Well, the short answer to the title question (“What’s the Irish for ’emoji’?), is pretty straightforward–there doesn’t seem to be an Irish word for “emoji.” Nothing surprising there, since many languages seem to have absorbed the Japanese word ’emoji’ as one of their own. Irish, on the other hand, has come up with a unique word for “emoticon,” which is “straoiseog,” based on ‘straois” (a grin, a grimace –interesting that they can be the same word, ach sin ábhar blag eile). “Emoji,” however, seems to remain “emoji.”
But there are still some questions about using the word “emoji” in Irish, much like there were questions about adopting the word “euro” in the late 1990s. In Irish, there’s always the question of gender (including of borrowed words), how to use the definite article with the new word, and how to make it plural. So far, I haven’t found the word “emoji” in any Irish dictionary, so there are no official dictionary guidelines regarding its usage, fad m’eolais.
In this blog, we’ll look at using the word “emoji” in an Irish language context, after briefly checking out its Japanese background.
One of the most curiously coincidental aspects of this investigation is that, in English, both “emoticon” and “emoji” appear to start with the same core element–“emo.” <sound of mental brakes screeching to a halt>. But wait … it’s not really like that! The “e-m-o-” of “emoticon” does come from the English word “emotion” but the “e-m-o” of “emoji” is a result of how the two Japanese words combine (e, picture + moji, letter/character). If anyone reading this blog is also a cainteoir Seapáinise and can add any further depth to these translations, that would always be welcome. Now my guess is that Japanese would probably offer various ways to combine “picture” and “letter,” and that this particular combination was selected because of the way it would parallel “emoticon.” But technically, while both “emoticon” and “emoji” are “portmanteau” words, the elements from which they are made are quite different.
So now, let’s look a little closer at the word “emoji” as we might use it in an Irish sentence, with gender (apparently none), definite article use, and plural being our main concerns. Generally, it’s the lack of specifics which is of interest here.
1) gender: like other borrowed words, notably “euro,” the word “emoji” appears to have no gender in Irish. If it makes its way into a dictionary, it will probably be labeled “s” (for “substantive”), not “m” or “f” (for the standard masculine or feminine).
2) saying “the emoji” as opposed to “an emoji”: With no indication of gender for this word, using the definite article with it will follow the path of least resistance: “an emoji” (the emoji). For anyone really new to Irish, remember that “an” means “the” and that there is no specific way to say “an apple” or “an orange” or “an emoji.” Those are just “úll,” “oráiste,” and “emoji.”
It’s easy enough to get used to saying “an emoji” for “the emoji” in Irish, but it is a little unusual when we’re used to thinking if it’s masculine, it’s “an t-emoji” and if it’s feminine, it’s “an emoji.” In Irish, you can usually reverse-engineer a phrase with “the + noun” and determine the gender of the noun. And remember, especially those of you who are native English speakers, almost all nouns in Irish have gender, regardless of any biological relevance (a quick sampler: “bord” and “amhras” are masculine while “síleáil” and “Gaeltacht” are feminine). English is fairly unique among European languages in having abandoned grammatical gender.
I also find it a little strange to have “an,” which looks like an English word, and “emoji,” which is the same in English, right next to each other. I sort of have to keep reminding myself that “an emoji,” in an Irish context, is “the emoji,” not “an emoji.”
It may be an increasing trend for borrowed words in Irish to be genderless, but it’s at least worth noting that some relatively recent additions to Irish vocabulary have been gaelicized and do have gender, such as “móideim” (masculine) and “teilifís” (feminine)
At any rate, it seems, so far, that we have:
emoji, an emoji
an emoji, the emoji
3) Finally, for the plural, I have found exactly no guidelines on the Web. To me, “emojithe” seems quite reasonable and natural, based on Irish words that normally end in “-í” (rúnaí, pl: rúnaithe; tógálaí, pl: tógálaithe).
Often, in English, the word “emoji” is considered to have no separate plural form, like the native English words “sheep” and “deer.” In that case we could just say, “An bhfaca tú na emoji sin?” (Did you see those emoji?)
Another alternative would be to give the word the English “-s” ending for plural (emojis), as is sometimes done in Irish. “Leoraí,” for example, borrowed from the English “lorry,” has two possible plurals, the more official one based on Irish grammatical structures “leoraithe,” and the other, a dialect form, “leoraís,” pronounced, a little unusually with a broad “s” (as in “hiss”) although the spelling would suggest a slender pronunciation (as in “fish”).
As for what to do with a plural form plus the definite article (the emojis), again, I get no results online. Normally if an Irish plural noun begins with a vowel, we prefix an “h” in front of it (na húlla, na horáistí), but I find no precedent, one way or another for “emoji.” A similar question exists for “euro,” as used in Irish, and for which I have seen both “le euronna” and “le heuronna” (for paying by euro) in reasonably official-type documents. In the case of “le heuronna” the “h-” prefixing is because of the preposition “le” (with), not because of the definite article (“na“), but the same basic issue applies.
So that leaves us with a variety of possibilities:
emoji, plural of emoji
emojithe, plural of emoji (my suggestion, at any rate)
na emoji , the emoji
na emojithe, the emojis
na hemoji, the emoji
na hemojithe, the emojis
Related to the idea of plural is counting emojis. How to say “seven emojis,” for example:
a) follow the traditional rule for nouns beginning with a vowel, and prefix an “n-” (seacht n-emoji), like “seacht n-úll” or “seacht n-uaire“)
b) drop the rule, as is usually done with the word “euro,” giving us “seacht emoji” and “seacht euro.”
It’s all a fairly recent topic, since the emoji concept itself is fairly new, even in Japan (late 1990s) and later outside of Japan. So, on the one hand, it makes for a fun, novel topic to write about. On the other hand, as you can see, there aren’t really many answers, or even examples of usage, out there for Irish. If you’ve seen any examples online or on your phone that point to gender or number aspects of this word, it would be great if you could write in and let us know how people are using the word “emoji” in an Irish context, based on your observations.
Tá an bhlagiontráil fada go leor anois agus mar sin, beidh orainn fanacht go dtí an chéad iontráil eile le rud éigin faoi “straoiseog” (emoticon) a scríobh. Go dtí sin – Róislín
For a little further reading on “emoji” as a word, in English, you might want to check out:
http://observer.com/2014/11/what-is-the-plural-of-emoji/, by Mathew Kassel (21 November 2014). Usage in English varies, with both “emoji” (no plural marker) and “emojis” currently in use. Kassel points out that the AP style guide specifies “emojis” as the plural, although beyond that, usage varies. Kassel also quotes Mark Allen, a board member of the American Copy Editors Society as saying that “emojis is the better English plural.” Allen further comments, on linguistic purism, that ‘Purists will insist on ‘I found some great emoji’ rather than ‘I found some great emojis.’ They might also visit several baseball stadia, driving there in their Prii.”
The issue of skin-tone in the emojis has been prominent, although a little off topic for us here. You might want to read about it at: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/02/finally-emoji-people-of-color/385843/, by Robinson Meyer (23 February 2015)