When you think emojis, emoticons, or whatever you choose to call those little yellow guys you use to communicate in as few words as possible, you might think of a bunch of dudes over in Silicon Valley grinding away on screens filled with code. But in actuality, it turns out that everyone’s favorite digital innuendo tool has French roots.
In 1972, long before smartphones were even a twinkle in Steve Jobs’s eye, a French journalist by the name of Franklin Loufrani founded the Smiley company in London. The concept sprang out of Loufrani’s desire to highlight positive news articles: “Every morning when you’re reading the papers or listening to the radio or watching TV, it’s only every bad news, so I wanted to point out the good news…. Where there was an article with good news, I’d draw a round smiley face next to it.”
Now one of the world’s top 100 licensing companies, with annual retail sales of over 230,000,000, the Smiley Corporation has started one of the largest communication movements of the millennium. Emojis are everywhere, and they are the one language everyone knows how to speak — or at least young people know how to speak. So if you’re ever struggling to remember how to spell a certain word in French, take a page from Loufrani and just use a big ?.