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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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How Your Brain Turns Words Into Language
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Language is one of the things that makes us human—so much so that our brains can’t function the same way without it. But when it comes to actually speaking, reading, and listening to words, some parts of our brain do more heavy lifting than others. Life Noggin broke down this process in a recent video.

Before speaking a word you just heard out loud, that information must first travel to your primary auditory cortex, then to a part of the brain called the Broca’s area, and finally to your motor cortex, which makes verbalization possible. The Wernicke’s area of the brain also plays an important role in listening to and processing language: If it’s damaged, the speaker’s ability to form coherent sentences suffers.

Knowing more than one language shapes the brain in totally different ways. According to one recent study, bilingual speakers can perceive and think about time differently, depending on which language they're using. Learning a second language as an adult can also improve mental function and slow brain decline later in life.

For the full scoop on how our brains use language, check out the video below.

[h/t Life Noggin]

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10 Fascinating Facts About The Thesaurus

Writers often turn to a thesaurus to diversify their vocabulary and add nuance to their prose. But looking up synonyms and antonyms in a thesaurus can help anyone—writer or not—find the most vivid, incisive words to communicate thoughts and ideas. Since January 18 is Thesaurus Day, we’re celebrating with these 10 fascinating facts about your thesaurus.

1. ITS NAME COMES FROM THE GREEK WORD FOR TREASURE.

Greek lettering.
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Most logophiles consider the thesaurus to be a treasure trove of diction, but the word thesaurus really does mean treasure! It derives from the Greek word thésauros, which means a storehouse of precious items, or a treasure.

2. YOU CAN CALL THEM THESAURUSES OR THESAURI.

Row of old books lined up.
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How do you refer to more than one octopus? People say everything from octopuses, octopi, and octopodes. Similarly, many people have trouble figuring out the correct plural form of the word thesaurus. Though thesauri is technically correct—it attaches a Latin suffix to the Latin word thēsaurus—both thesauri and thesauruses are commonly used and accepted today.

3. EARLY THESAURUSES WERE REALLY DICTIONARIES.

Close-up of the term 'ideal' in a thesaurus.
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Ask a French scholar in the 16th century to see his thesaurus, and he'd gladly give you a copy of his dictionary. In the early 1530s, a French printer named Robert Estienne published Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, a comprehensive Latin dictionary listing words that appeared in Latin texts throughout an enormous span of history. And in 1572, Estienne's son Henri published Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, a dictionary of Greek words. Although the Estiennes' books were called thesauruses, they were really dictionaries comprised of alphabetical listings of words with their definitions.

4. A GREEK HISTORIAN WROTE THE FIRST BOOK OF SYNONYMS.

Stacks of books surrounding an open book and a pair of glasses.
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Philo of Byblos, a Greek historian and grammarian, wrote On Synonyms, a dictionary of synonyms that scholars consider to be the first ancient thesaurus. Dating to the late 1st century or early 2nd century CE, the book lists Greek words that are similar in meaning to each another. Sadly, we don’t know much more about On Synonyms because copies of the work haven’t survived over the centuries.

5. AN EARLY SANSKRIT THESAURUS WAS IN THE FORM OF A POEM.

Sanskrit lettering.
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In the 4th century CE, an Indian poet and grammarian named Amara Sinha wrote The Amarakosha, a thesaurus of Sanskrit words. Rather than compile a boring list of similar words, Amara Sinha turned his thesaurus into a long poem. Divided into three sections—words relating to the divine, the earth, and everyday life—The Amarakosha contains verses so readers could memorize words easily. This thesaurus is the oldest book of its kind that still exists.

6. A BRITISH DOCTOR WROTE THE FIRST MODERN THESAURUS.

Portrait of Peter Mark Roget.
Thomas Pettigrew, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Peter Mark Roget is the British doctor credited with authoring the first modern thesaurus. In 1805, he began compiling a list of words, arranged by their meaning and grouped according to theme. After retiring from his work as a physician in 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus of English words and phrases; so classified and arranged as to facilitate the expression of ideas and assist in literary composition. Today, Roget’s Thesaurus is still commercially successful and widely used. In fact, we celebrate Thesaurus Day on January 18 because Roget was born on this day in 1779.

7. THE THESAURUS HAS A SURPRISING LINK TO A MATHEMATICAL TOOL.

Image of a vintage log log slide rule.
Joe Haupt, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The division between "words people" and "numbers people" is deep-seated. Many mathematicians may try to steer clear of thesauruses, and bibliophiles may avoid calculators, but the thesaurus is actually linked to a mathematical tool. Around 1815, Roget invented the log log slide rule, a ruler-like device that allows users to easily calculate the roots and exponents of numbers. So while the inventor of the thesaurus was compiling words for his tome, he was also hard at work on the log log slide rule. A true jack-of-all-trades.

8. THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY HAS ITS OWN HISTORICAL THESAURUS.

Synonyms for "love."
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In 1965, a professor of English Language at Glasgow University suggested that scholars should create a historical thesaurus based on entries in the Oxford English Dictionary. The project was a massive undertaking, as people from multiple countries worked for 44 years to compile and classify words. Published in 2009, the Historical Thesaurus to the Oxford English Dictionary contains 800,000 words organized by theme and date. The thesaurus covers words and synonyms from Old English to the present day and lets readers discover when certain words were coined and how long they were commonly used.

9. ONE ARTIST TURNED HIS LOVE OF WORDS INTO A SERIES OF THESAURUS PAINTINGS.

Mel Bochner, "Crazy," 2004.
Mel Bochner, "Crazy," 2004. Francesca Castelli, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In 2014, the Jewish Museum in New York showed a survey of conceptual artist Mel Bochner’s art. Bochner had incorporated words and synonyms in his paintings for years—which were collectively referred to as the thesaurus paintings—featuring word paintings and lists of synonyms on canvas. The brightly colored paintings feature different groups of English and Yiddish synonyms. According to Bochner, Vietnam and Iraq war veterans cried after seeing his thesaurus painting Die, which features words and phrases such as expire, perish, succumb, drop dead, croak, go belly up, pull the plug, and kick the bucket.

10. THERE'S AN URBAN THESAURUS FOR ALL YOUR SLANG SYNONYM NEEDS.

Copy of an Urban Dictionary book.
Effie Yang, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Urban Dictionary helps people decipher the latest slang terms, but where should you go when you need a thesaurus of slang? Urban Thesaurus, of course! The site, which is not affiliated with Urban Dictionary, indexes millions of slang terms culled from slang dictionaries, then calculates usage correlations between the terms. Typing in the word money, for example, gives you an eclectic list of synonyms including scrilla, cheddar, mulah, coin, and bling.

This story originally ran in 2017.

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