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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
Where Does the Phrase '… And the Horse You Rode In On' Come From?
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Horses may no longer be the dominant form of transportation in the U.S., but the legacy of our horseback-riding history lives on in language. When telling people off, we still use the phrase “... and the horse you rode in on.” These days, it’s rare for anyone you're telling to go screw themselves to actually be an equestrian, so where did “and the horse you rode in on” come from, anyway?

Well, let’s start with the basics. The phrase is, essentially, an intensifier, one typically appended to the phrase “F*** you.” As the public radio show "A Way With Words" puts it, it’s usually aimed at “someone who’s full of himself and unwelcome to boot.” As co-host and lexicographer Grant Barrett explains, “instead of just insulting you, they want to insult your whole circumstance.”

The phrase can be traced back to at least the 1950s, but it may be even older than that, since, as Barrett notes, plenty of crude language didn’t make it into print in the early 20th century. He suggests that it could have been in wide use even prior to World War II.

In 1998, William Safire of The New York Times tracked down several novels that employed the term, including The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972) and No Bugles, No Drums (1976). The literary editor of the latter book, Michael Seidman, told Safire that he heard the term growing up in the Bronx just after the Korean War, leading the journalist to peg the origin of the phrase to at least the late 1950s.

The phrase has had some pretty die-hard fans over the years, too. Donald Regan, who was Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan from 1981 through 1984, worked it into his official Treasury Department portrait. You can see a title along the spine of a book in the background of the painting. It reads: “And the Horse You Rode In On,” apparently one of Regan’s favorite sayings. (The book in the painting didn't refer to a real book, but there have since been a few published that bear similar names, like Clinton strategist James Carville’s book …and the Horse He Rode In On: The People V. Kenneth Starr and Dakota McFadzean’s 2013 book of comics Other Stories And the Horse You Rode In On.)

It seems that even in a world where almost no one rides in on a horse, insulting a man’s steed is a timeless burn.

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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language
How to Say Merry Christmas in 26 Different Languages
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“Merry Christmas” is a special greeting in English, since it’s the only occasion we say “merry” instead of “happy.” How do other languages spread yuletide cheer? Ampersand Travel asked people all over the world to send in videos of themselves wishing people a “Merry Christmas” in their own language, and while the audio quality is not first-rate, it’s a fun holiday-themed language lesson.

Feel free to surprise your friends and family this year with your new repertoire of foreign-language greetings.

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