The shrug emoticon, affectionately known as “shruggie” and occasionally “smugshrug,” is a well-loved piece of ASCII art; meaning everything from “I don't know” to a happy-go-lucky “Whatever!”, shruggie has become a frequent fixture of text-based communication in the digital age. But each and every time he makes an appearance, the same question always emerges: How do you type the shrug emoticon? Many of those characters don't exist on Western keyboards, so… how on earth are we supposed to do it? And moreover, how do we keep doing it anyway despite the challenge? Why does shruggie mean so dang much to us?
Shruggie, it turns out, actually has quite an impressively rich history. According to Kyle Chayka's incredibly detailed chronicle of “The Life and Times of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯” over at The Awl, the little ASCII fellow has been around for quite a while; however, it was only after Kanye West's now-infamous interruption of Taylor Swift during the 2009 MTV VMAs that it gained widespread usage. Travis Porter tweeted out shruggie along with the phrase “Kanye shrug” (now, of course, a meme in and of itself as well), which seems to have spurred its adoption across every form of electronic communication imaginable.
But accessing shruggie, a “kaomoji” that relies on characters only available on Japanese keyboards to create, continues to be problematic for those of us in the Western world. So here — I've done my best to take the mystery out of it. Here are five different ways you can get a little more shruggie in your life, because, well…
... he kind of speaks for himself.
1. Copy and Paste It
I'd be willing to bet that the most commonly used method of shruggie-ing is just a good old fashioned copy-paste operation. There's even a website that exists solely for all your shruggie copying and pasting needs: Copyshrug. Just go to copyshrug.com (and bookmark it, if you think you'll use it regularly), highlight one of the three differently sized shruggies available, copy it, and paste it wherever you want to use it. It works for phones, tablets, and computers, too, so no matter which mode of communication you prefer, shruggie is there for you. Like a good neighbor. Or State Farm. Either/or.
2. Make Judicious Use of Autocorrect on Your Smartphone
Hat tip to Bustle's own Jessica Blankenship for alerting me to the fact that this ingenious little trick is possible: You can set your phone to autocorrect a certain word into shruggie. I feel like I should have figured this one out without help; my boyfriend set my phone to autocorrect his name to "His Grace" when I wasn't looking a few years ago, which is pretty much the same thing. My phone, by the way, still does this, because I have hitherto been far too lazy to change it back.
Anyway, my point is this: You can set your phone to autocorrect the word “shrug” (or “&shrug,” or whatever other character combination you want to use) to shruggie. All you have to do is copy shruggie from Copyshrug, then do this: Go to “Settings,” then “General,” then “Keyboard,” then “Shortcut.” From there, you can add a new shortcut (tap “+” in the upper right hand corner): Type the word you want your phone to autocorrect in the “phrase” field, and then paste shrugging into the “shortcut” field. After you save it, every time you type that phrase, it will automatically turn into shruggie.
Don't have an iPhone? No problem — you can customize shortcuts on Android phones, too, with these handy instructions from Tech Republic.
3. Or, Use Autocorrect On Your Mac
The idea is pretty much the same as it is for the iPhone: If you have a Mac, you can instruct it to autocorrect a specific word into shruggie. I wouldn't use plain old “shrug” in this case (unless you want every single instance of the word “shrug” to become an emoticon); however, as Robinson Meyer wrote at The Atlantic last year, something like “&shrug” should fit the bill. Meyer's instructions are pretty idiot-proof, so check 'em out.
4. There's An App For That
Because of course there is. On the iPhone, it's called :shrug:, and it promises to help you type “the world's best emoticon with just one tap.” Basically it's a texting keyboard that consists of only one key (shruggie); once you've downloaded it, all you need to do is add the keyboard to your phone the same way you add the Japanese Kana keyboard, and voila! Boot up iMessage, tap the globe icon a few times, and you have your very own, easily-accessible shruggie keyboard.
One review submitted by “Stupid nickname field” (real ray of sunshine, this one) rated it with one star, noting only, “Don't waste your time. All it does is add the shrug” — although to be honest, I don't really understand why it's so negative. The app does exactly what it says it does: Add the shrug with one tap — no more, no less. We can't really fault it for functioning precisely as it tells us it functions, right?
5. Type It Using the Japanese Kana Keyboard
Sadly, shruggie is not among the pre-programed kaomoji that exist in the Japanese Kana iPhone keyboard — something which I feel is a major oversight that should be remedied at the earliest possible moment. You can, however, still type shruggie in manually… if you can navigate your way around the Kana keyboard. I looked, you guys. I did a ton of digging, but I could not for the life of me find instructions on exactly where in the keyboard one finds all the characters required to type in shruggie. I don't speak or write Japanese, which means I'm probably failing my heritage (sorry, Dad); it also means that I, disappointingly, was not able to figure out how to type shruggie on my own.
However, I did discover that the character that makes up the smiley face bit is called “tsu,” so if you can figure out exactly where on the keyboard tsu lies, you'll be well on your way to cracking the code. Keep me posted if you do — I'd love to know how to type the little guy myself!
Images: Giphy (3); Lucia Peters/Bustle (3)