Confusing emojis
Poop or chocolate ice cream; high-five or thank you? Here are 7 emojis that confuse most of us. Image Credit: Stock image

Dubai: Emojis are the new language of the digital age. Love them or hate them, you have to admit, emojis seem to have taken over text on digital platforms.

With the release of 230 new emojis in March this year, the number of popular pictograms on messaging platforms rose to 3,019.

Emojis allow people to communicate emotions, actions, or impressions that they don’t feel they can express in text. The Oxford English Dictionary supports this analysis of emojis, and cites it as the reason they made the “tears of joy” emoji their Word of the Year in 2015.

Did you know?

The word emoji comes from Japanese ‘e’ for picture and ‘moji’ for character. Emojis originated in the 1990s as mobile phone culture exploded in Japan.

An organisation called the Unicode Consortium oversees the approval of all emojis. While anyone can submit a proposal for an emoji, the organisation has a set list of factors that need to be considered before the emoji is approved for mass use.

But, we had a different question: Do all emojis mean the same to everyone?

We shortlisted seven emojis that confused us and asked people what they think. Here is what they use the emoji to express and what they actually mean.

Poop emoji or chocolate ice cream?

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For a long time Dubai resident Vijay R. thought this emoji was a happy ice cream. The 39-year-old said: “I am not very good at using emojis while texting. Once, I was having a scoop of chocolate ice cream and was texting my friend. When he asked what I was doing I sent that emoji, thinking it represented an ice cream. Little did I know its real meaning.”

Once, I was having a scoop of chocolate ice cream and was texting my friend. When he asked what I was doing I sent that emoji, thinking it represented an ice cream.

- Vijay R., Dubai resident

What it really means

Well, this emoji is quite directly referred to by the Unicode Consortium as ‘a pile of poo’. It can be used for any bathroom-related conversations or any slang references that such an emoji might entail.

Folded hands or hi-five?

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This seems to be a commonly debated emoji. Dubai resident Divya Suri has often used it as a hi-five.

The 23-year-old said: “I’ve had a couple of instances where the hands together emoji was misinterpreted. I always thought it was a high-five. However, I soon realised that some people thought it symbolised praying. They would often wonder why I was praying in response to their message!”

I always thought it was a high-five... They would often wonder why I was praying in response to their message!

- Divya Suri, Dubai resident

She added: “It is interesting that emojis can also be misinterpreted despite them being universal visual symbols.”

Abu Dhabi resident Mohammad Bilal Al Deen, 29, said: “I considered it to be like namaste, a greeting used by many Indians wherein they fold their hands together and greet people.”

I considered it to be like namaste, a greeting used by many Indians wherein they fold their hands together and greet people.

- Mohammad Bilal Al Deen, Abu Dhabi resident

What it really means

While you might think this is the hi-five emoji, it is actually a person simply pressing his hands together.

According to the Unicode Consortium, the folded hands could be to say please or thank you (like in the Japanese culture) or ask for something.

An oopsie! face, push-ups or a person bowing?

dogeza
The Japanese know this emoji as a 'dogeza'. Image Credit: Stock image

This emoji has various interpretations. Dubai-based Jasleen Chadha thinks: “It is someone thinking out loud.” And, Sharjah-based fitness enthusiast Pravin M said: “We have a group of fitness-loving friends on WhatsApp, we often use this emoji to show how many push up sets we did.”

It is someone thinking out loud.

- Jasleen Chadha, Dubai resident

What it really means

Here is how Emojipedia, an exhaustive encyclopedia on the history, induction, and usage of each emoji available, explains this emoji: “A person bowing deeply which is known as dogeza in Japan. Used to express a sincere apology, or to request a large favour.” The Unicode Consortium, similarly, says that it could be used in cases of apology or to ask for a favour.

Awkward grin or grimace?

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Like many others, Rajeev Rathisan uses this as an embarrassed smile. He said: “I have used the emoji in the past when I have done something embarrassing or as an awkward smile.”

However, Sukhwinder Kaur, a beauty technician in Dubai is convinced it is a grimace. She said: “I use the emoji when I am very irritated at something.”

I use the emoji when I am very irritated at something.

