I am glad I didn’t put a lot of effort into yesterday’s Hoddle.
Ramble of the Day
The world of emojis is as wide, varying, and confusing as the larger world it lives in. Still, we’ve managed to decode quite a bit if in part because a number of them are fairly obvious. The football emoji ( ⚽) is a classic example, and even if they’re overused by footballers, you have to allow them to; they are footballers! Still, there’s one that is used very often, but its meaning remains shrouded in mystery: the flexed bicep emoji ( ).
Emojipedia says the flexed muscle emoji “represents strength, or working out,” and also goes by the names “feats of strength” and “muscle.” It seems obvious enough; if your bicep looks like that, you’re probably a very strong person. If you’re trying to suss out the meaning from footballers’ use of it, things get a bit more complicated.
Let’s begin with Everton’s Fabian Delph, who has commented on a few of Eric Dier’s Instagram posts with the flexed bicep emoji. He is clearly using it in a most obvious context, noting Dier’s strength. The definition doesn’t imply using it to recognize someone else’s strength, but it seems like a nice thing to do. In the first image in particular, Delph makes it seem like a routine thing. Dier’s posting his equivalent of a typical and boring work day, but even then Delph is acknowledging that, and doing it twice over.
Despite a traditional usage, Delph is still morphing the meaning, which is a natural thing. It feels like an emoji used in passing recognition of existence, but I suppose it’s just an extension of the original definition for people who are above average in the strength department.
This is moving away from Delph’s usage slightly, but as Toby Alderweireld uses it here, he’s clearly referencing the perceived strength of his team after beating a not-so great team. (Don’t worry, I get it.) Alderweireld actually uses the flexed bicep emoji a lot, so much so that it’s gone a bit off the rails.
Perhaps he’s going for a traditional definition of strength, and maybe it’s because it takes a lot of effort to carry that (very nice) bag. Otherwise, I find that it’s a bit of stretch to categorize this as a traditional definition. Is he strong for being on the national team? I suppose so; it would take a certain amount. Is he flexing, similar to bragging, about being in the Belgium team? Is he being less literal, tweeting about the strength of his outfit?
Is he just using it because he likes it, because he think he exudes a certain air that the flexed bicep emoji also does? Maybe it’s that one, but it surely makes matters more confusing.
Then there’s Paulo Gazzaniga, who used the flexed bicep emoji to wish Jan Vertonghen and Ben Davies well on their birthday in April. This probably doesn’t fit under a direct show of strength, unless having birthdays is a sign of that. I think this and the others ultimately support my theory that footballers love to use it in passing as a sign of respect or admiration. I also think it’s something that applies solely to them; I probably couldn’t use it with my friends because we don’t live in that environment. I hardly think of them as weak, but our relationship to physical strength is a much different one.
It still feels slightly random, but it does make sense in the very specific world footballers (and perhaps other athletes) live in.
tl;dr: Footballers have a very colloquial usage of the flexed bicep emoji ( ).
Links of the Day
Female footballers in Spain’s Primera División will go on strike after failing to agree with clubs on pay and working conditions.
Liverpool has condemned fans who brought a racist banner of Divock Origi to the team’s Champions League encounter at Genk.
Barcelona and Real Madrid have agreed to reschedule the upcoming Clásico, but La Liga is considering legal action over the decision.
USWNT and Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan is expecting her first child with her husband, LA Galaxy midfielder Servando Carrasco.
Today’s longer read: Ben Lyttleton on Ralf Rangnick’s role overseeing Red Bull’s North American teams and his impact on German football for The Guardian