X is for…

We all have at least one X chromosome.


I marvel at the versatility of the letter X.

It can be used as a signature that is printed in lieu of an individual’s signature…”Typically, individuals sign their full names when executing legal documents. Sometimes, however, individuals use only their initials or other identifying marks. For illiterate, incompetent, or disabled people, this mark is often the letter X. Documents signed with an X sometimes raise questions as to their validity and enforceability.”

Related, the X refers to a kiss. “The first mention in the literature of XXX for kisses at the bottom of a letter was in 1901, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The X itself is very old.

“The custom goes back to the early Christian era when a cross mark or ‘X’ was the same as a sworn oath. The cross-referred to the cross of Calvary and the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, Xristos.” (Which is why Xmas does not bother me in the slightest; it actually has sacred roots.)

“Even as little as a hundred and fifty years ago, not many people could read or write. The ‘X’ at the bottom of a document took the place of a signature. They would kiss the ‘X’ as a crucifix or bible was kissed to emphasize the importance of the mark. It was this practice that led to the ‘X’ representing a kiss.”

Yet, X-rated is “vulgar, obscene, or explicit in the treatment of sex: an X-rated novel; X-rated graffiti.”

X is an algebraic meaning ‘unknown quantity’ (1660 in English). Yet X also means the specific, known location of the buried treasure; “X marks the spot.”

Finally, HISTORIANS of mathematics attribute the first use of the cross x as a symbol for multiplication to William Oughtred (…London, 1631).

And since we all have at least one X chromosome, one could argue that we all are unknown AND knowable, sacred AND profane.
ABC Wednesday – Round 8

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

28 thoughts on “X is for…”

  1. Hi Roger….Good X post. Most interesting. Have we not all signed our letters with XOXO….

    So I’ll just close by saying XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX!

  2. Thank you for this interesting post! The X is a very important letter. Here in my country we also speak of the X factor, meaning that some people really attract attention in a group of people. They are born leaders.

  3. Wonderful, Roger. Just what I’d eXpect from you, a history of the uses of the letter X. Fascinating. Thanx so much.
    XXXX
    K

  4. Thankyou Roger

    I love your telling of the history behind each X statement – have a good week
    Jane x

  5. X was no challenge for you. Interesting monogram I’ve never noticed horseshoes on one of those before.

  6. Sweet post! I lived overseas (Israel and in Austria) and we bought a home in Israel. The previous owner was illiterate and signed her name with an “X” twenty some odd years ago, but an “x” nevertheless!

  7. xxxxxxxxxx
    This could be kisses, but I wrote like an illiterate and it means “very interesting”
    signed
    X from the ABC team

  8. Loved your post, Roger! So interesting! Didn’t know the story behind the Xs for kisses!
    Thanks for sharing;o)

    ***
    Hope you are having a nice and happy week****

  9. Fabulous post! I never knew about origin of Xmas. I’ve always hated that abbreviation because I thought people were just too lazy to spell it out. I’ll have to rethink this position now.

  10. Your contributions are always exhilarating! Very nice juxtaposition of the opposites of X.

    HelenMac
    ABC Wednesday Team

  11. Most interesting and informative, Roger. I didn’t know about the X for a signature being supported by kissing the Bible or a crucifix.

  12. What a great post, Roger! Sorry I didn’t participate this week as my computer was in getting fixed. I’m just now getting around to check out the X blogs! šŸ˜€

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