A few hours before playing in the 2022 US Open final, tennis player Carlos Alcaraz tweeted this

Eggs (“huevos”) in spanish means the equivalent of “balls” in english.

In such a short length Carlos was able to convey the requirements for a successful final match: brains, heart, and… uuh… courage! His grandfather used to tell him that, so it must be an ancient formula.

The tweet was shown on the live broadcast. Upon seeing it I was surprised at the efficiency in the length of the message vs. the intended meaning. Here is the UTF-8 encoding:

  • 🧠 F0 9F A7 A0
  • ❤️ EE 80 A2
  • 🥚 F0 9F A5 9A
  • 🥚 F0 9F A5 9A

The tweet fits in only 15 bytes of data.

Let’s look at a possible equivalent short message in english: brain, heart, balls The first 128 Unicode characters only take 1 byte to represent, so the message fits in 19 bytes: 27% more than the Emoji version.

Another example:

Comparing with the short translation burger = love (13 bytes), the tweet is still shorter at 9 bytes (31% less data). One could also write burger = <3, but I’d consider that going into Emoji language (and it’s still 2 bytes longer than BK’s tweet).

However, in Alcaraz’s tweet particular case the Emoji language isn’t enough to convey the full meaning of the message. The reader has to be familiar with Spanish slang to get the genital meaning of “huevos”. Curiously, Emoji language also has its own “slang” with certain characters meaning something specific to a certain group. This report about kids Emoji slang is hilarious:

More recently, anti-vax groups have used the 🥕 emoji instead of the word “vaccine” to escape Facebook censorship, also leading to some funny posts where it looks like people get sick after eating one too many carrots:

I was going to finish with the caveat that Emoji only works for short sentences and you wouldn’t want to write a novel in Emoji, but… it’s already been done. And this one actually seems interesting.