We all have those magical inventions in books that we just wish would come true (hello, invisibility cloak, I’m still waiting for you). And anyone who read Northern Lights 20 years ago and says they didn’t spend hours pretending to have an alethiometer is just plain lying. In Northern Lights (The Golden Compass for my friends across the Atlantic), Lyra just has to look at a series of images, each of which have a whole range of possible meanings, and she can instantly decipher a whole sentence. Amazing. But hang on—we all totally do that every day now. That’s right—we’ve been walking around with our very own alethiometers tucked in our back pockets and we never even noticed.
Just like Lyra, we’re on autopilot. We know at first glance if 😘 in one particular context means “Thank you” or “I love you” or if it’s pure passive aggression. We don’t need to be told whether 🙊 means “My lips are sealed” or “I shouldn’t have said that” or “OMG”. And we know at once if 🍆 is an aubergine, or something a little more risque…
We’re so good at it, that we can send texts like this: 👗💄👠👢💁 (I can help you choose an outfit), or this: 🙅☕️ (that’s not my cup of tea), or this: 🚫😥🍼💦(don’t cry over spilled milk).
We can even tell each other what song we’re listening to: 🍎🍏👖👢🐩 (Low by Flo Rida), or what film we’re watching: 🕐🎸📡🏣💏🏠👴 👵🚙📼🐶🔥🔫🔥👦💤👧😍📼💡🏣😡👊🏃💩🚗😗😳😡👊💑🎷🎸📩🚙🏫⚡️🔥🔫📩🏠👫💏🚙 (Back to the Future).
In Northern Lights, Lyra is the only person alive who can read the alethiometer so easily, and yet in 2015 we can all do the exact same thing. Sound the alarm, did we all get cleverer in the last two decades?
The conclusion is: magical inventions can come true. And if we’ve got alethiometers now, it’s only a matter of time before we get flying broomsticks. 😀😀😀😀😀
Do you think Philip Pullman knew about emojis before we did? Check out my other thoughts on books.
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