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The frowning pile of shit is tearing the emoji world apart

Credit: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

While we’re out here engaging in fruitless debates about tax reform and healthcare, a group of committed individuals are fighting the truly important fights currently raging just behind our phone screens. As Buzzfeed reports, members of the Unicode Consortium, which sounds like a villainous corporation from a YA novel but is really the organization in charge of overseeing emoji production, are engaged in a heated argument over the potential addition of several new emojis, including the herald of the apocalypse, the “Frowning Pile Of Poo.”

On one side of the debate we have the all-too-secretive Emoji Subcommittee, who convene in meetings where no minutes are recorded in order to choose and reject which emojis should be added to the existing library. On the other side is a small group of veteran typographers who believe the Subcommittee is too liberal in its acceptance of new emojis, and accuses them of placating the public with frivolous additions without considering the long-term effect it may have on the respectability of Unicode or the emoji language as a whole.


This all starts to sound very serious until you remember we’re talking about a sad cartoon pile of poo. But that’s not stopping people from getting heated.

“The idea that our 5 committees would sanction further cute graphic characters based on this should embarrass absolutely everyone who votes yes on such an excrescence. Will we have a CRYING PILE OF POO next? PILE OF POO WITH TONGUE STICKING OUT? PILE OF POO WITH QUESTION MARKS FOR EYES? PILE OF POO WITH KARAOKE MIC? Will we have to encode a neutral FACELESS PILE OF POO?” wrote Unicode typographer Michael Everson in a very serious internal memo.

Screenshot: Unicode

To understand why someone would get so upset about the emotions of digital poop, you have to understand how Unicode employees think about their job. They’re not just creating fun little cartoons for people to text their friends or late-night booty calls. They see themselves as crafting a universal, symbolic language, a new way of conveying meaning succinctly in the digital age, and that language is under threat of being hijacked by a secretive committee that thinks smiling poop is cute. “I have to wonder what possible good could come of encoding such a character,” writes Everson. “Bullying, perhaps?”


The exhaustive Buzzfeed report goes into further detail on the ongoing internal struggle, which recently spilled over onto Twitter, and includes the following gem of a quote: “A coil of dog dirt with stink lines and flies is surely the only proper semantic.” Read the whole thing, and know, no matter how things end up, that a lot of thought has gone into that pile of poo.

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About the author

Dan Neilan

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Have Fun — Will Travel.