X's, crosses as kisses and as blessings

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jul 3 17:12:34 UTC 2008

Interesting. And what about O's for hugs?


On Thu, Jul 3, 2008 at 10:36 AM, Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
> Subject:      X's, crosses as kisses and as blessings
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> A friend asked about the origin of X's used in letters meaning kisses. Not
> knowing, I searched including in online OED, which under X has (with the first
> citation expanded):
> X [the letter]
> II. Symbolic uses [a separate section has x in abbreviations]
> 6. Used to represent a kiss, esp. in the subscription to a letter.
> 1763 Gilbert WHITE Letters (1901 ed.) I. vii. 132,
> Madame,.... In the whole it is best that I have been the loser [of a friendly
> bet], as it would not be safe in all appearances to receive even so much as a
> pin from your Hands. I am with many a xxxxxxx and many a
> Pater noster and Ave Maria, Gil. White.
> 1894 W. S. CHURCHILL Let. 14 Mar. in R. S. Churchill Winston S. Churchill I.
> Compan. I. (1967) vii. 456 Please excuse bad writing as I am in an
> awful hurry. (Many kisses.) xxx WSC....
> There is a large time gap between the two first citations.
> Gilbert White (1720-1793) was a minister and a naturalist. I've read the whole
> letter (and some biographical context), and while it could there possibly have
> meant kisses, that was not, strictly speaking, certain, nor even necessarily
> likely.
> So I looked for other--and unimpeachably kiss-identified--instances between 1763
> and 1894. There are several from the late 1800s; I found none as early as the
> 1700s. Here's one, from "An Acrobat's Girlhood" by Hesba Stretton in The
> Sunday Magazine n.s. v. 18, 1889 p.410:
> "Dearest, darling Ruth....Darling old woman, I often think of you and mother.
> Don't let Nancy or little Ned be acrobats. They don't kno [sic] I'm riting.
> [sic]--Your dear loving TRIXY-- x x x x x x x"
> All the paper was filled up with crosses for kisses, and they meant that our
> poor little Trixy was full of love for us all at home. [end story excerpt]
> {Of course "sealed with a kiss" is much older, but those sealings are
> generally direct kissing not epistolary.)
> So I searched for and found some texts with "crosses for kisses" and the like.
> E.g., in Aunt Judy's Magazine Issue XI p.669 (date uncertain so far, within
> 1866-1885) in a letter (to Mother) ps: "All these crosses mean kisses, Jemima
> told me."
> Funny Folks (London, England), Saturday, January 28, 1893; Issue 949.
>     ?
> Why do our sweet sentimental young misses
> In love-letters make little crosses for kisses?
>     !
> To show that, when married, to lighten our losses
> They'll give little kisses instead of our crosses!
> In Notes & Queries Sept. 15, 1894 ser. 8, VI p.208 one H.B. Hyde tells of his or
> her grandchildren writing letters with crosses meaning kisses after their names,
> then asks about a reference in Robinson Crusoe (set in 17th cent.), and whether
> such was a pre-Reformation, Roman Catholic, practice. Crusoe gets a letter
> describing property:
> "how many slaves there were upon it, and, making twenty-two crosses for
> blessings he told me so many Ave Marias to thank the Blessed Virgin that I was
> alive."
> So maybe the 1762 OED letter means blessings too, not kisses.
> As far as I can tell, no one responded to Hyde.
> Stephen Goranson
> http://www.duke.edu/~goranson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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