Zara Lisbon
September 19, 2014 6:25 am

Emojis are super adorbs. I’m all about them. They’re a really cute way to express yourself when you just can’t find the right words to express the contents of your mind/heart/soul, at which point sending over a little high-heeled shoe, a caterpillar, a syringe, or any combination of about six hundred icons is totally appropriate.

It’s especially fun to communicate only using emojis, in an attempt to return to a simpler time when pictographs did our talking for us. I would say emojis have contributed to the art of communication, and have added a new, happy dimension to the somewhat depressing scheme of modern-human interaction. About 99% of emojis are self-explanatory, but there is a small handful that, to me, are impossible to understand. I will now attempt to decode the top five most confusing emojis. I will not do any research on this, I will be relying only on my imagination and some educated reasoning.

1. The Mysterious Pine Decoration

Under the category marked by the outline of a bell, on the very first line of the first page there is a mysterious green emoji. It kind of looks like a bamboo plant. For a while, I assumed it must be a cactus that just isn’t quite properly formed—as it is in no way prickly and it seems to be balancing eggs—but then I discovered that under the category marked by a flower, on the fourth page, there is an actual cactus that is undeniably a cactus.

So, what on earth is this three-pronged green thing? If you look very closely, closer than you should ever have to look at an emoji, you can see that whatever it is might be propped up on what looks like a grassy bluff. You can also see that what look like eggs might actually be hollowed out space. This leads me to believe that the green prongs are hollow pipes and that they are intended to make music. So, if anything, this emoji is an elaborate wind instrument perched on top of a bluff, maybe in Ireland.

Actual Explanation: According to emojipedia, this is actually called a kadomatsu—a pine or bamboo decoration “placed out the front of Japanese homes for the new year, to welcome spirits in the hope of bringing a plentiful harvest in the year to come.”  So it’s a sign of good luck, or maybe it’s a three-pronged attack. Your call. 

2. The Sort-of Price Tag

Under the same category (the one with the bell), on the seventh page, there is an emoji that kind of looks like a price tag. However, it isn’t quite a price tag. It is a slip of paper with a piece of red ribbon tied to the end, and the ribbon splits off in two directions like a forked road. On the piece of paper is an imprint of a flower-type design that actually has too many petals to be a flower. Is this a party invitation from a different culture? When faced with an emoji you don’t understand, the first thing to consider is that maybe it is from a different culture.

However, this one is on a page with VERY basic, recognizable, American icons: books, telescope, classical music instruments, video game controller. This little price tag look-alike sticks out like a sore thumb, if you ask me. Because it is on a page with culturally-familiar symbols, I’m going to say it is actually something from our culture, even though I don’t recognize it. The little flower-like symbol on it tells me that it is a tag you might find on a flower at a nursery. Do plants even have tags? I don’t know, I probably haven’t purchased a plant since 1995.

Actual Explanation: It’s a bookmark! Who knew?

3. The Confusing Traffic Sign

Under the category marked by a car symbol, on the last page, there is a red semi-circle with red squiggly lines coming out of it. I have no idea what this is supposed to be. To me it just looks like abstract expressionism. The squiggly lines sort of look like heat rising on a hot day. Maybe this is a traffic sign that means: warning, heat rising ahead. Either that or: warning, hot pasta.

Actual Explanation: It’s the sign for hot springs. That’s steam coming up from a pool of hot water. You can use it to symbolize something hot, if you like.

4. The Creepy Moon

Also under the bell category, on the eighth page, there are three cards in a row. The first one has a jester on it (i.e the joker card) and the third has a Chinese symbol on it (I think?). The middle one is what I want to talk about. To me, the image on this card looks like a gigantic moon rising in a red sky over a black ocean. Or a black hill. While this is a beautiful and menacing visual if you think of it that way, I don’t know what it is actually supposed to be, considering there is no popular card with such an image on it. I am pretty sure this is in fact a card, but its meaning and significance are lost on me. I’m going to stick with a disproportionately gigantic moon over a small though tumultuous ocean. Why it is here and how we are supposed to use it remain unclear.

Actual Explanation: It’s part of a deck of Japanese flower playing cards. Emojipedia says: “This particular card represents the suit of August and is a special card named the Full Moon with Red Sky card.”

5. The Supportive Hands

I don’t know why, but recently this hand emoji has become extra popular. Under the smiley face section, on the sixth page, there is an emoji that is very clearly of two hands side by side, facing forward, thumbs almost touching, with four tiny blue triangles sticking out on top. This could mean a few different things, theoretically, though none quite ring true to me. It could be two hands just in the air, excited about life. But if that’s the case, I think it’s weird that they are so rigid and pristinely aligned. It could signify a double high-five, but again, if this is the case, this high-fiver needs to relax. I thought maybe it was a pair of hands that are about to clap (the tiny blue triangles would then signify motion). But alas, it is not a clapping emoji, because that one is clearly located a few spots to the right.

It is also not two hands praying, because that one is also located just to the right, with gold beams emanating from it to demonstrate the presence of God. So, basically, there is only one thing this emoji could be, and that is two kids who are bored in class playing flick football using a folded-up piece of paper and two hands as a goal post. Right? That doesn’t explain why all my friends are super into this emoji, so I do suspect there is something I’m missing. Is it jazz hands? Is it just like “WOW”?? Honestly, you guys, I don’t get it. Please enlighten me.

Actual Explanation: It’s a “hallelujah” emoji. Those two hands are raised in celebration of some awesome thing that happened. It’s used express joy in emoji-speak. Still looks like jazz hands to me.  

There are many more emojis that confuse me, but these are the top WTF ones. I’m beginning to think that maybe they were designed as Rorschach tests: we are supposed to project our own meanings and definitions onto them and then use our projections to learn something about ourselves. Or maybe, like always, I am reading way too deep into this. Perhaps you, reader, understand all of it better than I do. Feel free to tell me what these emojis actually are supposed to be. I’ve been dying to know.

(All images via. Featured image via.)