Recently, I deplored the way Twitter symbols had infiltrated our language. (Blog 8/26/14) But I was an innocent. I’d no idea how emojis, those little symbols used to clarify an electronic messages, had exploded into a complete language seen not only on social networks but also on music videos and in literature as well. Yes, I said literature. Behold, below the translation of the opening line of Moby Dick in emoji . The entire book has been translated in emoji and resides in the Library of Congress. Click here
Some might delight in this tinkering with an American classic, but I wonder what Herman Melville might say to see his work reduced to symbols. Perhaps he’d be delighted at the prospect of being made current. A recent study from the University of Cambridge notes that “people who use emoticons in their personal and professional lives are more popular and influential than those who don’t. (“A Return to Hieroglyphics,” by Erin Griffith, Fortune Magazine, July 21. 2014, pg. 148.) I’m sure Melville wouldn’t mind being popular again.
But, is the transformation something new or something old? After all, our first human stories were told as drawings on the walls of caves and the ancient city of Babylonia flourished while using hieroglyphics. Could it be that the digital age is taking us back to the future?