Accepted or Rejected Emoji Linguists Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne, hosts of the podcast Lingthusiasm, take on that challenge in this speed round about everyone's favorite pictograms.

Accepted or Rejected Emoji

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OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne are linguists who hosts the podcast, "Lingthusiasm." Gretchen's book about the language of the internet is called "Because Internet: Understanding The New Rules Of Language."

Gretchen, Lauren, welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.

LAUREN GAWNE: Thanks. It's so lovely to be here.

GRETCHEN MCCULLOCH: Thanks for having us.

EISENBERG: OK. So Gretchen, your specialty is analyzing the language of the internet.

MCCULLOCH: Yes, it is.

EISENBERG: OK. There's a lot of - when I hear that, I think that's very broad. There's a lot of different language on the internet. What does that specifically focus on?

MCCULLOCH: The part of language on the internet that I really focus on is how people use informal writing in various interesting ways. So a lot of linguists look at informal speech or informal Sign with the idea that this gives us sort of the most direct access into what people are doing subconsciously with language. And we - and linguists think of writing as this sort of, OK, well, you know, you're going through the editor; you're going through multiple hands. So who even knows whose subconscious is being shown off when you're doing something like writing? And that's true for something like a book or news where it does get edited.

But for social media text, for texting, for all sorts of internet-based communication and also sort of historical precedents, like postcards and diaries and things like that, there's all this stuff that's going on that is very, you know, rapid and direct to whoever's saying it and unfiltered and has all that interesting stuff going on in it. So that's the way I think about internet language as distinct from other genres. And, of course, there's lots of bleed-over and influence in others as well.

EISENBERG: Right. OK. So - and Lauren, one of your specialties is studying how people gesture and communicate. So how...

GAWNE: Yeah.

EISENBERG: ...Is studying gesture different from studying, you know, just written or spoken language?

GAWNE: It is, for me anyway...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

GAWNE: ...A important part of spoken language. Everyone gestures. It's just part of the goody bag that is language that we have. People who have been blind their whole life will still gesture even though they've never seen another person gesture. It's something that is deeply embedded in the way that we communicate with language.

EISENBERG: Wow. All right. Gretchen, Lauren, are you ready for a couple games?

GAWNE: Oh, my gosh, always.

MCCULLOCH: Sure.

EISENBERG: Excellent. OK. So your first game is about emoji...

GAWNE: Excellent.

EISENBERG: ...Something I feel like you're both versed in. So first of all, who decides what emoji there are?

GAWNE: Emoji are part of the symbol set that we use to make all of our fonts work across different computers. I am old enough to remember trying to print something out and it breaking because the printer wouldn't recognize the font from my computer.

EISENBERG: Oh.

JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: That's hilarious. Yeah.

GAWNE: And that caused enough people to spiral into enough rage in the '90s that a group called the Unicode Consortium came together to figure out how to make sure that regardless of what computer or mobile phone you're on, you will be able to read the text clearly. And they - it's kind of this weird accident that they had to figure out how to encode these little picture symbols from Japan because Apple wanted to sell the iPhone in Japan. And ever since then Unicode have been responsible for deciding which emoji will show up on everyone's devices. And they have a committee called the Emoji Subcommittee. So they decide.

But actually, they accept proposals from anyone who thinks that they have an image that would do well as an emoji. And Gretchen and I submitted a couple...

MCCULLOCH: Yeah.

GAWNE: ...A couple of years ago.

MCCULLOCH: Yes, we did.

EISENBERG: So were yours accepted?

MCCULLOCH: They were. But they're not out yet...

EISENBERG: OK.

MCCULLOCH: ...Because it takes several years for it to sort of grind through. But when - in a few years, probably - you see on your devices an emoji face with peeking eyes - like, the hands covering the face and peeking out from behind the eyes...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

MCCULLOCH: That'll be us.

JONATHAN COULTON AND OPHIRA EISENBERG, BYLINE: That's a good one.

EISENBERG: Because right now, you can't express that. Right now, you can't express that. There's nothing where the eyes are partially covered and partially not covered.

GAWNE: There's two that I'm excited about, even though they probably don't look as exciting by themselves. But we have a palm-up open hand and a palm-down open hand. And I'm very excited about the palm-down open hand because it means you will actually be able to do a mic drop with emoji now.

