Happy World Emoji Day! An interview with Australian Expat and Emojipedia Founder Jeremy Burge Capital City

Jeremy Burge, Chief Emoji Officer.  Photo courtesy of Jeremy .

Jeremy Burge, Chief Emoji Officer. Photo courtesy of Jeremy.

Today is World Emoji Day. Why? Because the calendar emoji (📅) features the date July 17. Some hotheads get really worked up about emojis having their own day, but it’s all in good fun, like Pizza Day (February 9 in the U.S.). To celebrate, I’m sharing my podcast interview with Jeremy Burge, founder of Emojipedia, and an Australian expat living in London. 

Jeremy is the ‘smiling face with smiling eyes’ personified and a delight to talk to. On this episode of the Postcard Academy podcast, Jeremy and I talk about his job as Chief Emoji Officer, which he invented for himself after moving to the U.K. He explains the history of emojis and how new ones are decided on. He also shares his favorite food and culture recommendations for London, his adopted home. 

Subscribe to the Postcard Academy for free to hear all of Jeremy’s recommendations. Here’s an excerpt from our emoji chat.


Is the plural of emoji ‘emojis’ in English?

Ah. People get very worked up about this. In Japan, the plural of emoji is still emoji, like the plural of sushi is sushi. But, in English, all the style guides have pretty much say that ‘emojis’ works better in English, that we tend to pluralise things with an ‘s.’ We say tsunamis over here. A lot of nerds get really worked up about it, though. I think both are fine, honestly. Say what you like.

Emojis were invented in Japan, right?

Yes. They came around in the 90s, we didn’t have smartphones, but Japan was trying this thing called i-mode...it was a really cut-down internet, basically. It didn’t do much, but what they could do is insert these little pictures into the text, and they used it for, like, bus timetables, or the weather, or just being more polite in messaging. In Japan that’s quite important when you’re writing to people, to add a bit of — I want to say fluff, but you know, we do it in the UK, as well. You talk about the weather to start with, and then you get onto the point. So, emojis, sort of, helped fill a little gap there, where you could fit a bit more into your text message than if you could only use words.

That’s the reason why there are so many weather emojis.

Yes. And so much transport. Because often public transport operators, you could text them, and they’d send you the bus timetable, or the train, but then they’d put the little icon, to say, ‘This is the bullet train,’ or, ‘This is the normal train.’ And that’s why there’s, when you look at the whole train set, it’s too many. You don’t need that many trains for normal use, but in Japan, they had a good reason.

What is Emojipedia?

People will look up the emojis on Emojipedia, find out what they’re meant to be used for, how people use them, and what they look like on different phones. Because sometimes, especially if you have a Samsung phone, in particular, they can look a bit wacky. You think you’re sending a happy face from a Samsung phone, and everyone else gets the rolling eyes.

It’s got a good search. It looks like Google for emojis. Plenty of people, they’re on the computer, and they just type in what they want to search for, copy and paste it into a tweet or wherever they want to send it. 

How have emojis changed the way people communicate?

I think some of it’s made us a bit lazier. You know what, it’s not made us lazier, but it’s made us-, hm. How do I say this? You can say something brief, but it still looks heartfelt. And maybe it is. Maybe you send someone the ‘throwing a kiss,’ or the flowers emoji, that feels nice, right? When someone sends you three bouquets of flowers, but really, they just tapped a button three times, so-, [laughter].

I think texts can be misinterpreted, and so emojis can help bring some clarity.

Yeah, I mean, with your closest friends, maybe it’s fine, because they kind of get your nuances, but then you’ve got all these people, they’re not super, super close friends, but they’re people you talk to, and you want to be friendly with, and yeah, that’s a risky  middle ground, where maybe you’re making a joke, but you really want to check the ‘winky’ on the end or something, just to make it clear, so that you don’t go to bed at night and think, “Oh no, did I offend that person? Did I make it clear enough that I was joking?”



If you found this article useful, please share it, and subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast. Each week, expats and adventurers share their insider travel tips on the best food, nightlife, and cultural experiences in the most interesting places around the globe. I’m your host, Sarah Mikutel, an American who's spent the last 8 years living in, and traveling around, Europe.