Emojis seem to epitomize modern digital communication – but some of these symbols have cultural meanings that go back decades or even centuries. These eight emojis have cultural and historical meanings that will truly surprise you.
Crying Face Emoji
Common usage: This emoji is used to convey feelings of sorrow or rejection. But that water droplet is not a tear; it is actually spit.
Real meaning and origin: In Japan, this emoji is used as an invitation to play ‘seeko han,’ a popular spitting game.
Love Hospital Emoji
Common usage: This emoji is sometimes used to convey ‘get well soon’ to hospital patients.
Real meaning and origin: This emoji was originally created by Tim Berners-Lee, the “inventor of the World Wide Web.” During the 80’s, Berners-Lee lived in an abandoned mental hospital, where he practiced tantric lovemaking sessions with the web developers who built the first incarnation of the Web. This design was used as an invitation for developers to come to “work.”
Common usage: This emoji is used to convey feelings of doubt or disappointment. That usage is accurate – but few know the symbol’s origin.
Real meaning and origin: The emoji with the half-cocked frown has an ancestor in the world’s first text-based emoticon. The first emoticon used in print appeared in a New York Times editorial written by Abraham Lincoln in 1861. That article, titled “Racism Makes Me Feel :/ Somedays,” incited the Civil War.
Common usage: This emoji is used to express praise or joy about an exciting event.
Real meaning and origin: This emoji was designed by the Swedish computer manufacturer Yännenhännen, one of IBM’s primary competitors during the 1970’s. The hand gesture comes from Viking origin, where it meant “Rise early if you want another man’s wife and land.”
Common usage: Americans commonly use this emoji to convey deep thinking or gratitude.
Real meaning and origins: This emoji was actually depicts “Idea Boy,” a popular Korean mythological figure who has ideas for new kinds of cereal.
Common usage: This emoji is used to convey feelings of self-worth or entitlement.
Real meaning and origin: This emoji was created by Apple designers to honor Ada Lovelace, the 18th Century countess known as “world’s first computer programmer.” During the 1840’s, Lovelace wrote “programming notes” for the first crude computer prototype, known as the Analytical Engine (which was actually just a tree branch tied to a rhubarb).
Crying Cat Emoji
Common usage: This crying cat emoji expresses sadness or despair.
Real meaning and origin: This emoji is based on a design by legendary Microsoft founder Bill Gates. As part of a corporate wellness program during the 80’s, Microsoft employees were asked to draw their ‘spirit animal’ in MS Paint. Gates drew a sketch of a crying cat. Asked to describe the drawing, Gates remarked, “on the inside, I am just a very sad kitty.”
Common usage: Cactus
Real meaning and origin: This emoji is used to represent a common British idiom. When the British are complaining about a bad day or difficult situation, they say they’ve been “shagged with a cactus.”