(LAUGHTER)

GAWNE: And I will be able to offer you some cake as an emoji sequence.

EISENBERG: I don't have to just do a microphone and a down arrow.

GAWNE: Yeah.

MCCULLOCH: Right.

EISENBERG: That's amazing. OK. So we have a speed round for you kind of based on this. So what we're going to do is we'll name a real emoji considered by Unicode.

MCCULLOCH: OK.

EISENBERG: And you just tell us if it was accepted or rejected.

MCCULLOCH: All right. Bring it on.

EISENBERG: OK. So Gretchen, I'll start with you. So this is a speed round. So just answer quickly, and I'll let you know, or else, of course, the hourglass-done emoji and skull emoji will appear.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCULLOCH: And then I will be on fire emoji. OK.

EISENBERG: That's right. Right. Sad face. OK. Here we go. Gretchen - ninja.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIMER TICKING)

MCCULLOCH: Accepted.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Yes. Acne.

MCCULLOCH: Not accepted.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Correct, rejected. Handwashing.

MCCULLOCH: Accepted.

(SOUNDBITE OF BUZZER BUZZING)

EISENBERG: Rejected.

MCCULLOCH: Rejected? Oh, there's just the soap.

GAWNE: 'Cause there's soap already.

MCCULLOCH: I got foiled.

EISENBERG: All right. OK. Face in clouds.

MCCULLOCH: Accepted.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Yes. Cannoli.

MCCULLOCH: Not accepted.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Not accepted. Drop of pee.

MCCULLOCH: Not accepted - at least, I hope not.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Not accepted. You are correct.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Plunger.

MCCULLOCH: Accepted.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Yes. And thong sandal.

MCCULLOCH: Ooh. I'm going to say not accepted.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: That one was accepted as well. So you did great. I think you...

COULTON: You did great. You got six.

EISENBERG: Six.

COULTON: You got six right, Gretchen. That's pretty impressive.

EISENBERG: Very good.

COULTON: And Lauren, the score to beat is six. And I have a list for you right here. Are you ready?

GAWNE: I'm just going to say that I'm adding to Gretchen's score.

COULTON: Oh, that's a better way to think about it.

EISENBERG: Oh, it's collaborative. Great. I love it.

COULTON: OK. Here we go. Fondue.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIMER TICKING)

GAWNE: Not accepted.

(SOUNDBITE OF BUZZER BUZZING)

COULTON: No, that was accepted.

GAWNE: Wow. Emoji has menu.

COULTON: Ceviche.

GAWNE: Ceviche. Not accepted. I feel like I'm just saying what I would order at a restaurant now. Not, you know, a good...

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: It's working.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Ceviche was rejected. You are a correct. Cicada.

GAWNE: I want to say accepted.

(SOUNDBITE OF BUZZER BUZZING)

COULTON: Rejected.

COULTON AND EISENBERG: Oh, accepted in my heart.

COULTON: Dodo.

GAWNE: Accepted.

COULTON: Accepted, that's right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Dumpster fire.

GAWNE: I'm going to say not accepted because you can already do a bin with some fire.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: That is correct. It does feel like we need a dumpster fire these days. But we don't have one.

EISENBERG: Nope.

COULTON: Ballet shoes.

GAWNE: Accepted.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Correct. Vampire.

GAWNE: Yeah. I feel like there's a vampire there. I'm going to say accepted.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: There is absolutely a vampire. That's right. Dabbing person.

GAWNE: I feel like it would be really good if that was accepted because that's how we're all meant sneeze now. So I'm going to say yes.

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah. That's right, that's right.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: That's true.

EISENBERG: We must have a little action, right?

GAWNE: Yeah.

COULTON: Yeah. It was actually - it was rejected.

(SOUNDBITE OF BUZZER BUZZING)

GAWNE: Oh.

COULTON: I think maybe they thought its time had passed.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

MCCULLOCH: Maybe they should resubmit it after COVID.

EISENBERG: Yeah, they should.

GAWNE: As a sneezing emoji, yeah.

MCCULLOCH: As a sneezing emoji.

COULTON: (Laughter). Well, the good news is, guys, you got a total of 11...

GAWNE: Yay team.

COULTON: ...Out of 16.

MCCULLOCH: Yay team.

EISENBERG: Yeah, good job, team.

COULTON: Well done.

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