Mandy Coolen

About Mandy Coolen

Mandy likes to talk. Which became a bit of a problem when she left breakfast radio recently. So, she now writes vociferously at and scratches her itch on 'The Struggle' podcast –

The Emoji: The silent killer, of language

Approx Reading Time-10In celebration of yesterday’s International Day of the Emoji, I ask us to all come together and ban it. For our children will surely judge us.




The emoji at some point was a simple concept. Humble semicolons with brackets, allowing us a shortcut to flirt en route to a fanciful smidge o’ keyboard fun 😉

But alas, we seem to have lost our way.

Before too long Apple gave us the actual little faces and we occasionally adopted them to spruce up a message. A “smiley face” here, “the poo” there and maybe the odd “love heart” because it made it easier to express feelings. We certainly didn’t have the obsessive compulsion to fix a miniature picture to every text or post like we do now. Those were the good ol’ emoji days (hourglass, sunset)…now a message or statement is naked without an excess of, what have always struck me as, teeny weeny flash cards for toddlers (male and female holding hands, crawling baby button).

This weekend saw the celebration of International Day of the Emoji…(party popper, beer glass, calendar*) and I just couldn’t help but ponder that we’ve gone too far (telescope, running man, bar graph).

Last month saw the exciting addition of “bacon”, “pregnant girl” and “avocado”, amongst many other new emojis, creating online euphoria. Forget about Boris Johnson being Foreign Secretary and a military coup in a crucial western ally…there’s now a gorilla emoji OMG! (banana, palm tree).

We no longer live in a world of actual hand written notes (fountain pen), hand drawn pictures or even actual eye contact (crescent moon facing right, crescent moon facing left), instead we’re lost in a vortex of Pokémon Go, mixed misinterpreted discourse and compulsory pictorial over-explaining (Vol 1 book, Vol 2 book, Vol 3 book, Vol 4 book).

Also on The Big Smoke

My mum used to (embarrassingly at the time) put notes in my lunchbox. It was sweet and an invaluable resource for forging her handwriting when I needed a pass out. Now, I text my kids “have a great day” (bread loaf, cookie, pencil)…because that’s the most effective way to communicate with them…and, frankly, it sucks (open mouth smiley face).

Don’t even get me started on how they can be misinterpreted. “Tracey was great at karaoke tonight” (bomb, volcano, cat, knife).

Now, I’ll admit it, I do try to confuse my friends by adding weird emoji combinations after a text, eg: “How did the interview go?” (Unicorn, kimono, beefeater.)

Plus I have been known to start foreplay while at work with “How about tonight we…” (eggplant, plus, water squirt, plus, peach, or the rather clever “Pointy finger” going into the “Okay hand sign” – think the gesture you used in grade six to indicate “rooting”.)

But truthfully, I’d like to take this opportunity to ask us to back the fuck off the emoji for the good of the language, and ultimately, the species.

We’ve lost the personal, the intimate, the unique. We’re a race reduced to uniform representations on tiny screens and we’re relinquishing the art of creating our own language of art.

So here’s the thing. If you’re going to use emojis – and I ask you not to, but it’s tough to break an addiction by stopping, so just be minimal – be clever, take the time to create something unpredictable, and fun. Don’t just put “crying with laughter smiley face” 17 times, and pass that off as humour.

Because we’ll all be dead soon, and do we really want future generations to assume this is all we had? (Ghost, clap, smug woman hand thing…)


*The date on the emoji calendar is July 17 and there is all sorts of tech speculation as to why. I didn’t bother looking it up. Irrelevant.

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