Teachers' blog


【X Marks the Spot】

(Contributed by Ben)
The letter ‘X’ is a curious one. It seems unnecessary, because it normally makes a ‘ks’ sound (like in ‘box’ and ‘fax’) or a ‘z’ sound (like in ‘xylophone’, a musical instrument). If the alphabet didn’t have ‘x’ in it, we would just use ‘z’ or ‘ks’!
‘X’ isn’t used a lot. Because of that, it’s used for a few specific purposes. In mathematics, ‘x’ often means the number you need to find. If question says ‘6 divided by x = 2. Solve for x’, then the answer is ‘x = 3’. On old maps (for example pirate treasure maps), a big letter ‘X’ marks where something was hidden. People sometimes say ‘X marks the spot’, meaning the letter X shows where you should dig to find treasure. In cartoons, a bottle with ‘XXX’ written on it represents very strong alcohol. ‘The X factor’ means a particular quality that makes something excellent. If someone has ‘the X factor’ there is something difficult-to-describe about them, that makes them popular and successful.
‘X’ is an uncommon letter, but if you try to think of a whole alphabet of words (one word starting with each letter) you need to think of one starting with ‘X’. For example, if you try to think of one name beginning with each letter, you might start with ‘Andrea, Ben, Charlotte, David…’ (to represent A, B, C and D) but you might find it difficult to find a name beginning with X (but there are a few – Xerxes, Xena and Xavier)
Four years ago, I tried to watch a film beginning with every letter of the alphabet (for example ‘Animal Crackers’ from 1930 for ‘A’, ‘Ben-Hur’ from 1959, for B, and so on). There aren’t a lot of films starting with ‘X’, so in the end I watched 1980’s ‘Xanadu’, which is a fun, but bad film about a roller-skating disco.
The band They Might Be Giants recorded a song called ‘The Alphabet of Nations’, which begins ‘Algeria, Bulgaria, Cambodia and Dominica…’ and gives one country for each letter of the alphabet. But there are no nations beginning ‘W’ or ‘X’, so they had to make one up! ‘Turkey, Uruguay, Vietnam, WEST XYLOPHONE, Yemen, Zimbabwe’.
When I was a child, my bedroom had an alphabet on the wall. ‘A for apple, B for beetle, C for cow’, and so on. One thing that annoyed me was the letter ‘X’. It said ‘X, as in foX’. Every other letter was shown at the start of a word, but X was at the end of a word. Oh, it made me cross! Later, I saw another ‘alphabet of animals’. It say ‘X is for X-ray Fish’. I have never heard of an X-ray fish, but it was an improvement!
Why am I talking about ‘X’ today? Because, over 96 blog posts, I have ALMOST completed an ‘A-to-Z’ of titles. ‘A’ for ‘Amateur Dramatics’ to ‘Y’ for ‘Youtube’. Now I have ‘X’ for ‘X Marks the Spot’. Four more letters, and I will complete the whole alphabet!

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