Digging around the internet to learn more about visual alphabets (we all have our quirks), I was drawn deep down an odd rabbit hole. Would it be possible to create a language based purely on visuals that could be understood by everyone? I wondered.
Some people might say we're well on our way. Just look at the growing use of emoji—the icons increasingly used in text and email messages. Think 'smiley face' and you've got it. There is even a semi-official (and completely sinister-sounding) organisation that governs them: The Unicode Consortium.
The number of emoji is growing. In May of next year, the Consortium will decide which of 74 candidate emoji will be added to the official roster. Among them are 'bacon' and 'avocado'. 'Lying face' (which will presumably double for 'politician') and 'nauseated face' ('voter') shall also be considered.
Speaking of 'lying faces', did you know that =:o] is the emoticon (the precursor of the more graphic emoji) for 'Bill Clinton'?
Ronald Reagan is either ,:-) or 7:^]
This is John Lennon: //0-0\\, though I'm not suggesting he was a politician. Or a lying face.
How far could The Unicode Consortium take this? Could we end up with sufficient emoji to constitute a full language?
It wouldn't be the first time someone has tried. Do you remember Zlango?
Let me refresh your memory.
Zlango was an icon-based language created in the noughties by a company of the same name. The idea was to shorten mobile text messages using a visual vocabulary of 300 or so icons. The language never took hold and the company no longer exists.
However, Zlango did prove how far you could get using only icons. Here is 'Little Red Riding Hood' in Zlango:
I wonder what that other classic bedtime story 'Go the XXXX to Sleep' would look like in purely icon form.