Did Someone Say New Emoji????

Can't wait to get my hand on Hand with Index Finger and Thumb Crossed !!!!!

Today, my boss by another mother, the Unicode Consortium, has finally (and after much anticipation and recovery from COVID), published all data files associated with the Unicode 14.0 release! (Cue Kermit the Frog excitement gif). This is no ordinary collection of emoji — what lays before you are 37 iconic and communicative concepts. Six smilies including some that play with metaphor, a number of emblems like a low battery for those low energy days, and seven (that’s right SEVEN) hand gestures one of note “breaks the fourth wall” — index pointing at the viewer.  

There’s too much to cover in one blog-mail so consider this a TL;DR on the notable additions :)

Emoji as building blocks

Last year, Lauren Gawne, gesture linguist and host of the podcast Lingthusiasm, authored the ESC’s first guidelines around gestures and emoji. As a result, 14.0 includes characters intended to be used alongside other emoji that build up meaningful concepts when combined. No need to add a “mic drop” emoji when we can simply place a microphone next to the new palm down emoji. The more emoji can operate as building blocks 🏗️ and as less as super specific concepts 🖼️ the more versatile, fluid, and useful they become.

Multiple Uses

One of the many criteria emoji proposals need to demonstrate is: Multiple Uses. This basically means that the emoji doesn’t merely represent itself but has notable metaphorical references and symbolism or simply can be a stand in for many things. No other emoji from Unicode 14.0 delivers on this benchmark better than Hand with Index Finger and Thumb Crossed. From “finger heart” to “money gesture” it is seemingly infinitely flexible cross-culturally.

To collect on debt — Don’t forget to venmo me!
To share affection — You are truly amazing! 
To denote price — Too fancy for my taste
To emote sarcasm — The world’s tiniest Violin is playing for you

Breaking New Ground

Does the emoji represent something that is not already representable? When there are 3,521 emoji this is a tall order. Keen to ensure new additions aren’t merely variations of existing concepts, proposals need to demonstrate how a concept cannot be represented by another emoji or sequence of emoji even if the image is not exactly the same as the one included in the proposal. What existing emoji are effective in asking for help or actively helping someone? Introducing: ring buoy!

More Metaphor

One of my absolute favorite parts of this Unicode release is how we’re seeing the addition of "effects" to convey emotion, not just facial expressions. Alongside comics theorist and cognitive scientist Neil Cohn, (is there a better mash-up of specialties???) the Emoji Subcommittee has been working on identifying common visual morphemes found in television, comics, and in literature. I’m really excited about what this means for the future of smiley emoji. From this effort we saw “Face in Clouds” 😶‍🌫️ drop in the 13.1 release and 14.0 introduces Melting Face 🫥 Dotted Line Face 🫥.


Speaking of smilies — interoperability is always top of mind. Smileys are shared by a order of gross magnitude more than any other type of emoji and we’re paying closer attention to variance of interpretation. One emoji in particular that warranted reconciliation was “Face with Hand Over Mouth”. Every emoji fonts had smiling closed eyes except one. WHO WANTS TO BE MISUNDERSTOOD?? With the addition of “Face with Open Eyes and Hand over Mouth” we’ll have two distinct emoji — one for “shock” and another that is “lightly giggling”.

Addressing Legacy Decisions

In recent years, Unicode has moved towards less prescriptive and more descriptive names (Think: less “Hugging Face" and more "Smiling Face With Open Hands"). But what to do about emoji that inherit a legacy before it? That brings us to “People hiding something under their shirt” emoji. Or, “People who really enjoyed a home cooked meal” emoji. Or, “Pregnant emoji”.

If the existing “pregnant woman” had been named “woman with swollen belly” these new emoji would’ve followed suit. However, a precedent was set and now pregnant people are at your finger tips — unsexing pregnancy and embracing the vibe of eating too many tacos. Needless to say, emoji represent what people use them to represent. Unicode can call an emoji whatever they call it but it's really the people who decide what it means.

Other Unicode Updates

DYK: While the majority of Unicode bruhaha is emoji, the majority of characters in the Unicode Standard are not emoji? It's true. This 14.0 update includes 838 new characters bringing us to a grand total of 144,697 characters (Also, 5 new scripts, for a total of 159 scripts). Which means fo those who like to 𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝖙𝖞𝖕𝖔𝖌𝖗𝖆𝖕𝖍𝖎𝖈 𝘵𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘷𝘰𝘪𝘤𝘦 by repurposing unicode symbols this is a big day for you too. (Warning: It is 𝒸𝓊𝓉ℯ to 𝘄𝗿𝗶𝘁𝗲 your tweets 𝖙𝖍𝖎𝖘 𝖜𝖆𝖞. But have you 𝙡𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙙 to what it 𝘴𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 with assistive technologies like 𝓥𝓸𝓲𝓬𝓮𝓞𝓿𝓮𝓻?)

You can expect to see these characters along with many others (handshakes that include multiple skintones!, a saluting face, a hamsa!!!) roll out to your device of choice in the next few months and early 2022. EMOJI 14.0!!!! LET’S GOOOOOOOOOOO