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Apple and the Gun Emoji (emojipedia.org)
59 points by firloop 528 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 67 comments

I think this is a ridiculous change by Apple, going completely against the idea of Unicode and consistent character displays across different devices. Author's suggestion is good, but I don't think that this was a necessary change by any means in the first place.

Unicode only says that it's a gun, and only recommends how it should look. IME's are free to make the emojis look however they want at their discretion. Note Samsung's saltines instead of chocolate chip cookies for "U+1F36A Cookie". Consistency is laudable, but we live in a world with multiple cultures, meanings, and contexts, so in the end consistency might actually be more harmful and reductionist.

The unicode code chart¹ actually says “PISTOL = handgun, revolver”, and the reference glyph (with a larger version on page 4) is pretty clearly a Beretta M9.²


http://www.beretta.com/en/m9/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beretta_M9

Apple is not alone though. On windows i get a colorful lasergun: http://i.imgur.com/bOC6M6H.png


Additionally, your pointing out that the example glyph looks like a beretta only has any kind of weight if you can also point to guidance that specifies to what level it should be followed.

Your link is old, here is the current one: http://emojipedia.org/microsoft/windows-10-anniversary-updat... Apple is alone in doing this.

I.e., Windows used to show a laser/toy gun, but they changed this almost a week ago in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update: http://blog.emojipedia.org/diverse-emoji-families-come-to-wi...

A Microsoft spokesperson said “Our intent with every glyph is to align with the global Unicode standard, and the previous design did not map to industry designs or our customers' expectations of the emoji definition.” (https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/04/microsoft-new-real-gun-e...)

I would operate on the condition that the standard denotes that items representing the unicode can be flavored/styled to the producers desires, but should not misrepresent the item/object being conveyed. A water gun != a pistol and a laser gun != a pistol. Both are altogether different items/objects. If Windows/Apple want unicode for those objects they should appeal to the standards board to make it happen. It would be acceptable to hide the pistol emoticon in their UI while still allowing it to display correctly when used. Masking it as something it is not is just misleading though.

That is your preference, however the question here is what the unicode consortium thinks.

Why have a standards body at all if it's just going to be up to the 3rd parties to determine what is going to be displayed then? Like I said before, they should be free to display each unicode item/object artistically how they see fit, they should however not be free to change what item/object is to be conveyed entirely.

That is your opinion and you are free to hold it but what matters here is what the Unicode Consortium thinks.

I agree, it would be nice to have the Unicode Consortium come out and address these issues.

I can't figured out why you're getting downvoted. The reference seems valid.

There seem to be a bunch of people going through this thread down voting any responses which criticize the Apple decision. Apparently favoring communication consistency makes us gun nuts.

Maybe it’s anti-gun people who think that I’m a gun nut? I actually had no idea what gun it was – I know nothing about guns – and had to search quite a lot before I found an image which fit the reference glyph. On reading that that particular model is the standard handgun for much of the US armed forces since 1990, it made sense that it would be chosen as a representative model of a “PISTOL”.

Here's the problem: a toy gun is not the same meaning as a gun. Emojis can vary their visual representation, but should not change the underlying meaning.

If a hospital has a rule against taking guns on premises, nobody thinks that would apply to a toy gun. A toy gun is a different semantic object.

I am 100% sure that it is 97% irrelevant, 2% within Apple's creative agency and 1% tots ok 'cause no gun > a gun is a pretty good heuristic.


Guns are not part of the "general human experience" in most countries.

What metric are you defining "most" by?

Check your privilege.

Yes, it's simply childish on Apple's part.

Next up someone then sends an invitation to a pool birthday party asking people to bring some water toys. They look through list of emojis, pick what looks like a water gun. Everyone with non-Apple devices wonder why is their host asking them to bring guns to a pool party.

Or worse yet, vice versa.. waterpistol toting apple fanboi drug cartels.

Question for those who are fine with what Apple did: What if Apple had implemented a text filter which changes all occurences of the word “pistol” to “water pistol”. Would that be fine too?

