X's, crosses as kisses and as blessings

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Thu Jul 3 18:04:29 UTC 2008

As far as I know X0X0 as hugs and kisses atarted in late 20th century.

The earliest I have so far for "crosses as kisses" in a letter is 1880.
Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Tuesday, July 27, 1880;
Issue 10153.
...sent her a letter with a lot of crosses for kisses at the end of it.

I now see in Gilbert White: A biography of the author of The Natural
History of
Selbourne by Richard Mabey (2007) that the letter (to Catherine Barrie) is
retyped (p.90) with, not xxxxxx {as in OED and in Gilbert White by R.M.
1954 p.40) but (p.224 n.14), on the manuscript of Catherine's journal copy, 15
"crucifixes or daggers." Mabey still calls them "kisses," though that appears
uncertain (unless kissing a crucifix?). One factor is when several Xs at the
end of a letter are called "crosses."

Stephen Goranson

Stephen Goranson

Quoting Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>:

> Interesting. And what about O's for hugs?
> -Wilson
> On Thu, Jul 3, 2008 at 10:36 AM, Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> 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
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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