recent years it has intensified over the past generation. Many English teachers and academics tie it to the lexicon that has developed from text messaging and the next iteration, the use of the emoji.

What are emojis

For those who do not know, emojis are a small picture that is used to convey a feeling or a phrase. They originated in Japan in the 1999 for use with Japanese cell phones. In 2010 the first batch were coded into Unicode, a standard system for indexing characters, which brought the emoji to the Western world going viral along the way. Many younger people have chosen to communicate using emojis rather than words. These can be anything from a smiling face to a crying face to something to describe what they are doing. New emojis have been added since and there is at least one person who is making a living knowing all there is to know about emojis. As of last summer there are over 2,600 emojis available for use.

Why are they popular

There are valid reasons for their popularity. It is convenient certainly and removes any spelling issues or issues with auto correct. Young people have always had their own language, just watch any period movie so young people picking up on this and making it their own is also not out of the ordinary. Of course their parents may not quite like it but then that rebellion is something that goes with all children as they grow up and chances are they partook in it when they were children as well. Turnabout is fair play.

Now this is not the first time that pictures have been used for languages. Most famously the ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphics as their written language and several other civilizations of the time did the same like the Phoenicians and the Maya. In the 1960s a universal alphabet was devised so that nothing would be lost in translation between global leaders as nuclear war seemed inevitable. While certainly noble in sentiment it did not get used. In more recent times computer users have had fun using the Wingdings font using their word processor. We’ve even become used to using emoticons like “:)” or “:D” to convey a message so emojis seem to be the next logical step.

How could they be harmful to society

Not everyone is happy with this. With over 70% of all adults 18-25 using emojis older adults are not thrilled, much less their English teachers and the number is probably higher for children. Of course younger people constantly have their heads stuck in the phones and the art of the conversation is not something that they are comfortable with and many people argue that emojis are not helping that. Younger people also have more difficulty conveying emotion and while this provides an avenue to do so it may not be healthy to do it this way. Talking with someone will always be the better option.

Another drawback is that emojis can be misunderstood. Just like someone may not be able to pick out the humor or sarcasm in a message emojis have the same problem. The receiver of the message may not understand the context that it was sent in. There have also been problems with some of the emojis. There is an emoji for a gun which not everyone is happy about. Some emojis also have secret, more sexual, meanings like an eggplant or a peach. There is even a middle finger emoji and some of these have even sparked lawsuits.

The English language or the alphabet is not going to be replaced anytime soon and certainly no English educator feels that their job is threatened. There is a feeling that as a society we are moving backwards. Our ability to spell as well as hold a conversation has taken a markedly downward spiral in recent years but the thing is there is probably nothing that can be done regarding the use of emojis. Think about this though, while Herman Melville’s Moby Dick has been translated into emojis, the Egyptians or the Maya never produced a great literary epic. Those took an alphabet and in the end Homer, Shakespeare or Stephen King will produce far more emotion than an emoji.

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