Also, what if the Unicode Consortium later adds an emoji for “WATER PISTOL”? How should it be distinguished from the “PISTOL” emoji? Or should they be identical?

I don't think this is a slippery slope towards text modification.

Note that there are already problems with emoji being different across platforms. Here is a short article from the GroupLens people at the University of Minnesota: http://grouplens.org/blog/investigating-the-potential-for-mi...

I'm not a huge fan of Apple's general "safe" content approach either despite being an Apple user, but to me this is a tiny and insignificant political statement relative to all the issues they have with the app store/iTunes content and Beats 1 censorship.

> I don't think this is a slippery slope towards text modification.

Well that's good, because that's not what he was asking.

He was asking if this WERE done in text rather than pictures, would the outcry be any different?

It's not the same.

Well, it kind of is. A pistol is not the same as a water pistol. An image of a pistol is likewise not the same as an image of a water pistol.

Saying this is a slippery slope is not true, at worst, this is a bad comparison. The point of this is not that changing images and changing words are exactly the same, rather it is to illustrate the change in a stronger light. A change vs a more drastic change is not exactly the same, but no change at all is better in either area. Emojis are used to represent words, if the heart emoji was changed to a candy heart or even an anatomically correct one, would people be upset? The answer is yes, because the meaning is different. This is not people simply getting mad at change or PC, but it is rather a valid cause for concern of censorship.

A text filter is very different from the visual representation of an emoji which the unicode consortium gives a lot of leeway to IMEs to implement.

Everyone is only angry about this change because it was a normal pistol first and changed to a water pistol later. What if it was the inverse? Then we'd have people complaining the other way. My point is that people expect the emoji to represent what they've been taught it to represent, but in actuality the IME is the one who chooses how exactly it should look. Just look at the saltine cookie vs the chocolate chip cookie.

As for your last point it's quite unlikely that they would add that because it's too redundant to the pistol emoji. Though for facial expressions, the consortium gives specific recommendations on how to differentiate them and the IME would have to consider those.

Have a look at http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U1F300.pdf to see how much guidance they actually give on the looks of each. For most they list synonyms for searching and related emoji. For some they go more in depth on the look such as for U+1F4DE Telephone Receiver.

> Everyone is only angry about this change because it was a normal pistol first and changed to a water pistol later. What if it was the inverse? Then we'd have people complaining the other way.

You say that as if it's a counter-argument, but it's really further proof that changing it is bad. Yes, it is confusing to change emojis that used to be one thing to be another thing, so it shouldn't be done, regardless of direction. Opposing all such changes is entirely consistent. If Apple wants a water pistol emoji they should add a new one, not replace an existing emoji that means something else.

The difference here is the intent. And I already explained why they likely wouldn't get a specific water pistol emoji. HNers actually think that they think they changed it to a water pistol because they wanted an emoji to represent a water pistol?

Emojis are supposed to represent a specific meaning, though the visual representation can of course change across platforms. Any gun would be an appropriate representation, but a toy gun is not as it occupies a separate semantic space.

Your own source seems to exemplify why a toy gun doesn't fit. It specifies "pistol" or alternatively a handgun or revolver.

If someone wrote "the man walked in holding a pistol/revolver/handgun in his right hand" you would justifiably be surprised if the writer later explained that it was a bright green toy gun. They're different things.

Imagine if an IME decided to substitute the GLOWING STAR emoji with SUN WITH FACE. They would not be following the guidelines as the sun and stars are semantically separate concepts, even if technically the sun is a star.

I'd love to know who made this decision, apparently giving it less thought than what they were going to have for lunch. Whoever it was doesn't understand how communication works, and should probably not be in charge of decisions like this.

Interestingly, it's a giant middle finger not just to gun nuts, but to millions of people on both sides of debates about gun control, the militarization of law enforcement, etc. (Not to mention a kinda creepy form of infantilization.)

Probably came straight from the top, i.e., Tim Cook. (I say this without knowledge or evidence, but it is the kind of thing he would care about and do.)

