What your emoticons really mean

Singaporean youths tell us the true meanings behind these emoticons.

Praise Yeo

Published: 22 April 2016, 12:29 PM

I love emojis as much as the next person. It adds subtle vibrancy to texts and helps you verbalise things that cannot be conveyed through words.

However, the emoticons you’ve been using might not necessarily be interpreted the way you want them to. So, what are some alternative interpretations for these emoticons?

We conducted an anonymous survey with some Singaporean youths aged 17-23 on five popular emoticons, and what they really mean.

1. The knife 

So… should we watch out when we receive this emoji? Photo credit: PBS

Although this emoticon only has an image of a knife, it seems to be interpreted in a myriad of ways. One respondent said: “It means you killed it, like you did a good job. I’d use it if a friend was having a performance.”

However, the majority seem to believe that the emoticon is used when the person texting is angry and is trying to convey the message: “I’m going to kill you.”

2. The “shy-faced”

This emoticon is yet another favourite. Known as the “shy-face emoticon”, most users see it as a way to convey their appreciation or love. “I generally use it after I say I love you to someone, even my family members,” said an 18-year-old.

Are you showing love… or more? Photo credit: CDN-ASSETS

This was agreed upon by the majority of youths interviewed, except for one. He called this the “I want you” emoticon, saying that it carried a hint of suggestiveness. He explained he would never use the emoticon with anyone, except his girlfriend.

Now, imagine what he would think if a friend sent him one of those, under the impression that she appreciated him…

3. The smirk face

Does this mean he’s flirting with you? Or not? Photo credit: CDN-IMG

This emoticon is universally agreed upon to be suggestive. However, youths explained that it also can be used in friendly contexts, where you want to tease someone about something.

One comment, however, stood out from the rest: “It means come over to my house now.”

Now that escalated quickly.

4. The monkey emoticon

The see-no-evil monkey actually sees all the evil Photo credits: PIX.IEMOJI

This emoticon is explained by emojipedia as simply the see-no-evil monkey. Youths, however, disagree. As one of the most popular emoticons on the keyboard, this emoticon is used for very different reasons.

“For me, I use this emoticon when I’m trying to act cute and be flirty,” said a 17-year-old. Some youths view this as “the emoticon used when you see something you shouldn’t have.”

5. The female-hand emoji

Are you being nice or being sassy? Photo credits: F.TQN

With a sassy hand to the side and a plastic smile on the girl’s face, it is no wonder this emoticon is mostly used with a brassy connotation. Youths explain that this emoticon generally meant “Duh, please,” or “Whatever”.

One comment, however, struck us as odd: “The emoticon says I aspire to be a waiter and I’ll serve your dishes. This is used when you are telling someone about your aspirations.”

We sure hope he doesn’t go around telling his friends about his aspirations with that emoticon, or he’d soon have no more friends left.

Emoticons can be interpreted differently by different people. The next time your friend asks you out with a smiley-face emoji, be sure to tell you parents where you would be. You’d never know what the smiley-face emoticon means.


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