My poor beat up old dictionary has a page and a quarter dedicated to the letter X. There just aren’t that many words that begin with X, but still, it hardly seems fair to relegate it to such a small amount of space considering all the things we use it for every day.
X is for who goes first in tic-tac-toe (or nougts and crosses, or X’s and O’s). It’s an axis and a co-ordinate and a chromosome. It’s the number 10, or it’s an unknown quantity. It’s useful for cancelling and obliterating (x-ing out), multiplying (in which case it’s called times), and measuring dimensions (in which case it’s called by). When a movie is X-Rated it becomes a must-see for teens who otherwise might pay no attention to it at all. It can describe generations and files and rays and factors and boxes, mark the spot, and warn you that a train is on it’s way.
X with a number indicates the power of magnification, as in my 10X mirror which shows me my pores and wrinkles and chin hairs and age spots in horrifying detail. Or it can be paired with a letter to indicate size; XS (extra small), XL (extra large) and XXXL (gargantuan).
It’s what we use to mark a ballot, and also the mark we use to indicate an error on an exam. Someone needs to look into the correlation of those two things.
It means cross in X-walk, and crosses out Christ in X-mas (a fact that used to make my mother cross). It means ‘this is where you must sign your name’ but hopefully not where you must sign your life away.
X is the mark the medical staff puts on the part of the body that’s going to undergo surgery, if the patient happens to have two of these body parts, to avoid confusion and embarrassment later.
There’s XX for double quality, and XXX for strongest quality malt liquor, and just plain old X to indicate where the treasure is buried. It’s a vital part of football play diagrams. And if a cartoon character has X’s for eyes it means he’s dead, at least temporarily.
There’s no set number for how many X’s can be added to the end of a letter or a text message, or to your signature on a card or a gift tag, as long as there’s an equal number of O’s for hugs to accompany the kisses. I don’t think that rule is set in stone, but I like to follow it religiously anyway.