When Emojis Go Bad: Which Ones to Stop Using Right Now

If The Emoji Movie has taught us anything, it’s that emojis are not for everyone. Some people think that they are cute and harmless while others see them as an immature way of communicating. But this form of pop culture communication is here to stay. However, beyond the simple smiley face, many of these golden yellow images are misinterpreted every day. For instance, when you see the image with two hands pressed together, do you see it as a symbol of prayer, a gesture of thanks or two people giving each other a “high five?” Sometimes this miscommunication can get really awkward like when grandma decides to post emojis of certain fruits and vegetables growing in her garden only to find out that some of these represent other things entirely.

“At the present time, there are well over 3,000 emojis available, per the Unicode version 15 specification,” says Roger Kreuz Ph.D. for Psychology Today. “The purpose of this body is to ensure standardization across vendors and platforms…However, the Consortium doesn’t dictate what each emoji looks like, what they mean, or how they should be used. Their exact appearance is in the hands of companies like Apple or Microsoft, and … will look somewhat different depending on who makes your phone and which app you are using.”

But beyond that, a new study has highlighted 24 of the most confusing emojis according to 1,001 Americans who were polled by Preply, a service that matches online tutors for those wanting to learn a new language. The respondents ranged in age from 18 to 76 years old, and were 48% female, 50% male and 2% nonbinary.


Key findings in the study:

  • 78% of the respondents say that they have been confused by someone else’s use of an emoji.
  • 1 in 3 of the respondents have seen a misinterpreted emoji create an uncomfortable situation.
  • Respondents say that friends are most likely to use emojis in confusing ways.
  • 1 in 3 respondents claim that it isn’t unusual for their parents to send a baffling emoji.

In the study, the most confusing emoji is called “Woman Tipping Hand.” Many people are unsure what the symbol means. Some say that it means that the sending is “feeling sassy,” while others claim that it means, “I have a suggestion” and others have said that it means “feeling sarcastic.” But according to Kreuz, Apple originally named the image as “Information Desk Attendant.”

“Many users interpreted it as a hair flip, since the raised hand, at least in some versions, is depicted just below the character’s coiffure,” says the good doctor. “A flick of the hair can suggest contempt, and, so, the helpful information desk attendant has morphed into a shorthand for snark.”

Below are the top 24 commonly misunderstood emojis along with their Emoji title and possible misinterpretations.

“Clearly, emojis are both entertaining and confusing. From the Dotted Line Face to Folded Hands, it’s up to us to understand the context in which the emoji is being used and acknowledge how the other person is using it,” says Preply writer, Matt Zajechowski. “Our exploration of America’s most confusing emojis has shown how vital clear communication is in today’s digital world.”


Read more here to find out which emojis are the least recognizable and which ones are the most rebelled against.

Main Image: Ann H./Pexels

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