Swords man Keith Broni is making history as the first person ever given the task of interpreting and translating emojis for a living.
As the only one in the world to hold the job title of Emoji Translator, his consultancy role is to help companies safely utilise what has now become a global phenomenon.
Keith works for London-based Today Translations and – contrary to what you might think – he faced competition from almost 500 other applicants for the job.
He explained: “I did a thesis as part of my Masters degree on emoji behaviour and an analysis of them. When the job came up, I had to put my name in the hat.
“What I do is advise clients – that can be marketing departments, that can be PR agencies – about how emojis are changing and the way we use them online.
“I tell them about the various usage trends, because there are a lot of subtleties. While people use them every day, they might not realise the different meanings they have in different countries, and of course they look different across different devices.”
A raised thumb might signal approval here in Ireland, but it’s a grave insult in the Middle East. In 2015, a man was jailed in France for sending a gun emoji to his ex-girlfriend as it was interpreted as a threat to kill.
Emojis have come a long way since their creator, Shigetaka Kurita, unveiled the alphabet’s first 200 characters back in 1999. Today, there are 6,666.
An estimated ten billion emoji icons are sent every day via Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and other social media platforms, as well as via text and email.
Keith explained: “I advise on the best icons to augment text or replace it if necessary, based around the audience, and I provide training to staff too so they can avoid pitfalls.
“It’s like slang. Emojis kind of emulate our hand gestures and our facial expressions, allowing us to convey emotion and sentiment in text.”
The most popular emoji “above and beyond” all others across all platforms continues to be the crying, laughing face, which has all but replaced LOL, LMAO and ROFL.
Keith said: “I think it says something nice about the world, that people are willing to react positively.”