Emojiology: ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost

Emojiology: ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost

When it comes to emojis, thereโ€™s no time of year quite like Halloween. We fill our texts and tweets with the many tricks and treats emojis offer for the holiday, from jack-oโ€™-lanterns ๐ŸŽƒ and candy ๐Ÿฌ to bats ๐Ÿฆ‡ and spider webs ๐Ÿ•ธ๏ธ to frightened faces ๐Ÿ˜ฑ and devilish grins ๐Ÿ˜ˆ to vampires ๐Ÿง› and clowns ๐Ÿคก. Making many an appearance, of course, is the apparitional ๐Ÿ‘ป, or Ghost emoji.

But because this ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost is as goofy-looking as it is ghoulish, itโ€™s beloved all year round. This emoji calls for an investigationโ€”the not-so paranormal investigation of Emojiology.

๐Ÿ”ค Meaning

Widely depicted as a white-sheeted ghost making a silly face, ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost marks content related to the scary and supernatural, especially around Halloween. Thanks to its playful look, the emoji can also convey that someone or something is fun, goofy, wild, weird, or downright crazy. Specific applications include references to Snapchat, whose logo is a ghost, and the slang term ghosting, or abruptly ending a relationship or leaving a place without explanation.

๐Ÿ’ฌ Development

๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost began haunting our keyboards as part of Unicode 6.0 in 2010 along with a few other Halloween staples, including ๐Ÿ’€ Skull and ๐ŸŽƒ Jack-O-Lantern. ย For all its spectral connotations, though, we ainโ€™t afraid of no ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost. Thatโ€™s because the emoji comes across as friendly and wily, far more Casper than Poltergeist.

Above: Popular cartoon depictions of ghosts, including Casper the Friendly Ghost (left) and the Ghostbusters logo (right).

The appearance of ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost varies across platforms, but the main vendors, including Apple, Google, and Samsung, display a white, cartoon ghost with bulging eyes, tongue stuck out, and arms outstretched.

Above: How Ghost displays across major platforms. Twitter's ghost notably lacks a tongue.

๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost's design conjures up a person dressed up in a classic, white-sheet ghost costumeโ€”a trope which, apparently, dates back to the 19th century, when ghosts were depicted in burial shrouds to set them apart from living characters in performancesโ€”delivering a waggish Boo! Samsung made this suggestion unmistakable in its original, and adorable design, which showed a yellow smiley peeking timidly from under some linen.

Above (left to right): Ghost on Samsung TouchWiz 7.1, Google Android 5.0, Microsoft Windows 10, and emojidex 1.0.34.

Come its 2018 Experience 9.0 version and Samsungโ€™s ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost was hewing to Appleโ€™s design.

The same was true for Google by Android 8.0 in 2017, which transformed a more blob-like baddy into a winking wraith. Microsoftโ€™s emoji now has a very Ghostbusters feel, though it still more closely resembles Appleโ€™s compared to its blue predecessor. The open-source emojidex is no major player in the emoji-verse, but we should give a special nod to its design, a cobalt-blue, fiery-faced demon of a ghost.

Noting the great differences the emojiโ€™s personality across platforms, artist @RTgrl_ hilariously tiered ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghostโ€™s designs.

๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost has been a popular player ever since its debut. In March 2014, an Atlantic article ranked ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost as the second best emoji of them all, because itโ€™s both โ€œsilly and macabre.โ€ In July 2015, a Bustle rundown of monster emojis described ย ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost as โ€œderpyโ€ and โ€œspoopy,โ€ the latter a typo that spread as a slang term for something that is spooky but silly. Later that October, a GQ piece hailed ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost as โ€œa perfect aspect of modern communicationโ€ for the many uses of the โ€œsilly cartoon.โ€

Indeed, the MO of ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost, as so many agree, isnโ€™t to haunt but to humor.

One prominent user of ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost is Cher, the Goddess of Popโ€”and of emoji, too, if her social media is any measure. On Twitter, Cher has made ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost into her signature emoji, an idiosyncratic addition or response to just about any and all content. So much so that in 2014 BuzzFeed broke down โ€œ15 Super Useful Ways We Can Use The Ghost Emoji Like Cher,โ€ ranging from cooing over babies to raving over outfits, as if sheโ€™s issuing a wavy-armed Whoa! Cherโ€™s many fans have also adopted ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost when tweeting at or about her.

The mischievous charm of ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost isnโ€™t lost on the company whose design helped popularize it: Apple. As part of its 2018 release of iOS 12, Apple brought ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost into its select, just-shy-of-two-dozen fold of Animoji, or animated emoji that respond to facial expressions. Now, Apple users can say Boo! to their boo.

โœ… Examples

๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost is very popular in content concerning Halloween, from trick-or-treating and haunted houses to costume parties and scary movies.

The ghoul is also a go-to for all things eerie, creepy, and supernatural.

Beyonds fears and frights, ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost, thanks to its appearance, frequently indicates something is wild and crazy or someone is acting goofy and silly.

And since it looks like its hollering, ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost is also commonly employed in reactions, as if someone is screaming in excitement or is so besides themselves that they've given up the ghost, so to speak.

๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost emoji lends itself to other metahporical ghosts, especially the slang ghosting, i.e., suddenly ending a relationship without explanation and any further communication.

Finally, as the logo of Snapchat features a ghost (see @Snapchat's avatar below), ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost is often used a shorthand for a message or account on the app.

๐Ÿ—’๏ธ Usage

As the examples show, we certainly welcome ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost in Halloween and horror contexts, but on its own the emoji isnโ€™t scary.

To its strength, itโ€™s silly, adding an expressive wisp of whimsy, bewilderment, or wackiness to our digital communication. Do be mindful that its appearance does vary considerably across platforms, but regardless of how it exactly displays, ๐Ÿ‘ป Ghost never loses its fun-loving spirit, shall we say. ๐Ÿ‘ป