A new study analyzes more than a billion pieces of data on emojis across 16 languages and regions.

So what emoji do people use the most? That’s the central question in a new study that looks at emoji use around the world. The company SwiftKey analyzed more than a billion pieces of emoji data, organized by language and country. According to SwiftKey’s chief marketing officer, Joe Braidwood, the results were fascinating. Here’s a sample of what researchers found:

People are mostly like to send happy faces:

“The overall thing we noticed is that 70 percent of all emojis sent are positive and so that’s probably a good thing that we’re talking to each other positively and using emoji to enhance that,” Braidwood says.

Canada loves poop:

“Canadians lead the charge in their use of money, violence, sports-related, raunchy, and even the poop emoji,” he says.

Americans love their guns … and their pizza:

Americans are second behind Canada in their love of violent emojis, such as guns.

But one thing Americans also really, really love is pizza.

“Pizza was one of the most frequently used [emojis] in the U.S., as well as the chicken drumstick … and I think it shows you that, versus other nations, you guys have particular food habits,” Braidwood says.

Linguists are fascinated about the increasing popularity of emojis, according to a 2014 New Republic article.

Emoji have undoubtedly changed the way we text, Gchat, and tweet—but are they changing language itself? While emoji are more popular than ever, the idea behind them is actually quite old. “There’s an old utopian ideal that we could create a kind of a universal pictorial language,” says Zimmer. Francis Bacon and John Wilkins dreamed about developing a visual language that could take us back to the pre-Babel era. In the 1950s, a World War II concentration camp survivor named Charles Bliss devised a set of symbols he hoped would preclude war by facilitating communication among speakers of different languages. In 1969, Vladimir Nabokov told The New York Times: “I often think there should exist a special typographical sign for a smile … a supine round bracket.” In 1982, computer scientist Scott Fahlman granted his wish. Looking for a solution to the miscommunication that prevailed on early Internet message boards, he proposed that a rotated smiling face, composed of a colon, a hyphen and a parenthesis— :-) –should indicate that the writer was joking.

Emoji could even mark a return to a more pictographic script. Our earliest examples of writing come from the pictographic hieroglyphs and cuneiform inscriptions from Mesopotamia around 5,000 years ago. It was only around 1,200 BC that the Phoenicians developed the first alphabetic writing system. Could the rise of emoji mean we’re going backward?

Ben Zimmer doesn’t see it that way. He believes emoticons can help us re-incorporate something we’ve lost. “It’s a recurrence of a very old impulse,” he said. “I don’t see it as a threat to written language, but as an enrichment. The punctuation that we use to express emotion is rather limited. We’ve got the question mark and the exclamation point, which don’t get you very far if you want to express things like sarcasm or irony in written form.”

But the ability to convey tone and emotion through text, without resorting to illustration, is one of the key challenges of writing. It’s what makes someone a good writer rather than an effective artist or illustrator. And though emoticons may make it easier to convey different moods without much effort, they have limitations of their own. “You couldn’t communicate only with emoticons,” linguist John McWhorter wrote in an email. “You have to know what you’re talking about, what happened, when, and so on. Emoticons don’t do that.”

Zimmer, too, concedes that there are important limits on what emoji can communicate. He calls Emoji Dick “a fascinating project,” but notes: “If you look at those strings of emoji, they can’t stand on their own. They don’t convey the same message as the text on which they’re based.”

Today’s Question: Do emoticons and emojis help or hinder how we communicate through language?


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Minnesota United FC president Nick Rogers

The Minnesota United soccer team is waging a campaign for tax breaks to help pay for a new stadium in Minneapolis.  Mayor Betsy Hodges opposes waiving property tax breaks, saying

“If there were some other developer or some other project, who came to the city and said, ‘we want to put a $250 million development at one of the places in the city that is most ripe for economic development, on which we expect to make a significant profit, and all we need is to never ever pay property taxes on the site of that development,’ they would be laughed out of the city.”

But many on the city council are open to the idea, including Barbara Johnson, council president.

“I think it’s important for people to have many, many, many reasons to come to our city, including going to the theaters, including going to professional sports events,” Johnson said. “We’re a regional center. So if soccer’s going happen, I want it to happen in my city.”

Today’s Question: Should Minneapolis extend property tax breaks to help Minnesota United build a new soccer stadium?

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“For Minnesota’s growing e-cigarette industry, the House omnibus tax bill looks like a bust,” writes MPR News reporter Catharine Richert.

Buried in the bill is a provision that would change the way e-cigarettes are taxed. Right now, disposable e-cigarettes or vapor used in reusable e-cigarettes is taxed at 95 percent of the wholesale price of tobacco products.

The tax bill would change the rules to impose a 30 cent tax on every milliliter of vaping solution.

Vaping retailers and manufacturers say that amounts to an 800 percent tax increase.

“This will crush the vaping industry in Minnesota,” said Tim Koester President of the Independent Vapor Retailers of Minnesota. “I suspect a majority of Minnesota vape businesses will not be able to operate much longer if this new tax is imposed.”

Today’s Question: Do you support a tax increase on e-cigarettes?

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