Flags in emoji are made from special characters called Regional Indicator Symbols (RIS), two of these encode the flags for every country. Each RIS is a reserved character that corresponds to a Latin letter A-Z. If you treat these like normal letters what is the longest word that can be spelt only using flags?, what is the longest word that contains no flags?, and what else interesting can you find?
I have done some research online and can’t find any post with someone asking these questions, so as far as I know I am the first person to ask and answer this. The code for this is on my GitHub https://github.com/AceLewis/spelling-with-emoji-flags. The word dictionary I am using for this is, https://github.com/dwyl/english-words. This contains many words that are not “really words” so I have ignored some words if when there are no organic search results e.g. gospodipoda only returns autogenerated content for the word.
Unicode is the standard encoding for text used on computers. The Unicode Consortium who manage it give code points to every character including emoji. I have written briefly about the history of Unicode/emoji in my post The Emoji that exists but is not real. I would recommend you to read that first if you don’t already know about this.
Regional Indicator Symbols (RIS) are reserved characters that are used to make emoji flags. Each flag is made from two of these RIS using the standard two-letter country code from ISO 3166-1 alpha-2. Additional flags are included for example EU for the European Union . The United Kingdoms ISO alpha-2 is GB (sadly not UK to avoid confusion with Ukraine) so the flag is made by typing the RIS for G () and the RIS for B () next to each other. When combined and make the emoji . This flag is two separate characters however is treated a bit like once character to the user, when clicking backspace you will remove the whole flag emoji but it does count as two characters on Twitter. Other examples are and form and and form .
If you try to type ‘emoji’ using RIS it does not work you will get as MO is for Macau.
In the previous section I showed you can’t type ‘emoji’ with flags because there is no flag for EM (and it is an odd length). We are looking for words that when spelt with Regional Indicator Symbols and will display only flags, to find out I just simply checked every word in the words_alpha.txt dictionary (code on GitHub). 4.97% of these words are able to be spelt using only flags. The longest word is 22 characters, much longer than I expected.
Here are some other long words that I like:
What is the longest word that you can spell with Regional Indicator Symbols that does not contain a flag?. On Twitter you are able to spell any word with RIS even if it contains a flag because you can insert a character such as a zero-width space or zero-width non-joiner (ZWNJ). There are many characters that are zero width but all the text I have seen are using ZWNJ so I assume someone made a tool to create “cool” text that these people are using but I can’t find it. This renders the RIS next to each other but I consider this “cheating” because you are using extra characters. Without this cheat only 0.89% of words can be spelt with no flags the longest of which is 11 characters long, equipollent (
Palindromes are words that when spelt backwards are the same as they as spelt forwards e.g “radar” and “kayak”. Semordnilap words are a pair of words that when both spelt backwards are the opposite word e.g “desserts” and “stressed”. Are there any palindromes and semordnilap pairs?
For palindromes we have retter (), this is an uncommon word meaning someone who uses a specific technique in the processing of fibrous plants. See the wikipedia page on retting and this video showing part of the process the person doing it is a retter.
For semordnilap pairs we find allium () and muilla (). These words are nice because they are both genuses of flowering plants in the Amaryllidaceae family. Allium is the genus that includes onions, garlic, shallot, leek, and chives, and is named after the Latin word for garlic (Wikipedia). Muilla is a genus that contains three species of plants that grow in and around California, USA (Wikipedia).
So far I have considered palindromes and semordnilap pairs that are reverses of every letter however as we are spelling with flags I think it would be more appropriate to consider words that when spelt with the flags in reverse order are a different words/the same word.
Searching for a flag palindrome you find mesosome (), two characters longer than the ‘normal’ way. Mesosomes are folded invaginations in the plasma membrane of bacteria, again you can read more about this on it’s Wikipedia page.
For flag semordnilap pairs there are canicola () and laconica (). Canicola fever is caused by Leptospira canicola whose main host is dogs but can infect humans cattle, pigs, etc (Leptospirosis Wikipedia and zoetisus). Canicola is also used to refer to the bacteria/infection itself especially when distinguishing it from the other serotypes of Leptospirosis. Laconica is the plural of laconicum, “A hot dry sweating room, next to the caldarium in the Roman baths” - Wiktionary.
Emoji flags are made of special letters, I have found words that can be spelt only with flags, with no flags and words that are palindromes/semordnilaps. The code that I used to find these is on GitHub.
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