Introducing 'Vermoji' — Digital Hieroglyphics for Vermonters | Culture | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Introducing 'Vermoji' — Digital Hieroglyphics for Vermonters

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MATTHEW DOUGLAS
  • Matthew Douglas

Did you know that Vermont is the "poop capital of America"? That's according to the headline of an August 18 story on the Daily Mail website. The UK newspaper was one of many media outlets to report on a recent study analyzing the use of emoji — those playful images that let smartphone users add attitude to texts, emails and Facebook messages.

SwiftKey, a company that makes mobile keyboard apps for Android and iPhone, analyzed 1.5 billion emoji used worldwide. For the U.S. results, the company built an interactive map showing which emoji were used the most — and where.

Some results were predictable: New Yorkers favor the Statue of Liberty; Hawaiians often pick surfing and volcano emoji to illustrate their thoughts.

Less explicably, the study also found that Vermonters overwhelmingly choose the Pile of Poo. For a few days, Facebook feeds were full of people talking shit about the state.

A Japanese telecom-company worker named Shigetaka Kurita created emoji — the word is a mashup of the Japanese terms for "picture" (e) and "character" (moji). While helping build the world's first mobile internet platform, Kurita developed a set of symbols to enhance text. They took off in Japan in the late 1990s, but weren't widely used in the U.S. until after the release of the iPhone in 2007. Now they're ubiquitous here; SwiftKey notes that 74 percent of Americans report using emoji daily. In May 2015, Merriam-Webster officially recognized the term with a dictionary entry.

Emoji appear on smartphones just like any other language — as a keyboard that users can choose to activate. The emoji option appears sandwiched between Dutch and Estonian on the list of available iPhone keyboards. Once enabled, emoji become part of the touchscreen keyboard along with letters and punctuation marks.

With more than 700 tiny, cartoonish images to choose from on that keyboard, why do so many Vermonters choose the poop picture? SwiftKey doesn't say. But here at Seven Days, we suspect it has something to do with the crap job that the available emoji do when it comes to capturing the Vermont experience.

Peruse the emoji keyboard, and you'll find that many of the little symbols reflect their urban and Asian roots. Among the hundreds of images are skyscrapers, high-speed passenger trains and a tempura shrimp, but there are none for cheese. Dozens of little faces depict various emotional states, but none of those faces is shivering, or obscured by a hat and scarf.

For the Tech Issue, Seven Days staff brainstormed a list of "Vermoji" that more accurately represent our lives here in the Green Mountain State. We divided them into the standard categories — People, Nature, Food and Drink, Celebrations, Activities, Travel and Places, Objects and Symbols — and illustrated one in each group. Feel free to imagine the rest.

Adding such new emoji to the keyboard isn't easy. To appear on phones, they must receive approval from the Unicode Consortium, an international nonprofit organization composed of representatives from companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook; the list of emoji is updated annually. This collaboration ensures that the same emoji are available across all technology platforms — though their appearance varies with the platform one uses to view them. For example, the Pile of Poo emoji wears an anthropomorphized smile on the iPhone, but not on Google's Android, where flies circle the pile.

The full list of official emoji, and their names, is searchable online at emojipedia.org. The 67 emoji under consideration for next year's vote include a pregnant woman, a baguette, a canoe — and, reportedly, a hunk of cheese. Nothing else resembling these suggested Vermojis has made the cut. Yet.

People

MATTHEW DOUGLAS
  • Matthew Douglas

Bundled Up Face With Eyes Showing: When the mercury drops below zero, Vermonters become a race of puffy ninjas. Or at least we look that way, with only our eyes exposed to the elements.

bundledface.png
  • Flatlander
  • Bearded Hipster
  • Ben and Jerry
  • Tie-Dye Hula Hoop Dancer
  • Blood-Shot Eyes
  • Ethan Allen
  • Grace Potter
  • Thru-Hiker
  • Randy Quaid

Nature

Jeezum Crow: This mild epithet is old-time Vermonters' inoffensive way of saying "Jesus Christ!" Our just slightly sacrilegious cross-shaped crow gets the message across.

jezzumcrow.png
  • MATTHEW DOUGLAS
    • Matthew Douglas
    Long line for Heady Topper!
  • Pot Leaf
  • Lamprey
  • Champ
  • Woodchuck
  • Alpaca
  • Cow
  • Moose
  • Hay Bales
  • Black Fly
  • Catamount
  • Blizzard

Food and Drink

MATTHEW DOUGLAS
  • Matthew Douglas

Growler: Craft beer just tastes better on draft. And the best way to bring that fresh taste home is in a growler. As a bonus, growlers double as vessels for maple syrup — presumably the party you're texting will know which liquid you mean.

growler.png
  • Kale
  • Gravy Fries
  • Cider
  • Heady Topper
  • Maple Syrup
  • Farmers Market
  • Food Truck
  • Wedge of Cheese

Celebrations

MATTHEW DOUGLAS
  • Matthew Douglas

Mud Season: No one celebrates when the state's terra firma turns into mushy, mucky mire, but it is an annual rite of Vermont spring. If Halloween, Christmas and Japanese moon-viewing ceremonies get their own emoji, so should Vermont's fifth season.

  • muddyboot.png
    Bennington Battle Day
  • First Day of Deer Season
  • First Day of Skiing
  • Last Day of Skiing
  • Snow Day
  • Green Up Day

Activities

MATTHEW DOUGLAS
  • Matthew Douglas
snowshovel.png

Shovel: Forget skis, mulled cider and roaring fireplaces. The real symbol of Vermont winter is the snow shovel — though the ice scraper deserves an honorable mention.

  • Ice Fishing
  • Skinny-Dipping
  • Naked Bikers
  • Protest March
  • Leaf Peeping

Travel and Places

MATTHEW DOUGLAS
  • Matthew Douglas

Farm: Is there anything more Vermont-y than a barn with a silo? This is an obvious add. Plus, it has multiple meanings.

oldbarn.png


  • Winooski Traffic Circle
  • Sign: Next Exit 40 Miles
  • Rural General Store
  • B&B
  • Pickup Truck With Attached Snow Plow
  • Tractor-Trailer Stuck on Smugglers' Notch Road
  • Car in a Ditch
  • Dirt Road
  • Camel's Hump
  • City Market Parking Lot

Objects and Symbols

420alarmclock.png

Clock Showing 4:20: If you don't know what 4:20 means...

  • MATTHEW DOUGLAS
    • Matthew Douglas
    Billboard With Line Through It
  • Flannel Shirt
  • Hiking Boot
  • Birkenstocks
  • Fleece
  • Hat With Ear Flaps
  • Water Bottle
  • Backpack
  • Hunting Rifle
  • Dowsing Rod
  • Woodpile
  • Sign That Means No Cell Service
  • Sign That Means No Internet Connection
  • Sign That Means No Power

Berniemoji for President

MATTHEW DOUGLAS
  • Matthew Douglas

Sen. Bernie Sanders is likely the first politician to get his own emoji. Portland, Me., illustrator and Bernie supporter Scott Nash worked with two app developer friends, Akimitsu Hogge and Wade Brainerd, to create 12 colorful, cartoony "Berniemoji." They show the presidential candidate grinning, glaring, gritting his teeth and yelling in full-on outrage mode.

In an interview with the Portland Press Herald, Nash said he "saw a Muppet-like quality in Bernie, and I mean that in the best possible way."

The Berniemoji aren't official emoji approved by the Unicode Consortium — they're more like "stickers," or images that can be placed into text messages. To access them, download the free Berniemoji app in the App Store.


The original print version of this article was headlined "Smiling Poop, Frowny Face"

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