- Sukhwinder Kaur, beauty technician in Dubai

What it really means

Grimace it is! While the clenched teeth might be used by many to express a sheepish smile, according to the Unicode Consortium, the intended use of this face is to express a grimace.



Waving hand or a slap?

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While some ambiguity also surrounds this emoji, users are a lot more clear about its use compared to other emojis.

Sometimes a slap emoji for desi (people of the Indian subcontinent) mums, this emoticon is used by most people to denote two things: a wave hello or goodbye.

“I use it as a hello or bye,” said Taha Qureshi, a Sharjah student.

I use it as a hello or bye...

- Taha Qureshi, student based in Sharjah

Ajman resident Ayman Ali, believed that people who are infrequent users of social media and are not very tech savvy tend to confuse the use of certain emojis.

“Someone like that might think it [waving hand emoji] denotes a slap,” she said.

What it really means

Unicode Consortium calls this emoji the waving hand, and it can be used to say hello or goodbye. According to Emojipedia, this emoji can be used to convey a sense of not being friends anymore when used on WeChat in China.

Upside down smile

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The upside-down smiley face is one of the emojis that can take on various meanings depending on the context in which it used as well as the personality of the sender. Some people use it to denote a playful smile while others use it sarcastically and ironically.

Sanya Ansari, a student based in Sharjah said: “Although this emoji is smiling, people use it to indicate that they are certainly not smiling.”

Although this emoji is smiling, people use it to indicate that they are certainly not smiling.

- Sanya Ansari, student based in Shrajah

Taha Qureshi shared specific ways he likes to use the emoji. “I use it to sarcastically thank the person I’m talking to or when he or she says something very obvious,” he said.

While UAE student Ayman Ali said that she uses it to express any inconvenience she has to face. “In my case, if I’m bombarded with a lot of tasks and I have to describe the situation to a friend, I’ll say ‘OMG [Oh my God] I have all of this to do by tonight’ and I’ll add the upside down smileys in the end,” she said.

What it really means

According to Emojipedia, it is commonly used to convey irony, sarcasm, joking, or a sense of goofiness or silliness. Its intent can be similar to the bemused ‘Oh well!’ or a person shrugging or the ‘shruggie’ emoticon, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

A person with arms across the chest and over the head

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Dubai-based Amrita Vidyarthi said: “I have used the sign of a woman crossing her arms across her chest to show combat, a fight or a cancel/cross sign.”

I have used the sign of a woman crossing her arms across her chest to show combat, a fight or a cancel/cross sign.

- Amrita Vidyarthi, Dubai resident

Egyptian expatriate Mohammed Youssef added: “I would use this emoji to say, ‘no way’.”

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While this emoji might still be easy for people across cultures to understand - an indication of ‘no’ - the one with a person holding his/her hands over the head can be quite confusing. Is it a ballet pose? Is it used to express disappointment?

For Filipina expat Leonor Carbonell, this emoji can be used to say “hurrah!”. She added: “It’s used for something like happy moments.”

What it really means

This emoji is, in fact, saying ‘okay’. Writing for the website medium.com, Canadian writer Lauren Walker, wrote: “The use of [x] for close and [o] for open could come from the Japanese symbols batsu and maru. Batsu (x) is the symbol for incorrect, and can represent false, bad, wrong or attack, while maru (o) means correct, true, good, whole, or something precious. Batsu and maru are also common hand gestures. Cross your arms over your chest for batsu, circle your arms over your head for maru.”

While these may not be the only confusing smileys and some ambiguity surrounds the use of many smileys, people seem to agree that at the end of the day, it is up to the user to decide on how to utilise them. “There’s no hard and fast rule on how to use them. I think it’s acceptable for people to use each one differently,” said Ayman Ali.

A note on Emoji

While many emojis display similarly on every device, some actually don’t. For example, the grimacing-face emoji features clenched teeth, but the face’s expression isn’t consistent across all platforms. Similarly, the face screaming in fear look different on Android phones as compared to Apple phones.

Here’s a comparison of how our shortlisted emojis appear on different phones:

Emoji comparison
While many emojis display similarly on every device, some actually don’t.