Recently a Facebook post reminded me of something I had written a few years ago. I was celebrating finally knowing what the acronym ‘GOAT’ meant – it had been in circulation for almost a year already. I was lucky the fast-moving conveyer belt of acronyms and all things trendy hadn’t spat it out yet. There was always a chance that once I had caught on to it, the world would have moved on and the word ‘GOAT’ would have gone back to what I had always known it to mean. 

Once I knew what the acronym stood for, I wanted to use it everywhere. When a dancing goat surfaced on TikTok, I exclaimed that it was GOAT, Greatest Of All Time! Another thing I took a long time to catch on to were emojis. Before I embraced them, I saw them as yet another tool the Lucifer of the literary space had conjured up to kill a craft whose principles had kept it alive for millennia. Why do I need a smiley cartoon to show that I’m happy? And a frowning one to show anger? Surely I can convey these emotions with words and punctuation like it has always been done! This was me, quarrelsome over what I deemed an unnecessary alteration of something that wasn’t broken. But true to character, once I caught on to the emoji craze, I was like a kid in a candy store. Suddenly conversations felt incomplete and flat without an emoji. I got carried away so much that my 12-year-old daughter was moved to try and set me straight. 

She told me about rules I didn’t know existed. I had just written and sent something off when I heard her say: “You don’t use emojis with a full stop.” I hadn’t noticed her peering over my shoulders.

I started googling stuff about emojis. I started looking up good emoji-quette. Yes, such a word exists. While the net is not conclusive on the rule my too-sassy-for-her-own-good daughter enunciated, it does pronounce on what is good and what is bad emoji-quette. At the top of the rulebook is a rule I will admit to having broken several times in my haste to look cool: Words are still King. Do not use emojis in place of words. The rule here states that you should write a complete sentence. If you are going to arrive in a car, then say so; writing ‘I will arrive in’ and then inserting a car emoji is a crime… What you can do is to add a smiling-from-ear-to-ear or a dancing emoji to show you are happy that you will be arriving in a car. 

Another rule I did not know existed – and was thus not aware I was breaking – is the following: Do not put emojis before a message or a call to action. This simply means that a warrant of arrest should long ago have been issued for me for my habit of putting fist-pump emojis before words like ‘Let’s do this.’ It further states it is a crime to put emojis before any text. Period!

And then there is this one: Use clear emojis that many people will understand. The last thing you want is for the recipient of your emoji-laden message to construe it in a way contrary to what you had meant it to be. I consider myself fortunate to have people younger than me as my advisors. Two emojis I was advised against using are the brinjal and a peach. I will not lecture you about what these two seemingly innocent fresh-produce items are used to mean in the streets. Google them if you have just surfaced from under a rock, and you genuinely do not know what a brinjal, a peach and three dropplets of water stand for. 

An emoji I tend to use liberally is the two palms pressed against one another. The intention is never to invite someone to a prayer session. It usually is to show gratitude. Nothing wrong with that, apparently. It is said that in Japanese culture, this emoji is used to express exactly what I use it for – gratitude. I have it on good authority that it refers to idakamasul, which is commonly said before a meal. 

One thing is certain, with over 10 billion emojis sent every day, the craze is bound to infect even the most stubbornly Luddite among us. Soon we’ll have textless, emoji-only conversations. The question will not be whether but how to use them. Who knows? Maybe we will have whole short stories written in just emojis in the near future. It will be interesting to see how editors will judge these contests. My guess is that a brinjal and peach will not be allowed.

Tell us: How techno-savvy are the “oldies” in your circle?