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Emoji Interpreting

Emojis were created with the intention of helping to universalize language communication—rather than relying on text to describe one's emotions, a simple graphic represting a state of "happy" or "sad" could easily be appended to the message to quickly and easily get the tone across in a message.

While a noble effort, the Unicode Consortium (the nonprofit group that oversees international standardization of various linguistics elements including emojis, fonts, and text encoding) quickly discovered that symbols (and indeed, even the face of emotions) do not necessarily translate directly between different cultures!

Here are some examples of emojis which may have unexpected interpretations depending on the person it is being sent to:

Emoji Official Meaning Common Misinterpretations
Sleepy face emoji. Sleeping, dreaming The "snot bubble" symbol is used in a lot of Japanese manga and anime as a visual short-hand for sleeping, but to those unfamiliar with the style it may appear the face is crying.
Dizzy emoji. Diziness, confusion The X symbol over the eyes is often used as a cartoon representing a dead person.
Namahage emoji. Namahage, an ogre that fends off evil in Japanese culture To those unfamiliar with Japanese culture, the face resembles a devil or other evil figure.
Face with steam from nose emoji. Face with look of triumph A look of annoyance or being "in a huff."
OK gesture emoji. Person gesturing "OK" Making an "O" shape with the arms over the head may signify "OK" in Japan, but to others it may look like a hug or even an exasperated expression.
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As you can see, there is a lot of potential for miscommunication! This is one of the many reasons that it is important to rely on only skilled professionals when communicating between people in different languages and cultures. Even something as simple as a smiling face may mean something different between one person and another, and it's important to know what those interpretations in order to prevent embarrassing and costly mistakes!

If you're in advertising or marketing, or any other field, and need help communication your message across cultures, contact us today for more information on how we can help you convey that message in the desired tone, no matter who your audience may be!

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