The Internet is replete with drek concerning the recondite origins of “x” having come to mean “kiss”. Apparently in the Middle Ages or whatever, the literacy-challenged would authenticate documents using “x” (after He of the ill-advised horizontal crucifixion) and then kiss them as a show of honour, probity, or something. This sounds dubious – first, St Andrew to one side (why would people anywhere but Scotland or the CIS care, either a thousand years ago or now), why did all illiterate people use the same letter? “L” is simpler, and “v” more suggestively puerile. Secondly, if a kiss evinced the truth, overnight this most bizarre of human customs would become the calling card of every recruitment agent in the country.
Anyway, this misses the point. I know – we all do – that “x” means “kiss”. Except it doesn’t actually mean that – not any more. And we’re left wondering –as a collective species – why this insignificant, otherwise seldom used letter has come to adorn everything, from propitiations for sex, to requests for five minutes’ extra in which to meet an allotted commitment, to apologies, forgiveness, importuning, birthdays, sadness, happiness, earliness, over-enthusiastic-ness, standoffishness – FUCKING EVERYTHING.
The ubiquity of “x” is troubling because I’m a single man in an age of digital communication (as he writes, he thinks to himself, isn’t all written communication, irrespective of when it was made in human history, “digital”)? (Even yours, Christy.) Girls like to use “x” in their messages. But, terrifyingly, “x” means nothing. It’s the linguistic equivalent of the first trimester foetal tail, indicating– seemingly innocuously – the atavistic origins of whatever garbage it accompanies. And (I’m assuming) like the tail, it comes in many shapes and sizes:
– the mandatory, single, ostensibly meaningless “x”;
– the come-hither, possibly-sex-ready, isolated, engorged “X”;
– the protest-too-much “xx”;
– the multiple “x”es, and their Orwellian, double-plus aspiration to punctuate WHATEVER THE FUCK “x” is supposed to mean in the first place.
Which leads me to what “x” means. Remember the Dementors from Harry Potter? They feed on good emotions or whatnot. (Incidentally, why did Harry, whose stand-out childhood recollection was of his parents being eviscerated by a psychopath, have such a problem – surely he was the least likely candidate?). “X” is the opposite. It’s not the dementor – it’s the demented. It’s an unlettered way of saying “whatever lovely impulses are in your heart, O recipient, I agree with them”. It’s airwave mutual masturbation. It’s not feeding off good emotions – it’s force-feeding them. It’s emotional foie gras.
But like everyone else, I meaninglessly use it all the time. So go on – whatever you’re thinking just bakes my cake – you wonderful person x.