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Happy emoji day! But are your symbols getting lost in translation?

  • What was the last emoji you used? We took to the streets to ask what the public's favourite emojis are

Happy emoji day!

July 17 is officially World Emoji Day - but which symbol would you send to celebrate it?

You can search on your phone or, if you're stuck for ideas, type in your intention into the emojipedia.

That's the online dictionary which collates the full range of symbols which first emerged in Japan in the 1990s.

A picture says (and saves) a thousand words, of course, but be careful.

In this language, one person's angry person can be another person's vision of elation, or the "face with tears of joy" could be seen as you're crying from the pit of your stomach.

Is that a face with tears of joy or despair? Credit: PA

That's not just opinion, but the results of a study by University of Minnesota research lab GroupLens.

In an academic paper entitled "'Blissfully happy' or 'ready to fight': Varying Interpretations of Emoji" they found a surprisingly high number of symbols were deemed both positive and negative by different users.

Even more unhelpfully, the platform on which the emoji appears can alter the reading of the intended emotion.

This "grinning face with smiling eyes" that beams - in four different ways - on Microsoft, Samsung, LG and Google can look surprisingly tense if you're sending it through Apple.

The same emoji appears differently across five main smartphone platforms. Credit: grouplens.org

But even if the potential to be misunderstood is rife, does it really matter if your original intention is misconstrued?

It does when they're considered as evidence that could put you in jail.

Eric Goldman, a university professor from Santa Clara, tracks how courts in the US are handling emojis and has noted a distinct rise in the number of cases involving them.

Halfway through this year, there are already almost as many cases as 2018's total (53), which itself had seen a notable rise from 2017's 33.

Could an uplifting fist-pump be misconstrued as a punch threat? Credit: PA

Judges and juries in the US are now being forced to interpret the intention behind a whole host of emoji messages, from inappropriate symbols shared in workplace harassment cases to nods, smiles and gestures suggesting apparent complicity in other serious crimes.

Some judges are simply omitting the emojis as evidence. But more and more are incorporating them to help decide whether justice is done.

So there's a lot riding on being understood.

A lot depends too on where in the world you're sending the message - and who's receiving it.

A Chinese golfer could see a different expression in these 'positive' golf balls.

Chinese social media users, in particular, are renowned for subtext in their online conversations, which are far less positive than they appear on the face of it.

So smiley faces or happy waving can easily become mocking and sarcastic rebukes under the radar - though the sender can plead innocence.

That wasn't enough for one WeChat user in Hunan province, who found herself dismissed from her bar job earlier this year for sending back an 'OK' emoji to her boss when he asked for documents.

The number of different emojis has ballooned in the past decade.

"You should use text to reply to the message if you have received it. Don’t you know the rules?" he scolded her, according to the South China Morning Post.

The dismissal led to widespread outcry and ridicule on social media, generating 280 million views on Chinese social site Weibo, which underscores the influence of emojis in popular conversation.

While some may still be adjusting to the picture-based conversation, every year the language gets a little wider.

A Guinness World Record for the most number of emojis was set in London in 2017 before the record was overtaken in China a year later. Credit: PA

The Unicode Consortium, which creates the emojis, now includes 2,823 different symbols in the Unicode Standard.

The last full release - in June 2018 - saw 157 new emojis added, including wider varieties for gender and skin tones.

2019's development for Android and iOS will include 19 more and help to represent indigenous people in Australia, who until now have only been represented by the national flag.

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So perhaps celebrate World Emoji Day by hurling out your first boomerang emoji.

Then what you throw out into the digital world should come back around.

Though maybe it'll be mistaken for a croissant, or dog crushed French roll, or a brown moustache...