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16 Characters From Other Languages That Make Great Emoticons

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In the old days we had to make do with primitive sideways grins, frowns, and winks. Now we can draw from a huge stock of full-color, properly-oriented emojis for nearly any concept we might want to express. But where’s the fun in that when there’s such a big world of old school symbols and scripts to exploit? There’s an art to creating emoticons from simple characters. Here are 16 characters you can borrow from the writing systems of other languages to up your emoticon game.

1. ツ (Japanese katakana TU)

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (beats me!)

You may have seen this friendly shrug emoticon around and wondered how to get that sly grin effect. It’s the syllable “tu” from the Japanese katakana syllable writing system.

2. and 3. ٩ ۶ (Persian/Urdu Arabic 9 and 6)

٩◔̯◔۶ (throwing my hands up)

To get raised arms tilted in opposite directions, the 9 and 6 from the Arabic script used for Persian and Urdu do nicely. They also give a cute little “balled fists” look.

4. ٥ (Persian/Urdu Arabic 5)

(˘_˘٥) (sad)

The Persian/Urdu Arabic 5 makes a fat little lonely tear.

5. ಥ (Kannada THA)

(ಥ﹏ಥ) (crying)

Another way to get to the tears is through Kannada, a language of India, which has a script particularly rich in emoticon possibilities. The letter for “tha” looks like an eye, complete with eyebrow, that has a tear coming out of it. Aww.

6. ಠ (Kannada TTHA)

(ಠ_ಠ) (disapproval)

The “look of disapproval” emoticon uses the Kannada “ttha” (pronounced like “tha” but with the tongue in retroflex position, touching the roof of the mouth).

7. 益 (Chinese “profit, benefit, advantage”)

(ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻ (flipping the table in rage)

Here the disapproving Kannada eyes take on an angry look in combination with the teeth-baring Chinese character for “profit.” This complex emoticon also uses Japanese katakana, the Chinese “hair” radical, and Unicode box-drawing characters.

8. ლ (Georgian LAS)

(-‸ლ) (facepalm)

The Georgian “las” can be a fist clenched in rage, an animal paw, or a palm wearily covering the face.

9. ω (Greek lower case OMEGA)

ヾ(・ω・*)ノ (happy kitty)

Perfect for animal snouts, the lower case omega makes good kitty and puppy emoticons.

10. ౪ (Telugu 4)

/(◉౪◉)\ (happy bunny)

For toothy animals like bunnies and hamsters there’s the 4 from the script of Telugu, a language of India. Can also look like a tongue sticking out below a snout.

11. ง (Thai NGO NGU)

(ง'̀-'́)ง (put your dukes up)

A pair of these Thai velar nasal consonants make a nice “put your dukes up.”

12. 旦 (Chinese “dawn, morning, day”)

(^-^)旦 (have a drink)

The Chinese character for “day” looks like a half full glass. Or half empty, depending. A good way to raise a glass to someone, or tell them you’re going out for drinks.

13. ξ (Greek lower case XI)

ξξ(∵◕◡◕∵)ξξ (freckles and curls)

The Greek lower case xi can stand in for lovely, curly locks.

14. Ӝ (Cyrillic ZHE, with diaeresis)

ƸӜƷ (butterfly)

The Cyrillic zhe with diaeresis above it already looks like a butterfly. Add an ezh, from the international phonetic alphabet, and a reversed ezh and it’s got magnificent wings.

15. and 16. ᕙᕗ (Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics FA and FO)

ᕙ(⇀‸↼‶)ᕗ (Oooo, I’m so mad!)

In the Eastern Cree version of this syllabic writing system developed for North American languages, there is a “fa” and a “fo” that serve well for raised, clenched fists of frustration.

Different operating systems and programs handle these symbols in different ways, so there’s no one simple explanation for how to generate them (and depending on how you are viewing this, some symbols may show up as empty boxes), but if you want to try some out, you can go here and cut and paste.

‶٩(◕◡◕ )  (Bye bye!)

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Big Questions
Why Does Japan Have Blue Traffic Lights Instead of Green?
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In Japan, a game of Red Light, Green Light might be more like Red Light, Blue Light. Because of a linguistic quirk of Japanese, some of the country’s street lights feature "go" signals that are distinctly more blue than green, as Atlas Obscura alerts us, making the country an outlier in international road design.

Different languages refer to colors very differently. For instance, some languages, like Russian and Japanese, have different words for light blue and dark blue, treating them as two distinct colors. And some languages lump colors English speakers see as distinct together under the same umbrella, using the same word for green and blue, for instance. Again, Japanese is one of those languages. While there are now separate terms for blue and green, in Old Japanese, the word ao was used for both colors—what English-speaking scholars label grue.

In modern Japanese, ao refers to blue, while the word midori means green, but you can see the overlap culturally, including at traffic intersections. Officially, the “go” color in traffic lights is called ao, even though traffic lights used to be a regular green, Reader’s Digest says. This posed a linguistic conundrum: How can bureaucrats call the lights ao in official literature if they're really midori?

Since it was written in 1968, dozens of countries around the world have signed the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, an international treaty aimed at standardizing traffic signals. Japan hasn’t signed (neither has the U.S.), but the country has nevertheless moved toward more internationalized signals.

They ended up splitting the difference between international law and linguists' outcry. Since 1973, the Japanese government has decreed that traffic lights should be green—but that they be the bluest shade of green. They can still qualify as ao, but they're also green enough to mean go to foreigners. But, as Atlas Obscura points out, when drivers take their licensing test, they have to go through a vision test that includes the ability to distinguish between red, yellow, and blue—not green.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Using Words Like 'Really' A Lot Could Mean You're Really Stressed
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Are you feeling really exhausted? Or have you noticed that it's incredibly hot out today?

If you recognize the adverbs above as appearing frequently in your own speech, it could be a sign that you're stressed. At least, those are the findings in a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As Nature reports, researchers found that peppering our speech with "function words" is a pretty accurate indicator of our anxiety levels.

Function words differ from verbs and nouns in that they don't mean much on their own and mostly serve to clarify the words around them. Included in this group are pronouns, adverbs, and adjectives. A team of American researchers suspected that people use these words more frequently when they're stressed, so to test their hypothesis, they hooked up recording devices to 143 volunteers.

After transcribing and analyzing audio clips recorded periodically over the course of two days, the researchers compared subjects' speech patterns to the gene expressions of certain white blood cells in their bodies that are susceptible to stress. They found that people exhibiting the biological symptoms of stress talked less overall, but when they did speak up they were more likely to use words like really and incredibly.

They also preferred the pronouns me and mine over them and their, possibly indicating their self-absorbed world view when under pressure. The appearance of these trends predicted stress in the volunteers' genes more accurately than their own self-assessments. As study co-author Matthias Mehl told Nature, this could be a reason for doctors to "listen beyond the content" of the symptoms their patients report and pay greater attention "to the way it is expressed" in the future.

One reason function words are such a great indicator of stress is that we often insert them into our sentences unconsciously, while our choice of words like nouns and verbs is more deliberate. Anxiety isn't the only thing that influences our speech without us realizing it. Hearing ideas we agree with also has a way of shaping our syntax.

[h/t Nature]

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