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Why emojis and excessive exaggeration are destroying language


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Following the introduction of emoji reactions on Facebook two months ago, is it time to rethink our modes of expression?

As a rhetorical device, hyperbole is the friend of the poet. Is your ode lacking a certain pizzazz? Whack some exaggeration in there and your keen admirers will be overcome with a veritable flood of tears. Shoot up some opiates and they'll be calling you Keats in no time.

That is acceptable exaggeration. So too is the outburst of expletives to convey your severe annoyance at stubbing your toe on the skirting board *shakes fist at the heavens* or the barrage of weeping at the death of a loved one. All permissible to be sure; exaggeration is a key component in human expression.

But it's overzealous use in the modern era is nothing short of a crime against language that erodes the meanings of words and phrases to such a degree that they become near-obselete.

When was the last time you used the word "awesome" correctly? If something is awesome then it (unsurprisingly) inspires awe: your tasty cup of coffee is not awesome. And when the time comes that you are, in fact, faced with something truly awesome, what will you say?

"The sunset over that lake is fire as fuck."

Exaggeration is meant for the transmission of potent emotion, not a slightly amusing image or statement. And the enabler of these crimes against language? The emoji.

Now, let's be clear. The regular ol' smiley face? No problem with that little lemony orb, he can go free. So too can the frowning face, the castigating countenance and the miserable mug. All fair forms of expression, all conveyors of moderate emotion.

My metaphorical beef is with the other ones, the crying-with-laughter emoji in particular: never have I known such an odious and moronic method of communication. Unless you are sat at your desk, tears streaming from your eyes as you slap your hand on your thigh at the most amusing cat meme ever to have graced the Internet, you probably shouldn't be using it. Even worse is when I see three (yes, THREE) of the buggers as an accompaniment to an image of someone in a slightly humorous t-shirt with the caption "omg I'm such a nutter".

I have seen people react to statements such as "Just got back to the car and forgot the milk!" with an eyes-and-mouth-wide-open emoji. Why is that a gobsmacking event? Fair enough if the Holy Ghost popped out of the dashboard and burst into a symphonic rendition of Gloria Gaynor's 'I Am What I Am'. But since he didn't, not shocking in my books.

The crux of my case against emojis is this: language hasn't been in the ironworks for millenia just to be superseded by small pictographs whose only function is to provide a vacuous emotional reaction to content which doesn't merit even the slightest quiver of the lip. Think of a more appropriate response that doesn't involve degrading the essential significance of the spoken and written word.

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