Those cute cartoon symbols on your smartphone aren’t there by design so much as because they’ve gone viral.
Earlier this month, the Unicode Consortium—a nonprofit made up of member companies including Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and more—announced a new version of the Unicode Standard that would bring more than 250 new emoji to people’s devices in the near future. Included in the list of new emoji are a golfer, a racing motorcycle, a beach with an umbrella, and a derelict house building. Why were these emoji chosen, and not others?
The simple answer is: they weren’t chosen, not really. Any child at bedtime asking his or her mother “Mommy, where do emoji come from?” will no doubt go to sleep disappointed. There is no committee that decides that there needs to be a chipmunk emoji, or that an aardvark emoji would just be beyond the pale. Rather, emoji—like language itself—has a life of its own.