The first time you see it, you wonder, “Is that . . . ?” You’re pretty sure it is, especially if you get the version with the flies buzzing around it. Then, you try to interpret its meaning. What could this person be trying to tell you with a poo’ emoji?
And, yes, it is poo’ that I prefer to spell and say. The apostrophe replaces the final p here the way some people leave the final g off of words like livin’ and dyin’ and so forth. Like you and everyone else, I know what it is. I just choose to say it and spell it my way. It feels better to me, and how we feel about ourselves matters a lot, right?
What Makes It an Emoji?
Before getting into what the poo’ emoji really means and how we should take it when someone sends it to us in a chat message or email, we are going to make sure we all know the difference between emoticons, smileys, and emoji.
Strictly text symbols, emoticons are mankind’s earliest attempt at succinctly expressing an emotion or attitude without writing it out fully. There is even a theory that Abraham Lincoln used one to convey a wink in a notation to one of his speeches.
An emoticon can appear within text without drawing much attention to itself, like this simple smile, : ) or this angry but sad one, >:’( . You can’t miss that it’s there, but it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the text. People will sometimes employ a character or two from an alternate keyboard to create a more elaborate emoticon, but the ones most often used and best understood are kept to the characters we use all the time.
A smiley can cross the boundaries between emoticon and emoji, but it its own all the same. Smileys will always be a face, while emoji include non-facial and even inanimate objects. The most basic emoji are often called smileys, as are the small animated .gifs used on message boards, like the ones below.
The broad definition of emoji is a small artistic representation of a thought, object, mood, emotion, or intent. It is not necessarily a face but can be just about anything.
If you’ve ordered a pizza but everyone is scattered around the house by the time it gets there, send a pizza emoji in a group text and they’ll all know to run to the kitchen. Is someone running a little late for an appointment or is a teen out past curfew? Send them a clock emoji or perhaps even better, an hourglass. For more emphasis, send a finger pointing in its direction.
Congratulate someone with a bouquet of flowers or a beer emoji. Doing your nails and can’t text? Carefully press the keypad to send a nail polish emoji and they’ll understand.
If you are not yet practiced at the art of emoji, you may want to get on that particular task sooner rather than later. Emoji have infiltrated our language and are no longer used only by teens. The Oxford Dictionary named “face with tears of joy” its 2015 “word” of the year. Funny that a dictionary would do that when there is no official dictionary of emoji, though several good attempts to fill that void are online and I’ll tell you about them later.
What Emoji Mean
While some are obvious, there are plenty of examples where the meaning of an emoji is quite often totally in the mind of the sender. Usually it’s pretty easy to understand. A heart is love, while a broken heart is sad. Same with a smile – it shows happiness, agreement, or support.
You might wonder, though, what to make of an emoji with a smile and a tear, or an open mouth and a tear. Or, why did your date last night send an emoji with a tongue sticking out when you asked how she liked your ziti? There are subtle differences, and those little details matter when trying to interpret an emoji you have not seen before now.
In the example below, the emoji with a tongue to the side is savoring something just eaten. The closed mouth (for we chew with our mouths closed) and eyes emphasize the meal is being enjoyed.
The emoji with a tongue down the middle with his mouth open (so we know that he cannot be eating) and cockeyed eyes is saying something else.
The Poo’ Emoji
Emoji come from Japan, and the meanings we attach to an emoji is often quite different from the meaning it has to its Japanese originators. Such is the case with the poo’ emoji.
According to Takeshi Kishimoto, the Japanese product manager at Google who lobbied for the character when the tech giant was deciding what to include in the first essential collection they would launch, the poo’ emoji means, “’I don’t like that,’ but softly” to its Japanese users.
Kishimoto lobbied for the inclusion of what is known as the “unchi” emoji in Japan saying that any basic emoji set would be incomplete without it, referring to unchi (poo’) as, “the most useful emoji.”
Yes, it seems that the poo’ or unchi emoji is absolutely essential to the Japanese, and excluding it from an emoji collection has been compared to leaving our letter “b” out of the alphabet.
In the same interview, Kishimoto revealed that the word emoji comes from the Japanese word for image, which is “E,” and “moji,” which means character. He also told the interviewer that women in Japan feel that an email with no emoji is, “dry, dry, dry mail.” Adding a few of the character makes it seem more personal, adding some emotional context and “softening” the words.
That would seem to put to rest any rumors that the poo’ emoji is instead really a chocolate ice cream emoji, though some of us would much prefer to think of it that way.
Deciphering Other Emoji
Before we send one of the more creative emoji in an email or text message, we should be sure that we understand what it means. The same goes for when we receive one, because if we do not make sure of the meaning there could be a big misunderstanding between the sender and us.
Lucky for us, there are several resources available to help us check that emoji and make sure we are responding with the right one. I will tell you about two that are online and one of the apps you can use to define an emoji.
The neat thing about the online emoji keyboard is that it helps you to know what each emoji is plus will compose your emoji message for you. Choose a tab for the category of emoji – people, objects, animals, food, etc. – and the total array of characters within that category appears.
As you hover over each one, the meaning or explanation for it appears at the top of the gallery. When you click, it pops into the message area at the top of the page. If you want to send what you’ve put together there, just copy and paste it into your email or messenger screen and send it.
The features on the site work great on your computer’s web browser, but when you use it on your smartphone you will lose the ability to hover for a description. The copy/paste still works, though, as well as the sort and the galleries.
When you want to dig a little deeper into the information on that emoji, Emojipedia might be the best source. From the landing page, you can sort through emoji by keyword using the search bar or by clicking on a category lower down on the page.
When you enter into a gallery page, every emoji for the category you chose is viewable. Click on the one you want to explore, and you go to a page that is all about that emoji.
First, you get the emoji’s name with a description of its appearance and components. When it is similar to another emoji, the page might explain the subtle difference between the two.
On down the page, you are shown how the emoji is presented in each of the most popular places you will see or use it. That’s right – just about every phone or app will render the same emoji a little differently from the rest.
After that, Emojipedia gives you the shortcut and code for the emoji (in case you’re ever wanting to text one without an emoji keyboard handy) along with links to social media pages for the character and a list of similar emoji in case this one isn’t just right for the moment.
You can tell by a quick look at it in the app store that this is not among the most popular emoji keyboard type apps out there, but it has one of the highest ratings from users, and I like it, too.
Emoji Chooser does what you would expect of any emoji keyboard. It lets you choose your emoji and then send them in just about any social chat app you choose. The app does not assume that you know what each emoji is, so it tells you.
As emoji continue to infiltrate our language, understanding the different meanings of each one will be more important to us. The information here hopefully gives you a good start on where to study up so that ‘speaking’ emoji is soon a natural for you, too.