A case of cultural differences or linguistic ones?

If you would allow us a moment to push up the glasses on the bridge of our nose and pretentiously raise a finger in the air, we would like to remind everyone that “emoji” has nothing to do with “emotions” and instead is a Japanese word meaning “picture words.”

In fact, Japan has a rich history of using emoji in texts, so much so that they have a different category of them called “kao-moji” (“face words”). Kao-moji look like little faces, typically made with parentheses, and they express a huge variety of emotions.

Kao-moji are very popular, and most Japanese messaging/keyboard apps include them. And one such international app, Simeji with over 10 million installs, recently released the top kao-moji usages by country.

▼ (Click on the image to see the full picture.)

The countries on the list are:

Top row: Japan, US, UK, France
Second row: Russia, Spain, Italy, Turkey
Third row: Argentina, Mexico, Iraq, Egypt
Last row: Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, India

Japan’s top three kao-moji are: happy-eyes in first place, the kanji for “laugh” in second place, and a bowing kao-moji in third place, used to apologize or show gratitude. Interestingly enough, none of Japan’s kao-moji appear in the top three of any other country.

Just a quick glance at the list reveals a lot of other interesting trends too. Kao-moji with hearts in them (either red or black/white) made the top three in 11 countries but not in Japan. Also, the “shrugging” kao-moji was the most popular one in 11 countries, but it didn’t even crack the top three for Japan.

That trend in particular perplexed Japanese netizens for a unique reason:

“Wait what does the katakana ‘tsu’ in the shrugging one mean?”
“I can’t see anything except the ‘tsu’ katakana.”
“None of the other countries read Japanese, so they can use ‘tsu’ like that.”
“For Japanese people, the ‘tsu’ doesn’t look like a face, it just looks like a letter.”

The face in the middle of the shrugging kao-moji is ツ (“tsu”), one of the letters in Japanese’s katakana writing system. For those unfamiliar with katakana, it might look like a face, but for those who read and write ツ as a regular character every day, it’s hard to see it as anything except a letter in the alphabet.

It’s similar to how certain “Asian-style” English fonts are completely illegible to Japanese people for the same reason.

So if you want to confuse your Japanese friends, you now have the power to do so. And if you want to look like an old man online, we’ve got your covered with the list of kao-moji that will do that too.

Source: Livedoor NEWS via My Game News Flash
Featured image: Twitter/@livedoornews
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