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Examiner
  • Jeff Fox: Apparently, literacy is overrated

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  • We’re bringing it old school this week, which is to say this column will consist of words. Mostly.
    Enjoy it while you can.
    I might not be the brightest little star in the night sky, but there is one inevitable phenomenon I can spot a mile off.
    We have entered the age of emoji, and we’ll be at a loss for words to describe it, mostly because we won’t have words any more.
    You’ve seen these things, and you’ve probably used them. Actually, anyone who’s ever signed her name “Kandi” with a little heart over the “i” is as guilty as those peddling the next wave of mayhem, which apparently is one short generation of smartphones away.
    Emoticons are those symbols used to punctuate electronic messages. Happy faces, frowny faces, etc. Heck, I have the least smart phone available, and I can get a heart, a star and, for some reason, a euro.
    Emoji – as I understand it, and we’ve already stipulated I’m a bit of a dim bulb on these things – are another variation, symbols devised for the iWhatever and similar devices. Somewhere, great minds are cranking out more of these by the hour: snowflakes, see-no-evil monkeys, a hand giving the OK sign. Yes, a hand giving other signs, too. Of course.
    Apparently this has at least some roots in the late ’60s and early ’70s, a time when many loopy ideas swirled about. In the junior high choir, we earnestly sang that medley from the musical “Hair,” with the lyrics about a dawning age in which “peace will guide the planets, and lo-ove will steer the stars.” Still waiting on that one.
    This was also at the height of the smiley face fad, another expression of baseless optimism. Those buttons were everywhere. It was a thing. Fads fade, though the chirpy yellow smiley face never seemed to go away entirely. It just became part of the landscape. Who knew it would one day become the basis of a new language?
    Now that little thing winks, grins, sticks out its tongue and attempts the entire range of human emotions. And that’s just the people branch of emoji. The rest is endless: Do not litter, do not smoke, soccer balls and baseballs, any plant or animal you might imagine, including “pouting cat face,” the need for which escapes me.
    Where this goes is obvious. The young, whose creative little brains still work, will run with it. Lots of advantages: It’s new, cool and fun. The old people will never get it and probably complain a lot, and that’s always a good show. There will be no need – as if any effort were being made anyway – to use proper English. And really, can a string of colorful, animated images be less elegant than text-speak such as C U L8ter?
    Page 2 of 2 - How those who only speak emoji will contemplate life’s deep and subtle mysteries, express love and assure the continuation of the species is unclear, but I’m sure they’ll manage.
    A lot of these symbols come off as looking like those international symbols we were supposed to learn years ago. Kind of like the metric system, another we-are-the-world idea bubbling about the ’70s. That was the next big thing for a while. Kind of like the smiley face. Kind of like emoji. We’ll see. For the moment, I’m sticking with words.
    On Twitter, Jeff Fox is strictly a word person. Follow him @Jeff_Fox.

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