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The little symbol that has our hearts racing

It seems that we’re actually a rather loved-up bunch if the success of a colourful little internet widget is anything to go by. Katie Wright finds out more about a very modern icon

It's official: 2014 was the year of the emoji. For the first time in its 15-year history, the Global Language Monitor has named a symbol, the red heart-shaped emoji, as the most used word of the year.

Every year, the Texas-based organisation tracks English language web, print and social media to determine the most frequently used words, phrases and names across the globe.

Digital jargon has always featured prominently, with dot.com taking the top spot in the inaugural year, and hashtag placing in the top three for the last two years, but this is the first time an emoji has made the cut.

Originating in Japan in the late Nineties ('e' means picture and 'moji' means character in Japanese), the alphabet of tiny 'ideographs' allowed text message senders to express more using fewer characters.

There are around 1,000 emoji 'ideographs' now recognised by the Unicode Consortium, the gatekeepers of internet code, denoting everything from weather and weapons to faces and, well, faeces (albeit it a happy, smiling little pile of it).

After gaining popularity in Asia, mobile manufacturers started rolling out the emoji keyboard to devices in western countries around 2011, and by 2014 those little round yellow faces were inescapable on social networks and messaging apps.

So why is the red heart top of the charts?

A separate analysis by statistical blog fivethirtyeight.com of emojis used on Twitter shows that the top 10 is dominated by positive pictures including the 'heart eyes' face and the heart playing card.

In spite of all the hateful hashtags and rows that emerge on social sites, it seems that we're actually rather a loved-up bunch.

Does this mean the word of the year is always going to be a picture from now on?

Like hashtag, the heart may hang around for a few years, but I think we're on course for Peak Emoji any day now.

An Emoji decline is on the cards, although I don't believe they will disappear completely.

However, I think as the novelty wears off and teens are put off when their parents start busting out cartoon cats in text messages, we'll be saying 'unamused face' 'waving hand' to the emoji.

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