Where Do Emojis Come From, and Why Are There No Cannabis Emojis?

Here is your fact of this National Emoji Day: “emoji” comes from the Japanese word for “pictograph,” which in turn comes from combining two Japanese characters, “e” (絵, “picture”) and “moj”i (文字, “character”). It’s pure coincidence that “emoji” looks like “emoticon,” even though the two serve the same purpose of expressing emotions through our digital devices.

If you’re anything like us, you’ve anguished more than a few times at the lack of an emoji for that feeling you always have that just can’t be expressed in words but hasn’t yet been expressed as a graphic design. Shaking your fist up at the sky in frustration, feeling so full from your dinner that you can only be rolled home, etc. Who is it, anyway, who controls our vocabulary of emojis, who decided that we need a fencer but not a face rolling its eyes?

You can thank or blame the Unicode Consortium for the roughly 2700 emojis that are officially sanctioned and used across just about all devices. This group was formed in Silicon Valley, of course, and consists of engineers and linguists who evaluate submissions and approve only 50-100 new emojis every year. If you have an idea for a new emoji, the primary criterion is projected frequency of use, and the process of submitting a new emoji for consideration is long and demanding. Just listen to this episode of the podcast 99% Invisible to get a sense of the process.

Cannabis has yet to earn a place in this graphic language of the digital age. We suspect that the Unicode Consortium only approves references to legal activities, so it may take a few years for marijuana emojis to emerge. In the mean time, cannabis-loving texters are nothing if not creative with substitutions, which commonly include:





Maple Leaf:

And at Say Hi, we suggest adding Sparkles to your shortlist:

What emojis do you wish existed, cannabis-related or otherwise? Let us know by posting comments on our Facebook. And sign up for our newsletter to get more stories like this delivered to your inbox once a week.