On Friday, February 22, the London Times ran an article on emojis that made many of us go πŸ˜‚, πŸ™ƒ, or πŸ€” online.

Jonathan Ames reported that British lawyers are urging judges β€œto learn to interpret the use of emojis,” which are showing up in court hearings more and more. This use includes their β€œsexual and sometimes sinister” secret meanings, Ames added.

The Times then illustrated, er, attempted to illustrate some β€œnot so innocent” examples in an explainer many found hilariously out of touch.

Some were humored by its stiff translation of slang. πŸ”₯ Fire, for example, can represent β€œhaving a good run of form.” Others scorned its air of novelty, as if it was breaking news that kids these days use Β πŸ† Eggplant (Aubergine) β€œindicate an erection.” Yet others puzzled at its claims themselves: β€œThe bathtub can be used to mean coffin.”

πŸ›€ Person Taking Bath can mean...⚰️ Coffin? Let's explain The Times explainer.

🍁 Maple Leaf

πŸ“° Times description

The maple leaf can mean drugs in general, or cannabis in particular.

πŸ”€ Emojipedia definition

A red, orange or yellow maple leaf, often associated with Canada due to the maple leaf on the Canadian Flag.

πŸ”Ž Analysis

Thanks to its rough resemblance to cannabis (pot leaf), 🍁 Maple Leaf does mark content related to smoking marijuana. Its tone, however, generally appears more stylistic than secretive, and its application to other illicit drugs is limited. This emoji is most widely used to represent fall or autumn, leaves and trees, nature and the outdoorsβ€”and oh, Canada.


❄️ Snowflake

πŸ“° Times description

Cocaine, with a street name of snow, can be represented by the snowflake emoji.

πŸ”€ Emojipedia definition (abridged)

Snow falling to the ground in the form of a unique ❄ snowflake.

πŸ”Ž Analysis

Snow has been slang for cocaine (and other hard drugs) since at least the 1910s. It still sees some use as such, including, occasionally, in the form of ❄️ Snowflake and other similar emojis. As with 🍁 Maple Leaf, however, ❄️ Snowflake's use as slang for "cocaine" appears mostly for color, not code. Expect to see ❄️ Snowflake far more widely used for various content concerning cold weather or temperatures, winter, and winter-related actvities.


😢 Face Without Mouth

πŸ“° Times description

The face’s lack of lips can imply intimidation, or a warning to stay silent.

πŸ”€ Emojipedia definition (abridged)

A yellow face with simple, open eyes and no mouth, as if at a loss for words. Meaning widely varies, but commonly conveys speechlessness, humility, and silence. May also convey moderately negative emotions, such as disappointment, frustration, or sadness.

πŸ”Ž Analysis

😢 Face Without Mouth's lack of lips does see some use in contexts of intimidation, such as the expression snitches get stitches, i.e., you'll get hurt if you tell on someone. The extent to which these uses are intended as meaningful threats, however, is something the courtsβ€”and not newspaper articlesβ€” get to determine.


πŸ›€ Person Taking Bath

πŸ“° Times description

The bathtub can be used to mean a coffin.

πŸ”€ Emojipedia definition (abridged)

A gender-unspecified person taking a soothing bath in a white tub with a shower head. Commonly used for various content concerning bathing, washing, cleaning, and bathrooms more generally. May also represent relaxation and self-care.

πŸ”Ž Analysis

As many people noted of The Times article, why would people use πŸ›€ Person Taking Bath to represent a coffin when there is already a ⚰️ Coffin emoji?

Before ⚰️ Coffin was supported as an emoji in 2015, people did very occasionally use πŸ›€ Person Taking Bath for "coffin," thanks to the enclosed, supine pose of the bather depicted in the emoji.

Limited evidence for this idiosyncratic application is found around 2013–14. Since 2015, however, use of πŸ›€ Person Taking Bath for "coffin" appears extremely rare. The Times may have based its claims on February 2018 reports about a study on alternative emoji use, including instances of πŸ›€ Person Taking Bath for "coffin" in a small survey.


πŸ”₯ Fire

πŸ“° Times description

The flame is used to suggest someone is hot, or sexually attractive, or having a good run of form.

πŸ”€ Emojipedia definition (abridged)

A small flame, mostly yellow but red at the top. Can be used to describe something or someone being hot, or in the context of being exemplary (lit, slang).

πŸ”Ž Analysis

πŸ”₯ Fire is, and has been, extensively used for fire-related slang. This includes senses of "excellent" (lit), "attractive" (hot), "scathing or searing" (sick burn), or "performing exceptionally well" (on fire), among other senses. In fact, πŸ”₯ Fire is so closely associated with such slang that people even say "fire emoji" in spoken contexts.


πŸ‘ Peach

πŸ“° Times description

The peach’s fleshy exterior can be used to symbolise buttocks.

πŸ”€ Emojipedia definition

The fleshy, pinkish-orange fruit of the fuzzy peach, shown with green leaves and sometimes a stem. Thanks to its distinctive cleft, the emoji is commonly used for β€œbuttocks.”

πŸ”Ž Analysis

πŸ‘ Peach is so commonly, and belovedly, used for "buttocks" that in 2016, Apple reverted its design for its πŸ‘ Peach emoji when users felt its update looked less like the body part. Like πŸ† Eggplant, πŸ‘ Peach is an example of an emoji whose figurative applications appear to outrip its literal ones.

An Emojipedia analysis in 2016 showed just 7% of uses of πŸ‘ Peach intended to represent the fruit, with a majority using it for sexual or fitness-related purposes.


πŸ† Aubergine (Eggplant)

πŸ“° Times description

One might be forgiven for interpreting the inclusion of this emoji as an invitation to enjoy moussaka. However, the aubergine is also used to indicate an erection.

πŸ”€ Emojipedia definition (abridged)

A long, bulbous, bright purple eggplant, or aubergine in British English, shown with a leafy stem...Widely used to represent a penis.

πŸ”Ž Evidence

πŸ† Eggplant is so widely used to represent penises and related sexual content that Instagram banned the hashtag #πŸ† on its site for a time in 2015. This emoji does get used literally in food contexts, but this application is less common than its well-established phallic symbolism.


The Times explainer wasn't entirely wrong, but it was overgeneralized and overly alarmist. Yes, 🍁 Maple Leaf Β can reference cannabis, but it doesn't expose some dark, sordid underworld of teenage drug abuse. It was also obvious and oblivious. In 2019, πŸ† Eggplant representing penises isn't a secretβ€”and πŸ›€ Person Taking Bath representing a coffin was never widespread.

As emojis become more common in our communications, the law should become more emoji-literate. But judging by the internet's lampooning of it, The Times explainer is not the best place to start. ⚰️