New Yorkers encounter situations and moments each day that defy words — most of them are totally gross or breathtakingly beautiful or so baffling you’ll never forget about them. It all amounts to a certain Manhattan je ne sais quoi.
More than anywhere else, life in New York demands its own set of specific emoji to be used in a variety of ways to reflect the colorful, wonderful people, places, events, and emotions that amount to residing here.
Likewise, a lot of the time we’re on our way someplace and maybe want to share our thoughts on the bizarre thing we just saw with one of the many never-ending group chats on our phones. See a moneyed old New Yorker commit an act of staggering rudeness (just to name a hypothetical situation that totally happens all the time above 60th Street)? Maybe use the rat-with-top-hat emoji…As New York magazine observed in November, it’s easy to dismiss the emoji, and yet they’ve become essential to the way we communicate.
Here are 30 suggestions from the Village Voice that could someday make for welcome additions to the New York City emoji keyboard. (Are you a New York developer interested in helping us out? Send an email to email@example.com.)
UPDATE: The good people of Swyft Media took us up on our offer and created a downloadable keyboard featuring all 30 of our proposed New York-centric emoji! Download them for free today! (iTunes here. Android here.)
Illustrated by Joe Rocco for the Village Voice.
Handlebar Mustache: A symbol for the New Brooklyn or Brooklyn the Brand, the handlebar mustache clearly conveys, with the tap of a button on your iPhone and via a single, curly emoji, everything you might want to say: Did you buy an oak bench made by hand? A tote bag advertising the logo of a quarterly magazine? Maybe something as simple as a double I.P.A. at a precious gastropub? This emoji serves as memorable way to encapsulate your experience. Summing up an indie rock band’s performance, what it’s like riding the L train, answering someone when they ask if you’re in Williamsburg…
Citi Bike: Because sometimes you just need to wordlessly tell your friends that you’re a progressive urban fortysomething who wants to get from the High Line to Alphabet City in under fifteen minutes. And also that you don’t have the scratch for an $800, handmade, steel-frame fixie.
Showtime Subway Dancer: Remember the time you wanted to say “It’s SHOWTIME!” in a text, but ran out of time before your train went underground? “Why couldn’t there have been an emoji for how I’m feeling right this second?!” you wondered. The MTA tried to fill the void with its pole- dancing stick figure. But let this become the official emoji for when you’re feeling fabulous.
Large Umbrella: Umbrellas are as cheap as $5 on a sunny day in New York and most are your standard size, about two and a half feet in diameter. At the price point they start to be called parasols, you begin to worry about leaving one in a taxi. Price aside, the polite size for an umbrella is no more than three feet across. Anything larger than that probably belongs on a golf course. It’s raining — a lot.
Shaking Fist: Have you ever just missed the G train? Have you ever watched someone get the cab you were waiting to let cross the intersection? Has anyone ever walked into the coffee shop just before you and taken the last everything bagel? Have you ever heard a train pull in…then pull away… while you fiddled with your expired MetroCard? Have you ever…
Anthora Coffee Cup: Nowadays you’re just as likely to find these iconic coffee cups in trendy bars, perhaps filled with a boozy milkshake instead of eye-popping black joe. A staple for so many years in New York at diners and coffee carts, they’re synonymous with the city. Designed by Leslie Buck and introduced in the Sixties, the Anthora has seen its sales fall sharply in this millennium as coffee cups have turned into something like Venti-sized buckets for whipped cream, but here’s its chance for a second (digital) life in the form of an emoji. When a New Yorker wants to let people know a place has a certain Old New York quality. If a place is the opposite of Starbucks. A New York alternative to the coffee mug emoji.
Fanny Pack: A symbol for tourists, Nineties-worshipping hipsters, bike messengers, or drug dealers, there have to be more fanny packs in New York than anywhere else on the planet. This icon is perfect if you need a coded symbol to use. What’s in the bag? Only the sender and receiver know.
Regular Slice: Much like two eggs on a roll, the regular (“regala”) or plain slice has grown in popularity as the number of pizzerias, sometimes operated by two brothers, offering $1 slices grows seemingly exponentially. A cheap dinner, or a cheap date, or a depressing lunch. Or, just, “do you want to get pizza with me?”
Two Eggs on a Roll: A symbol of the morning, a two-eggs-on-a-roll emoji can be used interchangeably for “quick breakfast” or “morning” or even “hangover cure.” Maybe if someone asks why you’re late, you can just reply with this and they’ll understand immediately. It means you’re only five minutes away and you’ll be there soon.
Green Cab: A symbol of outer-borough life — it’s high time New York got a lime-colored counterpart to the yellow-cab emoji. When you’re asked if you are on your way, just reply with this.
Street Sweeper: Have you ever needed to quickly describe the process of using a Zamboni to push a used diaper from one end of a street to another? Problem solved.
