Interesting analysis of the Gun-Emoji-Pairings: „What does the Gun shoot at?“ and „Who pulls the Trigger?“
WHAT DOES THE GUN EMOJI SHOOT AT?
As far as I can see, there are three main categories of things that appear in the position before the gun emoji:
Faces 😂 😭 😊 🙃 💀
Perhaps surprisingly, only one of the faces in the top five, the second one 😭, represents pure, unadulterated despair to me. The others take on a more overtly sarcastic tone when paired with the gun emoji. That said, I have seen 😭 used sarcastically, though it's hard to get this reading out of context.
Perhaps all these faces stand in for the person typing, which adds to the layers of sarcasm. These emoji combinations, in many cases, might be interpreted as the reflexive and sardonic statement "Just shoot me."
I see 😍 a little lower down on the list, which I take to mean some kind of heartbreak. It could also, along with 💀, be related to the "Kill me now/I am dying/RIP me" euphemistic expressions popular among teens when faced with the attention or achievements of their favorite celebrities. If you're not familiar with this usage, Graham Norton and Taylor Swift discussed it in 2014.
Booms 💥 💯 🔥 💕 💔 💦
I called this category booms, and I interpret this as explosions that come out of a gun. Some of them are more realistic, like 💥 or 🔥 (or 💦 if someone is used to seeing a water gun on Apple devices), while the hearts are a little less straight forward. Again, this could be some kind of heartbreak. Maybe the two hearts bursting from the gun are a type of love bullet (think cupid's arrow).
The broken heart could also be interpreted more like the faces in that it's something that could be shot at, and as a result, has burst apart.
Other Weapons and Death Imagery 🔪 💣 💀
This category accounts for a scenario when order doesn't actually seem to matter with the gun emoji. In these examples, the tweeter is often typing a string of weapons to express violence or frustration in a more general sense. There is often no object or target of the violence expressed in this emoji string, though perhaps that context appears elsewhere in the tweet. I also put 💀 in this category because I don't know exactly how to categorize it, so it gets to live in two categories.
WHO PULLS THE TRIGGER?
The same three categories are present in the position after the gun emoji, plus a very specific one-emoji category:
Faces 😂 😎 😩 😈
These faces also have a clear divide. Delirious, chill, distraught, and sinister. 😎 particularly stands out to me. In this example, it's an IDGAF kind of face that pulls the trigger.
Booms 💥 🔥 💕 💔
This is very similar to the before position booms. It's all about the explosion, from the more literal fiery kind to heartbreaking variety.
Other Weapons and Death Imagery 🔪 💣 👊 ⚰️ ☠️
Again order doesn't really matter with these ones. Just the general impression of violence, death, danger, anger, etc.
The Rose 🌹
This is mostly (if not exclusively) used to refer to the band Guns N' Roses.
It's vital to keep in mind that the face with tears of joy emoji 😂 has been found to be, overall, one of the most popular emoji, so it's no surprise that it shows up in the top five for both the before and after lists of gun pairings.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM ALL THIS?
My biggest takeaway is that there are a few distinct ways that people are using the gun emoji: faces, explosions, and strings of weapons/death imagery being the top categories.
It seems that the sarcastic and reflexive gun emoji pairings are extremely popular, which matches my expectations and the knowledge I brought into this exercise. One result that surprised me was the high collocation with the gun and various heart emoji. I had never personally associated the gun emoji as a means to express heartbreak, but it's there in the data.
My friend Kim suggested that a few of the gun emoji pairings might be an example of lexical aspect, or the logical end-state of something in its emoji representation. I love this idea and I think there's something to it. This includes 💔 💀 ☠️ ⚰️, and could be another way to break down the categories (especially considering I had trouble knowing exactly where to place the broken heart and the skull). I suppose technically a broken heart can mend, but for the purposes of this analysis, let's just say that broken is the final state of a once non-broken heart.