The tears of joy emoji is more than the word of the year, it’s a way of life
Try and think of a more chill job than the guy who sits around for the Oxford English Dictionary deciding what the word of the year is.
All this guy does is sit around in one of Oxford’s mahogany, brass, leather lined spires, smelling of old books and disappointment, before plucking any old bullshit out of thin air towards the end of the year.
In 2014 he went with “vape”. In the past he’s picked out “selfie”, “omnishambles” and “simples” – all cringe choices displaying an unambiguously lazy desire to get people who have Vine accounts interested in dictionaries.
This year’s shortlist included Dark Web (where your flatmate gets pills), on fleek (meh), lumbersexual (no one has ever used this word), and the pronoun “they” (v.progressive).
The obvious solution was to go “fuck it” and pick an emoji instead.
Which is exactly what the OED did yesterday, when they declared the “Face With Tears of Joy Emoji” the word of 2015.
They tracked the emoji’s ascendance with the mobile company SwiftKey. Research showed that the Face With Tears of Joy was the most-utilized emoji worldwide this year, accounting for 20 per cent of U.K. emoji use and 17 per cent in the U.S.
This leaves us with obvious questions like: what percentage of emoji use does the aubergine account for? What percentage is the scary moon face? The woman doing a kick in the red dress? What was the precise moment teary joy face overtook “LOOOOOL” as the de rigueur way to tell everyone you found the meme they posted amusing?
Really though we should be asking how the OED got it so right this year. Far more than a neeky word like “vape” or the god awful “simples” the tears with joy emoji has become an immovable, comforting part of the furniture of our everyday lives.
If you were forced step back from the sensory blitzkrieg of living in 2015 and asked to choose one symbol to react to all the beauty and terror and weirdness I’d think you’d pick that little yellow face.
Why? Because it doesn’t simply express happiness or joy. It’s the blue tears, those inconclusive, dubious blue tears which make the emoji such a perfect response to all kinds of things. In them there’s appalled embarrassment, scandalised incredulity, reluctant mirth.
There’s a level at which we’re all crying and all laughing at the same time and it’s the sanest response to the way things really are.