I regarded these as technophilic hyperbole until, I realized, they were definitely true. Emoji, which existed five years ago only in primitive, emoticon form, now ornament the language of my everyday life. I use them with my parents and my managers and my friends. When my middle-school-age brother sent me a text with a emoji in it last month, I was so excited that I showed it to everyone else at the table.
It’s hard to call this emergent system of pictographic meaning anything other than a language.
But emoji, as a language, evolve in an unusually technocratic way. Though of course the meanings remain subject to the changes and innovations of millions of worldwide speakers, new symbols themselves must be adopted and ratified by the Unicode Consortium. The Consortium is the set of tech companies and user groups that oversee Unicode, the vast computer-text standard that converts computer code to readable text. If you can read these words, you can thank Unicode. Emoji themselves are overseen by a smaller working group within the organization, led by developers at Apple and Google.
So every year around this time, we gather for new tidings from the emoji lords, as they prepare to announce candidate emoji. Last year at this festive season, we learned that a taco emoji might be on its way, as were a mosque and a menorah. These candidate emoji have all since become real. What’s in store for 2016?
The Unicode Consortium is considering 63 candidates for emoji-dom. They’re below. The Consortium also gives reference glyphs, which I’ve occasionally attached.
- Face with Cowboy Hat
- Clown Face
- Nauseated Face
- Rolling on the Floor Laughing
- Drooling Face
- Lying Face
- Sneezing Face
- Prince (the royalty, not the artist)
- Man in Tuxedo
- Mother Christmas
- Face Palm
- Shrug (¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
- Pregnant Woman
- Man Dancing (the reference glyph looks like John Travolta)
- “Call Me!” Hand
- Raised Back of Hand
- Left-Facing Fist
- Right-Facing Fist
- Hands with First and Second Fingers Crossed
- Black Heart (so goth, omg)
- Fox Face
- Wilted Flower (also pretty goth actually)
- Baguette Bread
- Green Salad
- Shallow Pan of Food (The Consortium notes this could be a paella or a casserole.)
- Stuffed Flatbread (The Consortium augments this with a list of suggested non-taco flatbreads: “döner kebab, falafel, gyro, shawarma.”)
- Clinking Glasses (This is kind of Microsoft Clip Art-y.)
- Tumbler Glass (“typically shown with iced drink”)
- Spoon (the utensil, not the artist)
- Octagonal Sign
- Shopping Trolley
- Motor Scooter
- Person Doing Cartwheel
- Boxing Glove
- Martial Arts Uniform
- Water Polo
- Goal Net
- Rifle (It looks like a sportsman rifle—there’s also already a pistol.)
- Modern Pentathlon (the suggested glyph is a total mess)
- First Place Medal
- Second Place Medal
- Third Place Medal (how Millennial)
- Drum with Drumsticks
Most exciting to me on this list: the avocado. No question.
Once an emoji is set, by the way, it’s locked in basically forever: The Unicode Consortium is loath to change symbols lest it run into backward-compatibility problems. So national flags in emoji form are actually coded in a special way so they can change over time. The Unicode standard itself is designed to outlast any individual nation-state.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.