Unicode, the governing body that regulates the code behind your favorite pictograms, has decided which new emoji will be included in the update set for next year. There are 38 new characters being added to the pantheon, and before you ask, let me just get it out of the way now: there is still no taco emoji. 😥
Despite the taco injustice, the list of new emoji does include some long-awaited additions: avocado, shruggie, face palm, crossed fingers, nauseated face, selfie taker and pregnant woman. There are also some truly baffling inclusions, such as "Mother Christmas." Apparently, Unicode didn't want the Santa emoji to be lonely. Here's the the full list of proposed new emoji.
Nearly half of the new emoji are variations on faces and hands, which is useful given recent studies that show that facial expressions, hand signals and hearts are the most often used characters in the set. But despite having over 700 emoji, we are still missing some key symbols, thus limiting the full expressiveness of those who are increasingly using the pictorial language. It was just announced this week that emoji is now the fastest growing language in the UK; emoji linguists need the character set to expand to meet the demand.
Which new emoji make the cut has been a source of great debate. While there may be legions and even brands calling for specific emoji — such as Taco Bell's campaign for the taco emoji — I would prefer a different tack: Making new emoji that are more symbolic and less specific. So that we have an emoji that says "I am eating" rather than 🍣 ("I'm eating sushi").
For instance, while Unicode was quite scientific in their approach to adding new bird emoji (they consulted with the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology), we are still without a simple 'wing' emoji. We will now have newly minted 'owl' 'eagle' and 'duck', in addition to the 'pigeon' (🐦) and five different kinds of chicken (🐔🐤🐥🐣🐓 ), but most of those are just heads without wings. If you want to express 'flying' or 'soaring' or 'feeling light' or 'winged' you have very few options. If you've ever tried to communicate exclusively in emoji, you know the language desperately needs more ways to express action. Emoji grammar is heavy on objects and light on verbs.
At present, I rely on things like the 'dash' ( 💨 ) to express movement, and the pink girl (🙆 ) to denote a kind of 'if, then' logic (🍷💁😴). Often I'll use the hearts for eyes (😍) not only to mean 'love' but to express 'want' and 'desire'. What if we had an emoji to express 'go' or 'to be'? As it stands now, Shakespearean scholars would have had a very tough time translating Hamlet into emoji.
It's easy to identify nouns that are absent, but that will be a never ending quest. There are thousands of nouns; are we really going to make an emoji for each one? If we are truly interested in growing our pictorial language proficiency, we need to give the language movement and action so that emoji can better serve our expressive needs going forward.🚀
Cara Rose DeFabio is a pop addicted, emoji fluent, transmedia artist, focusing on live events as an experience designer for Real Future.