Where does come from?
Recorded in literature as early as 720 CE, tengu have deep roots in Japanese folklore, where they’re a type of minor Shinto god and yokai (a general monster, goblin, or demon).
Tengu are a type of anthropomorphic bird-dog creature, literally meaning “sky-dog” in the Japanese kanji 天狗. The tengu is a a boastful trickster distinguished by its long nose, prominently featured on masks for tengu characters in Japanese kabuki and Noh theater.
The tengu assumed emoji form in 2010 under Unicode 6.0, officially called Japanese Goblin. Westerners unfamiliar with the tengu, however, often call the emoji goblin or troll emoji.
Designs for the goblin emoji vary by style across platforms, but all depict a red mask with menacing eyes and a frown, sometimes colored yellow, and bushy black eyebrows and mustache, sometimes with chin hair—and of course, the tengu’s signature long nose.
In January, 2018, Unicode recommended against a distinct troll emoji due to similarities in form and use to the goblin and ogre emoji, 👹, which is based on another creature from Japanese folklore.
Who uses ?
Among Japanese users, the goblin emoji can call someone out as conceited or arrogant, in line with the tengu’s role in their culture. For those unfamiliar with the tengu, however, the goblin emoji often calls out internet trolling.
To all you Haters😡and Trolls👺out there-it’s not gonna work: I’m loving my body🕺-owning my truth and ready to be the best me possible!😀🌈🌞🌻🦋💖😍
— Dana Carvey (@danacarvey) July 18, 2017
For others, the goblin emoji looks like a devil, so it gets used to demonize something, both cruelly and humorously.
Andrew Pudzer on MSNBC is demonstrating his partisanship by blaming Dems for resistance to Pompeo as Secretary of State. Thank God he didn’t become a part of Trump’s Crooked Cabinet.He is an arrogant entitled JERK.👿👺👿👹👺👿👹
— Beverly Jacob (@BeverlyJacob11) April 27, 2018
The goblin emoji can also signify “mischief” or “naughtiness.” Thanks to its phallic nose, this naughtiness can be more sexual in nature—especially given that the tengu mask has been historically depicted as a strap-on dildo.
After listening to considered argument (see original thread), I hereby officially declare 👺 the emoji of lesbian sex, and it will now replace 🍆 in all textual correspondence pertaining too lesbian sex. Thank you for your time. https://t.co/QHdZY9xs87
— Whores of Yore (@WhoresofYore) April 22, 2018
Its long nose also is associated with lying, like an evil Pinocchio or red-faced take on the lying face emoji, 🤥.
That mean, red face of the goblin emoji also lends to expressions of strong feelings of hate, frustration, and anger…
When you’re jacked you finally have cereal but there is no damn MILK! 😡👺#Angry
— Sam Urban (@sammyurbz66) August 25, 2013
…or scary feelings, especially around Halloween and in conjunction with the ogre emoji, 👹, or devil-themed emoji.