What other constitutional protections should Apple attack next?

This change was actually a community suggestion: https://openradar.appspot.com/26897761

(Source: https://twitter.com/rjonesy/status/761223785076797442)

And they're certainly not the first to do so, and in great company: http://emojipedia.org/microsoft/windows-10/pistol/

That was actually Microsoft’s original design, but they changed it to a realistic gun almost a week ago: https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/04/microsoft-new-real-gun-e...

Also, I would not call one single vendor “in great company”; before Apple, Microsoft was the only vendor showing anything else than a normal modern handgun (except Android, which in 4.4 had what seems to be an old blunderbuss pistol: http://emojipedia.org/google/android-4.4/pistol/ but Android changed it back to a revolver in Android 5.0).

This makes a ton of sense. Good article. This is directly analogous to API deprecation issues.

Interestingly, the bomb, sword and dagger emoji remain in their natural form.

Apple should probably also thoroughly cleanse the iTunes Store for movies showing guns, lest some unsuspecting child has his purity irrevocably tainted by the image of a firearm. Such stimulation might lead him to commit homicide, such is the simple relation between the two. Sigh.

Edit: sarcasm guys, geeeez

> Edit: sarcasm guys, geeeez

Bringing sarcasm to what is, at least on some level, a serious discussion, usually creates unintended results. Honesty is a worthwhile policy.

Can we stop with this hyperbole anytime something is changed? What do emoji have to do with the iTunes store? You're assuming an awful lot about Apple's intentions with stuff like "such stimulation might lead him to commit homicide, such is the simple relation between the two".

Can we stop with this hyperbole anytime something is changed?

No. Monkeying with the language and symbols we use for self-expression is defensible only if you think of 1984 as a progressive manifesto.

Yep, changing the look of an emoji is tantamount to state-sanctioned censorship and oppression. Ridiculous statements like these only spawn more ridiculousness. Try grounding your arguments in reality rather than an Atlas-sized persecution complex and that stupid Orwellian meme. Private companies are free to do what they want, the first amendment only applies to the government.

Pick one, it's important or it's not. Anti-gun people seem to posit it's an important move to change the lexicon by removing the symbol and replacing it with a water gun as that will have an effect on the public consciousness. Someone points out that this sort of looks like newspeak from 1984 (replacing words that make people feel bad with things that are incomprehensible) and all of the sudden it's a trivial unimportant move that will have no effect.

Exactly. To the extent the change is meaningful, it's Orwellian. To the extent the change is meaningless, it's unnecessary.

Does anyone doubt it's a clearly political decision that is also technically worst-practice? Does anything think this is beneficial to society to remove the gun emoji? That it will prevent any violence?

Is there even logic behind this kinda of change? I just do not get it. It's easy to say that's just Apple shoving PC down their users throats, but what does a representation of a gun and PC have to do with each other? A gun is a real thing, in the real world, and has real world consequences, masking it as a water gun won't change this fact. Does Apple just want to be every ones big brother and decide what is best for us by coddling everyone into a land of rainbows and unicorns?

Don't you know? If we pretend bad things don't exist, they'll simply be wished out of existence.

This is about the most reactionary, sarcasm and knee jerk fuelled batch of comments I've seen on HN in some time. There are a few insightful ones peppered throughout the comments here, but its easily lost in the noise.

If this thread was a recipe I'd say it needs Less 2nd amendment discussion and lots more Unicode technical discussion. :-/

I wonder if they considered having the pistol pointed upward or diagonally. It does seem menacing when it's pointed straight to the left (or right). Not so much if it were pointing in a different direction.

This is the most reasonabke solution to the direction apple has taken. I've been anooyed that you can totally say 'water pistol‘ or 'water gun' with the current pistol emoji like this: water+pistol, but you cant say firearm or gun with fire+water pistol.....that just turns into fire-water-pistol? Napalm?

But I hadnt realized the potential danger in this change until this post!


Not here, please.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12240849 and marked it off-topic.


I don't think she is a lunatic. The current situation is dreadful.