Times Square Elmo: The ever- present costumed characters in Times Square who demand a $5 “tip” if you get your photo with them are a reliable stand-in for everybody who hates their job. Good if you’re particularly not ready for it to be Monday, or hate your job generally, or just don’t feel like being pleasant today.
Red Village Voice box: Because it’s the Village. Fucking. Voice.
Unisex Bathroom Sign: If you didn’t grow up in New York (and, let’s face it, most of you didn’t), you probably had to get used to unisex bathrooms. But now that you’re here, it seems ridiculous to waste valuable bar and restaurant seating space on multiple, gender-segregated toilets, sinks, and mirrors. You can fire one of these emoji off whenever you’re wondering what, exactly, is behind Door No. 1. And also when you have to pee.
Hasidic Jew: They came to New York seeking refuge from persecution in Europe and formed tight-knit communities, now as much a part of the landscape in Brooklyn as anything else in the borough. It’s time we get a Jewish emoji. Need to identify your neighborhood, or if a restaurant is kosher, or whether a deli is up to snuff? Perhaps this emoji will come in handy.
Black & White Cookie: The need for a black-and-white cookie — an iconic New York treat — is apparent to anybody who’s ever eaten one. They are both indulgent and light; portable but probably best enjoyed sitting down (maybe with a coffee in an Anthora cup). As Jerry Seinfeld famously said, “If people would only look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved!” When you want to ask somebody out for a light dessert, of course. When you want to convey harmony.
Yankees Hat: A Yankees cap can stand in for a variety of emotions. To many it’s synonymous with history, success, the status quo, unlimited money, or the Bronx. Beyond the obvious fact of communicating your allegiance to one of the city’s two big-league ballclubs, you could also use the Yankee-hat emoji to describe your date. Everyone, after all, is either a Yankee person or a Met person.
Bedbug: The most unwanted guests in the city. Cockroaches are gross, but harmless. But bedbugs can seriously mess with your life. It’s like when your parents come to visit and don’t want to pay for a hotel room, though at least that doesn’t itch. (Usually.)
Pile of Black Garbage Bags: The smell of hot garbage is one of the defining scents of summertime in New York. “Smell that? It’s New York, baybeee!” you boast to your old college friends in from out of town (as they look at each other and roll their eyes, wondering if they can catch an earlier train back home). Describing how you feel, the state of your apartment, what you ate for dinner.
Water Tower: Most people don’t realize it, but these towers aren’t relics of a bygone era. When you’re taking a shower and enjoying average-to-decent water pressure, you have the city’s iconic water towers to thank. As an emoji it would work as a way to convey to friends that, oy vey, a Brooklyn Industries just opened up in your pre-gentrified neighborhood.
Dog Walker: New York is hectic and chaotic. So is walking a French bulldog, a Boston terrier, two pugs, a pomeranian, and a golden retriever. When you’re late for work, the train is delayed, your umbrella breaks, and you step in a puddle…this is how you let the boss know that it’s NOT YOUR FAULT!
Mets Hat: Proudly outer-borough, progressive, and perfectly fine being the underdog. You’re a Mets fan! Your history is filled with colorful characters from the Eighties and snappy songs from the Sixties — not the Twenties. Keith Hernandez, not Babe Ruth. Harvey, not Tanaka. You need to quickly refer to Queens. A stand-in for New York.
Cockroach: So Joe’s Apartment was an early prototype of this particular emoji; no insect in the United States enjoys as much infamy as the New York City cockroach. They’ve been here for longer than any of us have and they’re not going anywhere, regardless of what we do to get rid of them. As an emoji, the cockroach would be best deployed when you just don’t give a fuuuck.
Donald Trump: He’s a New York icon, and like the Knicks, people either love him or hate him. If you need a stand-in for a rich white guy, he works.
Rat With Top Hat and Monocle: A classy rat can be used to express many New York sentiments: annoyance at how Manhattan is quickly becoming an outdoor mall or playground for the world’s ultra-wealthy citizens, or conversely, how someone we might expect to treat us badly acted in a surprisingly good-natured way.
Cash Only Sign: Just use this any time you’re dining out in Brooklyn.
Single Lost Mitten: The single mitten is almost so depressing that it’s beautiful. Caked in black slush, getting trampled on the subway platform, it’s a perfect symbol (and possible metaphor) for a New York City winter.
MTA Card: Let’s see…what would a MetroCard emoji convey that might take too long to type? How about: “I’m going to be late because [MetroCard].” Or: “I’m sooooooooooo frustrated right now because [MetroCard].” You could also use it as a symbol for “I’m broke.”
Professional Protester: They’re everywhere, every day. Union Square, Wall Street, Times Square — possibly even marching between those locations. Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes they’re misguided. They almost always mean well. Try sending this to someone to let them know when they’ve sort-of-but-not-really offended you.
French Bulldog: They’re cute. They’re everywhere. They’re the most popular breed in New York City. When you step in shit, it’s probably theirs. Here in New York, this adorable face can more or less replace the poo emoji. We recommend using it that way.