How Emojis Work

The Scoop on Peaches and Poop
A member of Apple's staff poses with the iPhone X smartphone showing new emoji features, including the poop emoji, in Apple's Regent Street store in London. CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP/Getty Images

From 100 miles away, it's tough to wink via text message. It's also difficult to inject innuendo and subtlety. That's why some 92 percent of folks online deploy emojis at one point or other – to provide some sort of emotional context to otherwise ambiguous text. But a basic grasp of online slang will greatly buoy your emoji communications [sources: Bramhill, Thompson].

Take the popular peach emoji. To the uninitiated, it's just fruit. To digital veterans, however, the peach is a sly stand-in for human private parts, a way to be silly, sexy, or perhaps both. Pair the peach with an eggplant and things get real suggestive in a hurry [source: Amatulli].

But we're just starting to get weird. Outside of faces and hand gestures, one of the most famous emojis is the superstar of oddball icons – the ubiquitous poop icon. In the early 2000s, the poop emoji was incredibly popular in Japan, a flexible way to convey a large range of emotions and ideas with one little brown symbol.

The little poop pile can be a way to express dislike, suffering, vulgarity, hilarity or obscenity without resorting more explicit language. In 2007, once Google finally adopted the poop emoji (complete with circling flies, for effect) for its Gmail email service, the icon became even more prevalent. Now the little poo, often complete with googly eyes, is everywhere online and off. You can buy everything from poop hats, to Bluetooth speakers, slippers, toys and much more [source: Schwartzberg].

Poop aside, avid emoji users are fanatical about their favorite little cartoon pictures. So perhaps it's no surprise that subtle tweaks to specific symbols can spark a firestorm of anger and reprisals.

Because each vendor is allowed to create their own interpretations of the Unicode Consortium's standards, some emojis are better than others. In 2017, Google's new "cheeseburger" icon portrayed the sandwich with the cheese placed under the meat patty ... and the internet erupted in protest. The kerfuffle caused Google CEO Sundar Pichai to state that Google would "drop everything else we are doing" until a team could figure out a more appropriate burger icon. In other words, emojis don't just express emotions, they can inspire them, too [sources: Griffin, Twitter].

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