Love it or hate it...the heart shaped emoji was the most used ‘word’ of 2014, writes Graham Walker.
For the first time in its 15-year history, the Global Language Monitor has awarded the title to a symbol.
But is it a sign of the times that web talk is replacing our written language, if not evolving it?
Every year, the Texas-based organisation tracks English language web, print and social media to determine the most frequently used words, phrases and names across the globe.
Digital jargon has always featured prominently, with dot.com taking the top spot in the inaugural year, and hashtag placing in the top three for the last two years, but this is the first time an emoji has made the cut.
Originating in Japan in the late Nineties (‘e’ means picture and ‘moji’ means character in Japanese), the alphabet of tiny ‘ideographs’ allowed text message senders to express more using fewer characters.
More extensive than ‘emoticons’ (pictures that represent emotions), there are around a thousand emoji ‘ideographs’ now recognised by the Unicode Consortium, the gatekeepers of internet code.
After gaining popularity in Asia, mobile manufacturers started rolling out the emoji keyboard to devices in western countries around 2011, and by 2014 those little round yellow faces were inescapable on social networks and messaging apps.
So why is the red heart top of the charts for 2014? A separate analysis by statistical blog fivethirtyeight.com of emojis used on Twitter shows that the top 10 is dominated by positive pictures including the ‘heart eyes’ face and the heart playing card.
In spite of all the hateful hashtags and rows that emerge on social sites, it seems we’re actually rather a loved-up bunch.
But good news for those who find them just as annoying as vowel-less text speak...experts say an emoji decline is on the cards.
They won’t disappear completely, but as the novelty wears off, and teens are put off when their parents start busting out cartoon cats in text messages, chances are we’ll be saying ‘unamused face’ ‘waving hand’ to the emoji.