When you see David Tennant freak out over the double meaning of the eggplant emoji, you know languages have started to outsmart themselves. How could this charming man be deceived by food, of all things? And oh, Chris Hemsworth seemed to know; Hemsworth drew a conclusion based on the similarities in shape between the purple vegetable and its euphemistic counterpart. Why confuse the adorable Scottish man in the tuxedo over lingo undeserving of his wonderful accent?
If I text Tennant now, I know not whether to use water droplets as a sign of appreciation. I would want to seem thirsty for him, but he might mistake me for being dehydrated. It would probably make more sense to Conan Gray or Joshua Bassett — not just because they’re stunningly gorgeous, but because they’re more familiar with the culture I am used to. Even though we now perceive Tennant and company to be absurd for not understanding our translation of these emojis, there’s no reason for their understanding of the emojis to be wrong. Maybe we are the weird ones, and have overthought the message behind cute, comfortable artwork. It’s arduous to interpret art as is, and now we’re delving into another realm of complication?
Even as I text my friends, the emojis I tend to use translate absurdly in their minds. Apparently, what I had thought to be the crying emoji with fully fledged tears has now evolved — leaving me to supposedly appear laughing ridiculously after an awful Classics paper. Is this the joy which lies in my sorrow, ‘Mr. Crying Emoji’? Smile through the pain, they said. Well, apparently I do.
While I’ve obviously made myself learn these newfound scripts of simple, miniscule musings, I know not of the roots from which they originate. There is no specific celebrity — whom I can recall — influential enough to have become the harbinger of this change, nor do I understand why all my friends began using it simultaneously.
It becomes a habit once you start. My mother received a text from my cousin the other day, and she was mortified to see the skull emoji in the reaction. She almost believed that he’d joined a punk or metallic rock band at 12 years old, or was religiously participating in Gothic events — she was flustered beyond comprehension that day. I don’t think she’s ever used the emoji herself, so I’m confident she does not precisely know its meaning.
And again, who’s to say there’s a concrete meaning for an emoji when even I do not know when it may seem to cast a fantastic spell and switch meanings? God forbid the day my family starts using eggplants and peaches — I would have to confiscate their technology.
Berserk. There’s something to be said about the intangibility of language. They mockingly call us Gen Z — I prefer young, charming, and intellectual. Yet we reply to the millennials with sheer disdain when they fail to interpret our own linguistic variations. You know how dad jokes go. Dads, they love to show a tilted head laughing, an emoji I have scarcely used in my texting career. And oh, how I judge them.
I made the mistake of informing my parents of their misuse of emojis, though; how ‘cringey’ of them to have done so, and even worse for me to have reacted. Why did I believe my parents’ vocabulary to have incorporated this generation’s absurd use of emojis? Obviously, I then had to teach them — not out of my own free will — some other phrases, such as ‘no cap,’ ‘bussing,’ ‘slay,’ and ‘salty.’ Even a facepalm couldn’t smother how weird it felt.
I’ve never physically cowered up in pure, embarrassing, untainted cringe as much as the week they frantically used ‘cool’ phrases with each breath they spoke. Their friends laughed and learned — I hid.
You see, we’ve changed these words to bring about authenticity in our speech. Dad, for you a ‘cap’ is still a simple piece of headgear — but for us, it is a lie. Words are multifaceted. We, the ‘young ones,’ know that now. Your English is so bland and has drenched your own use of slang to an extent so unfathomably grave that even a word’s original definition reeks of no essence. I mean, we did that with ‘slay’ too, but our possession of other phrases compensated for that.
I turn 20 this year — yikes. And my sister, who’s in middle school, has made sure that I know of this. Since when have we started being perceived as old despite using the same slang? I said “slay” out loud the other day and she, in the most eloquent of responses, said, “yuck.” I tried to laugh it off at that moment, but it took mere minutes for the insecurity and defensiveness to kick in.
Am I getting older faster than the language itself?
I can’t say, because I don’t know how to. To my uncles, aunts, and parents, I’m young. To my sister, I’m ridiculously old. So when I use a phrase, my parents assume my entire young generation does so, too. But my sister and her cohort would not hesitate to judge me. I’m too old for them and, apparently, the baton of the language has been passed on to them.
The legacy my generation left on the language is apparently finalized. Will I soon not understand emojis as my sister uses them? It’s an absurd fear to have, because I do not know how to track changes in the meanings of emojis and phrases as it is.
I’ve never asked anyone to “take a chill pill,” but my parents knew not of another phrase to calm someone down. And if you cringed at the phrase, you know to which generation you belong.
All’s too intangible for us to know, and wherever the English language travels, we must seek to voyage with it, too. Diction can be a ‘dick,’ and we’ll always be judged, while still always having someone else to judge as well.
This whole trifle doesn’t seem appetizing, but we might as well get one for the ‘gram.