OMG over emojis

A chat messenger nowadays comprises multi-hued and multi-shaped emojis sans even a single alphabet from the languages we have acquired or learnt, writes Shiv Sethi


Though I teach Linguistics in one of the most prestigious colleges, I have been terribly bad with emojis. When it comes to decoding them, it is all Greek and Latin to me and I end up scratching my head in an absolute fix.

Undoubtedly, each symbol on WhatsApp or some other messenger application stands for a special meaning and connotes a gamut of human emotions. Youngsters though, who are tech-savvy take recourse to these symbols very frequently, as they resemble the mini militia from the supernatural machinery of The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope.

Sometimes their whole conversation on a chat messenger comprises these multi-hued and multi-shaped emojis sans even a single alphabet from the languages we have acquired or learnt. I am sure if some technologically-challenged person like me tries to peep into the message box of his child, all of his endeavours to decipher the semantic implications of those diminutive symbols will end in a fiasco. Here, I am nostalgically reminded of a similar episode from my own youthful days when modern technology had not yet registered its presence. Young lovers had only a few limited means of expressing their love back then. One of the popular mediums of conveying our amorous longings to our heartthrob was only bil·lets-doux (love letters) either written in ink or sometimes in blood (real or not, not sure) to exhibit the intensity of passion. But there was always a peril associated with the envelope falling into the wrong hands and read by some arch enemy of love.

Thus, I and my beloved, both students of English phonetics, had chalked out a plan to ward off the risk. We decided to employ the usage of  commonly unintelligible phonetic symbols to express our feelings in the transcribed forms during the exchange of amorous epistles. This came with an added advantage. First, it rendered our method foolproof, secondly, we became adept in the practical part of phonetics and scored very good marks in the subject of Linguistics in MA English.

Nowadays of course, new modes of communication have arrived. Now lovers give vent to their pent-up feelings on a variety of messenger applications with countless emojis as an additional feature. This invasion of technology has not spared me, too. But I have only a little knowledge of the world of these multiple mini graphic mischiefs. And they say a little knowledge is always  a dangerous thing.

The other day, one of my students dropped a text message into my WhatsApp inbox for seeking some information about a book. The message concluded with an emoji of a little yellow rounded smiling face. When I provided her the relevant information, I thought of reciprocating the gesture and pasted another rounded yellow smiling face but with a blood-red heart embossed on it. Lo! here, whole hell broke loose.

To my astonishment, my student  got highly annoyed and charged me with indecency. Unable to understand the reason of her anger, I rushed to my tech-savvy  sister and showed her my message.

Laughing  uncontrollably she told me that owing to my improper understanding of emojis, I had inadvertently sent my young female student a symbol of a kiss! Thankfully, my sincere apology salvaged the situation.

Me and emojis, never again! 

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