X is one of the most useless letters in the alphabet. Along with C and Q, and possibly Z, it could quite easily be eliminated without being terribly missed. While C would be missed in words like “achoo”, why not just use K? Akhoo! (Your left brain is rejecting this!)
X is a decorative letter, making for interesting looking written words. But as far as pronunciation… well, there are alternatives.
Looking for a topic for this Challenge post, I did come across some X words. Mostly scientific in nature and, on this sunny Saturday morning, not really all that appealing. So X, itself, is the topic.
X is much better suited to being a symbol than a letter. It’s decisive and succinct; easily identifiable. It can indicate – quite clearly – that something is wrong. It represents the number 10 in Roman numerals. It also represents the unknown – as in algebra. Alternately, it can, as is my favourite use for it, “mark the spot.” So it does have its uses. And it sounds cool to say: eks.
The multiplication sign (or times sign) is not called an X, though it does resemble one – exactly. It’s called a multiplication sign or times sign. Which I found rather disappointing as I was hoping that there was some cool name for it that I had been unaware of. But no.
I did discover that it was introduced in 1631 as the multiplication sign by William Oughtred and was chosen for this purpose for religious reasons to represent the cross. I could find nothing to explain the rationale for this choice. What does the cross have to do with multiplying?
According to Wikipedia: “The letter “x” is sometimes used in place of the multiplication sign. This is considered incorrect in mathematical writing.” I’ll be mulling this one over all day, I think. How on Earth would anyone know the difference? Can you imagine:
“You failed your math test because you used the letter eks instead of multiplication signs.”
“No, I used multiplication signs!”
“They are clearly letter ekses. You fail.”
God, I’d love to be a math teacher and use that on a student as a joke sometime!
Anyway, if you will X-cuse me, I’m not going to X-tract some brunch from the kitchen and think about the difference between x and x. (As soon as I figure out which one is the multiplication sign.)