When I was growing up the letter x had three main reasons for being: to point out you got something wrong, to mark the location of pirate treasure and to represent a kiss.
With this final reason in mind, x was a powerful stroke of the pen. Xs were reserved for birthday and Christmas card kisses from close relatives. Then came the day, when swimming against a tide of teenage hormones, you'd pray it meant a kiss, not that family sloppy peck on the cheek, but a kiss. With Morten Harket and Simon Le Bon playing on a cassette (poorly recorded off the top 40), there was the eternal hope of a Valentine's card or anonymous note with the blessed x.
I blogged about this a few years ago as the x started its migration into the everyday. If I were not socially awkward I would not be social at all. So, as the written letter passed over and the email told hold, the popping up of the innocent x become commonplace and commonly confusing. Like many I chose the route of the 'echo x', if one was sent then send one back. Even at times when the x was added onto after workmate's sign off, I'd uneasily press the key third row down, second in, and pray I had not unwittingly entered into a contract for stationary cupboard groping.
Where once the deliberation over whether to include an x induced nervous nausea, now it appears like a reality star's tits, everywhere.
Fast forward to today and the x is not only fighting off the glib emoticons with ease but, it has developed a diva like status amongst the other characters. Now x comes supersized and in a gang, x xxx XXXX. Or in the that most hideous of emotional binary nonsense xoxoxoxo
The question arises, is the number of xs indicative of anything other than a sticky keyboard? Is the first x an accepted social norm sign off but the following two are a cheeky wink to days gone by? What is the optimum number of Xs? What is the X hierarchy? Has another sign off replaced the x as 'the signal'?
Last week I sent a message to a friend and chose, what I thought was a friendly, big hug emoticon. Perhaps that would be a sweet and innocent sign off to adopt, an electronic mail flutter of the eyelashes. Only at her end, her phone didn't show the cheery hug picture but a display of characters she insists looks like a vagina. Perhaps that would be a move too far. A sign off which can be interpreted as 'best wishes, Rebecca...oh and here's my ladyparts' is not quite the like for like swap with the 1980's X I'd be hoping for.
Has our beloved x, a tiny bit of ink that could once raise your heartbeat, been lost forever to be another meaningless scribble at the end of an email from your accountant? Is x doomed to be just (quite literally) crossed lines forever more or will it come back to be the sweetest of flirts?
I suppose I am asking, will we ever see the retro X?
All the best, Beki