Have You Ever Mixed Up These Misunderstood Emoji?

Emoji are itty-bitty images wonderful for cross-cultural communication. But, as #TheDress debate in 2015 taught us, we don’t always see the same picture in the same way. This is true of emoji, too, which can be more open to interpretation than we realize.

We’ve rounded up some emoji that often suffer from cases of mistaken identity. To be clear, there aren’t official rules for how you can use emoji. That’s part of their fun and our creativity with them. But, emoji do have official names and are typically designed with a certain image, idea, or emotion in mind.

Sometimes it’s worth it to know that the squirrel emoji, 🐿️, you love so much isn’t technically a squirrel …

chipmunk emoji 🐿️

Chipmunks and squirrels have a lot in common. Both are cuddly, furry woodland rodents with bushy tails, for one thing. So, it’s no surprise the chipmunk emoji, 🐿️, often gets mistaken for a squirrel. The emoji can be used to represent rodents, nature, hunger, cuteness, and being a little nutty or, well, squirrelly.

Some have had enough of the confusion, though, and demanded an eastern gray squirrel emoji. A Change.org petition was even started in 2017 pushing the Unicode Consortium, which governs emoji and other computer characters, to “Make America Gray Again.” As of 2018, the petition was closed, but we have no doubt squirrel lovers will try again.

Another thing chipmunks and squirrels have in common is their love of nuts, which brings us to our next mistaken emoji.

chestnut emoji 🌰

Chipmunks and squirrels love nuts, such as the chestnut. But, poor ole chestnut emoji 🌰 doesn’t always get to be itself. Thanks to its dark, lined appearance, sometimes people think it’s a raisin from a distance.

Because there isn’t specifically a walnut or pecan emoji, guess who is working overtime? Yep. 🌰. Fun fact: There is a peanuts emoji 🥜, though, bringing some nut diversity in emojidom. And oh, you better believe both these emoji get tossed around for all things nuts.

black heart suit emoji ♥️

There are four suits in a deck of cards: the spade ♠️, diamond ♦️, club ♣️, and heart ♥️. There’s also an emoji for each of them, including black heart suit emoji ♥️, whose name sounds like black heart 🖤 but has an emoji that actually displays like red heart ❤️. And to make things even more confusing, it’s official Unicode name is … heavy black heart. For the love of …

Here’s a little history: In the early days of pre-emoji Unicode, the term black meant a character was filled in, while white meant it was just the outline of the shape, and heavy meant it was thick or bold.

So, black heart suit emoji ♥️ is meant to depict the heart suit in cards. While it is used in the occasional post about card games or gambling, most people use this emoji symbolize love and affection, as it looks very similar to the red heart ❤ emoji on major platforms.

negative squared Latin capital letter B emoji 🅱️

The Unicode Standard officially calls 🅱️ the negative squared Latin capital letter B emoji, but it’s commonly referred to as the B button emoji, a much more convenient name.B button emoji was approved under Unicode 6.0 in 2010. Across platforms, it appears as a white, capital letter B on a red square. It was originally intended to represent the blood type B alongside A (🅰️), AB (🆎), and O (🅾️).

In East Asian countries like Japan, there is a popular belief that a person’s blood type influences their personality, character, and compatibility with others. People there took to the B button emoji to communicate their blood type on social media, especially in dating and romantic contexts.

In the US, the B button emoji went down a completely different path. The Los Angeles-based street gang, the Bloods, have been known to change words with the letter C, the first letter of their rival gang the Crips, to B‘s (e.g., boolin’ for cooling, and Bompton for Compton).

The B button became especially popular, and controversial, on the internet after YouTuber Swolotag trolled Hillary “🅱️linton” in a widely viewed video in October 2016 called “Spell Icup Ni 🅱️🅱️a.” The video plays on stereotypes of black people and feminists, and seems deliberately designed to “trigger” so-called libtards.

Japanese dolls emoji 🎎

Some emoji can seem utterly obscure or random, but they often have important meanings in Japan, where emoji originated—like the Japanese dolls emoji, 🎎, which shows a male and female doll in traditional Japanese dress.

The dolls are meant to represent the Emperor and Empress of Japan, and are used for the March 3rd celebration of Hinamatsuri, or Doll’s Day or Girl’s Day.

Perhaps due to their unfamiliarity with the tradition it represents, users in the West don’t seem to have a rhyme or reason in their use of the Japanese dolls emoji. They sometimes include it in social media posts to illustrate anything girly. It’s also a popular feature in Twitter handles, apparently because it’s considered cute and different.

sake bottle and cup emoji 🍶

The sake bottle and cup emoji, 🍶, shows a carafe of sake, or Japanese rice wine, and a traditional sake cup.Sake is Japan’s national beverage and an important part of Japanese culture. Traditionally, sake is heated slightly and served in a small earthenware or clay flask called a tokkuri, then poured into small, typically porcelain drinking cups called choko or ochoko. These accoutrements for drinking sake, collectively known as shuki, are what the sake bottle and cup emoji shows.

Especially by people who are Japanese, the emoji is often used for joyous or celebratory occasions that call for the alcoholic beverage, sake. Or, perhaps just for a nice sushi outing.

Some Westerners, however, confuse the sake bottle and cup emoji for a jug or carton of milk. As a result, sake bottle and cup emoji appears in posts about breakfast and other lactic treats. Hey y’all, you might try glass of milk 🥛 or ice cream 🍨 emoji next time.

Milk for sake? That mistake is nothing compared to …

love hotel emoji 🏩

The love hotel emoji, 🏩, depicts a tall building with a pink heart and on, some platforms, the letter H emblazoned on front.

In some East Asian countries like Japan, a love hotel is a place people can rent by the hour for, you know, love activities. Among many unfamiliar with this institution, the love hotel emoji came to be used in reference to hospitals and vacations to health more generally.

This confusion is probably due to the big heart and H over its entrance, which Westerners associate with hospitals—hence this emoji’s alias as heart hospital. It’s probably also due to the fact that it actually looks a bit like the actual hospital emoji: 🏥.

people with bunny ears emoji 👯

According to Emojipedia, people with bunny ears 👯 is based on Japanese bunny girls, a borrowing of the iconic US Playboy Bunnies. In Japan, the costume is popular in anime, manga, and fan art as well as, true to the original concept, adult entertainers.

When emoji hit many Western keyboards in 2010, many people didn’t realize the emoji depicted people wearing bunny ears. Apple’s design featured short ears, so many people took the duo as ballerinas with headbands. However, Apple’s 2015 iOS 8.3 update massively increased the size of the bunny ears, making them—and their connection to Playboy Bunnies—more prominent.

Some people charged Apple with sexism, but, for whatever it’s worth, men with bunny ears, 👯‍♂️, were added in 2016.

person tipping hand emoji 💁

The person tipping hand emoji 💁 was designed to represent a person at an information desk or a concierge holding up an outstretched and open hand, as if offering help or guidance. Microsoft’s first design, for instance, showed a generic person sitting at a desk with an i for information on its chest.

Microsoft / Emojipedia

But, since person tipping hand emoji 💁 looks like someone flipping their hair or waving a hand while saying something sarcastic, it became used to convey such things as sass, throwing shade, I told you so‘s, or someone saying “He-ey!” It’s also used to encourage someone to check something out or to show a kind of shrug.

It’s come a long way from its original meaning, but, you know … 💁.

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