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By Maria Yagoda
Updated December 01, 2015 05:05 PM
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Credit: Cultura RM Exclusive/Chad Springer/Getty

WIth the word of the year being not a word but an emoji, we’ve entered a new era in which pictorial symbols – mini cartoons in bright yellow and purple colors – are a legitimate mode of communication.

While we can’t yet sign contracts or write long-form essays with emoji (though we’re getting there), we can flirt. Oh, how we can flirt. A new study from DrEd, an online doctor service, looked at the most used “sexually suggestive” emojis … and found out who’s sending them.

What’s a suggestive emoji? There are the obvious, G-rated ones – “smiling face with heart-shaped eyes,” by far the most used, and “face throwing a kiss” – but then there are the racier symbols. We’re talking about the tongue, eggplant, banana and peach. The eggplant, “notoriously used as a reference to male genitals due to its shape and color” (the study’s words, not ours), was used to caption explicit content so frequently that Instagram blocked its use as a hashtag.

The DrEd study specifically examined emoji use on Twitter – in Europe and the U.S. from July 1 to August 16 – but it seems safe to assume that the trends are reflected in text uses of emojis, which would have been much harder to quantify. (Who wants to submit their 2 a.m. texts to a study?)

“With only 140 characters allowed per message, Twitter demands brevity from its users – and lengthy hashtags or phrases can often be replaced by a single well-chosen emoji. The availability of hundreds of distinct emojis, ranging from faces to symbols to food, has inspired many on Twitter to come up with their own new meanings for some of these unique icons,” the study reads. “And while emojis themselves are not explicit, this coded language quickly led to the emergence of a new kind of flirtatious and sexual shorthand, where romantic overtures and taboo topics can be casually suggested with just one or two otherwise innocuous characters.”

Here are some of the study’s biggest takeaways.

The only flirtatious/suggestive emoji that men use more than woman is the eggplant.

Three repeating tongues is the most popular suggestive emoji combo, with eggplant + eggplant, eggplant + splashing sweat, and finger pointing + OK sign trailing close behind.

Men and women like tweeting different emoji combos. While women like to do three tongues, men are more likely to go for eggplant + peach, tongue + eggplant, tongue + peach, and finger pointing + OK sign.

Mississippians tweet the most eggplants, and we don’t think they’re interested in eggplant recipes, if you catch our drift.

People in South Dakota and Idaho were most likely to tweet the somewhat graphic pointing finger + OK sign emoji combo.

Happy flirting/sexting/being suggestive!