The issue isn't that people are necessarily seriously asking people to bring guns.

It's that people might use a toy emoji which others interpret differently.

These two messages would be interpreted very differently:

> I'm going to get you back. :toy_gun:

> I'm going to get you back. :real_gun:

No, they won't. This article is classic faux Reddit hivemind outrage. I have never even used the gun emoji once. have you?

First of all, I don't think the article is outraged. I'm certainly not. I think it was a well-intentioned move by Apple with unforeseen consequences, not some grand evil plan.

Secondly, you're entirely missing the point of my comparison. I have never used the real gun emoji, but I might certainly use a toy gun in fun. The problem is that the composer might be trying to send a fun message, but it would be received negatively.

To be clear, I really don't care either way about the existence of a gun emoji. If Apple wants to remove it from the keyboard, that's fine and if they want to keep it that's also fine by me. My concern is with silently introducing a non-compatible change: it's analogous to silently making a dramatic change to the side effects of an API method without changing the name or announcing the change.

Why are you so defensive of this move? What advantage is served by switching out the emoji instead of simply removing it form the keyword?

Do you think this emoji exists on the Apple keyboard without ever being used?

> I have never used the real gun emoji, but I might certainly use a toy gun in fun. The problem is that the composer might be trying to send a fun message, but it would be received negatively.

Is there a class of people that you're both (a) comfortable enough joking about shooting with toy guns, yet also (b) slightly nervous about them coming after you with a real gun?

I could easily imagine it happening.

Maybe you played a prank on your boyfriend. It's entirely possible that he would get you back by shooting a water gun at you. But it's also possible that he might get really mad about it and threaten you.

> "your lunatic sociopath" should be > "your lunatic sociopaths"


Your right though, we should let Apple control and dictate how language is used (since emoticons are now a part of modern day language) since they obviously know best. Btw, you can't legally bring an automatic weapon to a public place. Also nice to know you literally can't speak to just the topic at hand without bringing completely irrelevant topics into the conversation just to spew your political biases, which it seems is what Apple is trying to do, maybe you are just two peas in a pod.

Sorry, this is about America and guns, which means that it is absolutely relevant. For the record, I am Canadian, love guns, but I don't think every fool should be entitled to his tool of rage. All Apple is doing is making an emoji into a toy. If you want to talk about guns, you can do that by spelling it out. If I say, lets bring and AR15 to the gun range, I know what you mean and Apple has done nothing to stop, change or control my speech.

See the comment by teddyh:

> The unicode code chart¹ actually says “PISTOL = handgun, > revolver”, and the reference glyph (with a larger version > on page 4) is pretty clearly a Beretta M9.²

> ① http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U1F300.pdf#14

> ② http://www.beretta.com/en/m9/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beretta_M9

This is Apple breaking from standards to enforce a political agenda, and while we may disagree this is still Apple "changing" your speech, albeit not stopping or controlling it.

Weapons aren't the only thing that can be used as a tool of rage, as we witnessed in Neice France just recently when a packing truck was responsible for more deaths than many acts of gun violence put together. Hiding guns and their representations from the public wont stop criminal elements from abusing them, what we need is laws that punish those who use or brandish guns outside of self defense in a very severe manner. As in your threaten someone or brandish a weapon during the act of a crime and you go to jail for life, case closed. Gun violence would cease overnight and we could still respect the rights granted by the constitution.

I've reviewed this document, but where does it say that this can't be a toy version of the item? Many emojis are cartoon versions. I can even run over cartoon people with cartoon trucks. I can even use my new apple toy gun with toy people. As far as deterrents, I think the evidence is that it is of limited effect, though some studies say more: http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2016/03/criminal... I don't think terrorists care much about jail terms or emojis.

Since you've seen his comment, please also see my response to that comment and address the points made therein.

Besides, the argument "no av program can catch ALL viruses, so it is pointless to use any av program at all" doesn't carry particularly well, regardless of how you reword it.

Replied to comment in question, please read and respond.

Han shot first.


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