Dec 24, 2017 Culture

Surprise—These Emoji Meanings Aren't What You'd Expect

by Hadley Mendelsohn

Christian Vierig/Getty Images

When it comes to emoji meanings, we think all interpretations are fair. In fact, we encourage creative emoji usage. After all, they're meant to be playful. Personally, emoji conversations are when I get to let my sass flag fly. Yet they're also supposed to speed up and ease communication. And since we also believe in the importance of being direct and straightforward, this open-interpretation policy can lead to some sticky situations and real-life mishaps that can't be blamed on Mercury retrograding. If ending a sentence with a period via text can result in monstrous consequences, then surely an emoji can too.

So in an effort to set the record straight and send clearer messages, we consulted Emojipedia. And much to our horror, we found out that our "frequently used" emoji keyboard has been living a lie (you'll see what we're talking about once you read what these symbols actually mean). Specifically, language barriers and cultural nuances have made the meanings of many of our favorite emojis quite confusing, if not misleading. On the bright side, these kooky emoji meanings may also inspire some new group text jokes or elevator talk for your next awkward encounter. Scroll down to find out the Emojipedia definition of 20 emojis so you feel informed before hitting the send button.

What We Think It Means: "Home is where the heart is."

What It Really Means: Love hotel. "A love hotel is a hotel that can be hired by the hour, instead of as accommodation for the evening."

Shocking, right? Nothing against these so-called love hotels, but we prefer our definition of this one. Arguably the most controversial emoji on the keyboard, it was even the central figure in Durga Chew-Bose's first essay, "Heart Museum" in her critically acclaimed book Too Much and Not the Mood. She explains that she initially thought it meant "cardiologist," and was sure "the building stood for all matters having to do with that four-chambered, fist-shaped muscle we carry-that carries us—with constancy." As it turns out, it's not quite as poetic as we'd like to think.

What We Think It Means: A little red doodle or maybe an alert signal.

What It Really Means: Anger symbol.

This red symbol is "used to represent the veins popping on a very angry person," writes Emojipedia. Wow, that sounds serious and potentially dangerous. It does make sense once you know, but it's not self-explanatory. We'll call it the "temper tantrum emoji."

What We Think It Means: A shooting star.

What It Really Means: A dizzy symbol.

It would be way more romantic if it was a shooting star, but it is good to know that there's an emoji to tell the world we're feeling out of sorts when we're too dizzy to type.

What We Think It Means: A mysterious figure heading to/falling into another dimension.

What It Really Means: Man in suit levitating.

We can see that this is a man in a suit levitating, but that doesn't explain much, nor does it call out his fedora. Emojipedia also mentions that it's someones referred to as "Rude Boy." We may have found our new favorite emoji.

What We Think It Means: A lanyard or medal.

What It Really Means: A bookmark.

It appears we've been going to way too many festivals and conferences and grew up in a time where every kid is a winner, so naturally, we see trophies everywhere we look.

What We Think It Means: A fried egg on a pan.

What It Really Means: Cooking.

Okay, so it does sort of make sense, and my moderate kitchen skills feel a little more legit now, but isn't cooking usually a little more elaborate than frying an egg on a pan?

What We Think It Means: A blue swirl doodle or perhaps a piece of candy.

What It Really Means: A cyclone or tornado.

There's no way we're alone in thinking this emoji looks far more whimsical and sweet than scary and capable of mighty disasters. Either way, we've been using this incorrectly.

What We Think It Means: A person fuming in anger.

What It Really Means: A face with a look of triumph.

Oh, right! Those clouds of smoke coming out its nostrils are the result of #winning. Excuse us while we go practice our triumphant faces in the mirror.

What We Think It Means: A pretty little doily or bubblegum.

What It Really Means: A fish cake with swirl design.

While people definitely do eat this, it seems to be another case of broad symbols with a hyper-specific meaning, like the egg on a frying pan serving as the supposed universal symbol for cooking.

What We Think It Means: Wheat blowing in the wind.

What It Really Means: An ear of rice.

Makes sense. Though we don't think we'll ever be able to look at it without imagining Laura Ingalls Wilder playing in a wide-open prairie.

What We Think It Means: A red heart.

What It Really Means: A black heart.

So you're telling that has black has been red this whole? This emoji is trippier than The Matrix, so we're going to stick with our original interpretation.

What We Think It Means: Anxious to the point of tears.

What It Really Means: Sad but relieved face.

As described by Emojipedia, "this face has sweat dripping from its brow, due to a stressful situation." We're not sure we see that sense of "relief" the site is referring to.

What We Think It Means: A diamond.

What It Really Means: A gemstone.

Rihanna would not stand for this. Or maybe she'd be off the hook since diamonds are cut from gemstones. 

What We Think It Means: A girl raising the roof or tooting her own horn, as she should.

What It Really Means: An information desk person.

We're not seeing this one at all. Maybe it's supposed to represent the gesture of pride one would make if they knew the answers to every question ever asked. But then again, it's pretty doubtful that someone dealing with confused or angry customers/patrons all day would have this grin on their face (unless of course, it is indeed a grimace).

What We Think It Means: Whatever.

What It Really Means: Open hands. "Two open hands, representing either openness or a hug."

Apparently, all our sassiness was for naught. That's actually the direct opposite of what we'd imagined.

What We Think It Means: A person with their hands on the table, doing push-ups, or groveling.

What It Really Means: Person bowing deeply.

That sounds really Zen, so maybe we should try it. And bowing is still consistent with our interpretation of groveling, so at least we weren't totally off point with this one.

What We Think It Means: A snowman.

What It Really Means: A snowman without snow.

Actually, he's completely made of snow. That's basically all he's got going for him. But luckily the definitions are close enough that they won't lead to any major disagreements or miscommunications.

What We Think It Means: A person praying or high-fiving someone.

What It Really Means: A person with folded hands. "Two hands placed firmly together, meaning 'please' or 'thank you' in Japanese culture."

Okay, we can work with that.

What We Think It Means: A cute little prawn or coconut shrimp.

What It Really Means: A fried prawn covered in breadcrumbs.

Before this emoji secured a spot in my "frequently used" keyboard (which is where it's consistently lived for years now), I could never find it because I was always searching for it in the "animals" category, not the "food" category. Weirdly and rudely, Emojipedia also writes that it's also used "to describe small male genitals."

What We Think It Means: The two best friends that anyone could have who are tap-dancing.

What It Really Means: Women with bunny ears.

Aha, so that's what those two things are. We figured they were devil horns or something more diabolical/ less specific than bunny ears.

Anything to add to this list? What emoji are you dumbfounded by? Share below!