On the radar: “xx”

My college-student daughter Maria informs me that in Facebook birthday greetings, the normal salutation is xoxo, meaning, “hugs and kisses.” But she says that every one of her friends who has studied in England–as well as all their English friends, and increasing number of people who seem to want to sound English–merely write xx, meaning, presumably, “kisses.”

This bears further study. I wonder if it relates to the hugging epidemic that reached American shores a decade and a half ago. Has it not gotten to the U.K–do acquaintances merely kiss there on greeting each other, and eschew body-on-body content?

In any case, I fancy–and note the writer’s use of the word fancy, suggesting English origin–the definition of xx on urbandictionary.com:

Something every girl says. If she says it to you, you’re not special, she doesn’t fancy you, shut up.
Tom : Hiiiiiiiii :D:D HI
Mel: hi do i know u…
Tom: HOW ARE U !
Mel: Im ok soz g2g bye xx
(Mel signs out, or blocks tom)
Tom (to other friend) HIIII MAN MEL JUST SAID “xx” TO ME!
friend: And?
friend: No she doesnt shut youre mouth.

25 thoughts on “On the radar: “xx”

  1. 20-year-old-ish people in the UK routinely end every LINE of every FB or other ‘chat’ or text message with x or xx. In a discussion of impoliteness in my Communication Analysis course the other week, the students offered ‘withholding kisses at the end of a FB message’ as a type of impoliteness.

    The xx rather than xoxo is reminiscent of a kiss on each cheek, which is pretty common in the UK–though there’s a bit of a one-cheek v two-cheek debate and possibly a social class difference. (With two cheeks being the ‘European’ way.)

    The other AmE/BrE difference I’ve noticed here is that I would sign cards or texts with: ‘xx, Lynne’ (I’m britified enough to leave out the hugs)–i.e. putting the kisses where ‘Love,’ would usually go. But my English friends would all put the kisses after the name–e.g. Lynne xx. This is often abbreviated in texts to initial + kiss–i.e. ‘Lx’.

    I can see I should blog on this. Might plagiarise my own comment!

  2. I don’t know about the differences, not being on Facebook for a start, but the ending of a message with x or xx is as much functional as affectionate; it shows that that is definitely the end of the message, preventing misunderstanding if the phone or computer program cuts out halfway through transmission. This does fit in with politeness too though; someone not making sure to end the message in that way could look unconcerned about being (mis)understood.

    The hugging thing varies a huge amount here in the UK, and not by any very reliable indicator either. Oddly enough I was talking to a guy who had moved here from Texas about 2 years ago who said that “Scotland is much friendlier; everyone hugs each other over here, even the men, that just doesn’t happen in Texas” which surprised me. Maybe it’s a bit of a social minefield on both sides of the Atlantic.

    1. In the US, it’s common for friends to hug — especially girls hugging other girls. Girls & guys who are friends can hug, too. But guys can feel awkward hugging other guys.

      If/when they do hug other guys, they might do it aggressively (like crashing into each other), but usually it’s a “bro hug” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4ZVN-9knN8). This is sometimes followed with beating their right fist on their upper left chest once or twice — signifying that they love the other guy strictly in a platonic manly way.

      This can also very in different regions or different friend groups.

  3. Reinforcing what lynneguist said…xx = short form of “kiss, kiss”…Europeans and Hollywooders greeting with a kiss (or air kiss, perhaps, in the case of the latter) on either cheek…. Also heard on film (e.g., “Hello, Dahling…kiss kiss”). I haven’t yet seen the film “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” so I can’t authenticate that reference.

  4. When people knew how to use pens in the UK, letters to lovers, family and close friends were signed off with XXX – the so-called kisses on the bottom (of the letter – you see, a little joke). The number 3 has ever had an authenticity and completeness about it – before the cock crows thrice, etc.

    XX seems to hold less weight, an unnecessary economy.

  5. It’s not just the young. This has steadily crept into the working world, particularly amongst PR and soft media types, a couple of xx’s is standard even if you’re writing a totally professional work-related email to someone you’ve never face-to-face met in your life.
    As for the physical kissing thing, I grew up in the Midwest. Having to kiss people a number of times which varies depending on their nationality, ethnic background and social class, and all just because I walked into a room, is pure agony.

  6. I’m British, and I’ve had great fun reading this blog. I’ve even discovered phrases/words I didn’t even know were exclusively British! In response to this post, I would say that the ‘hugging epidemic’ has well and truly reached the UK, especially within my age group (I’m 22). Kissing on the cheek tends to be a more polite form of greeting, between the older generation and higher social classes. Saying that, I’m currently living in Switzerland, where the norm is 3 kisses, and it’s been quite refreshing to have an instituted greeting that crosses all age/social boundaries, as it can be awkward in the UK to know how to greet someone you don’t know or to decide when you know someone well enough to hug them. I, by the way, end texts, messages, etc. with ‘xs’ (meaning kisses) but I am the only person I know who writes that and not ‘x’, ‘xx’, or ‘xxx’ (or sometimes even more!)

  7. The episode of Fry’s English Delight entitled “The Story of X” has a possibly apocryphal origin for the X as a kiss; the X marks the spot where the letter writer had kissed the paper so that the recipient can kiss it there too, as a proxy for actual kissing.

  8. I’m English and xx is just a common way to end a text or email to someone who is close to you. I have always been told that xoxo is childish and should not be used beyond Primary School (Age 11).

  9. I’m fully American, used to write actual letters by hand, and have been using XXX for kisses and find the hug part annoying! Never used it.

  10. If I sign a birthday card, or other form of card, to a relative, friend or colleague, I might end it with three Xs, but only to a female. One or two Xs would seem pointed: worse than none, in fact.

    When I was in primary school (50 yrs ago), it was understood that X was a kiss, and O was a cuddle.

    Facebook I don’t really use.

  11. I’m British and my friends always greet each other with hugs, never kisses! Kissing as a greeting isn’t ‘done’ in the UK as far as I know – there’s a line, repeating on the British TV show QI, from a old European travel guide which demonstrates this.

  12. One of my colleagues recently received an email in a professional context with an x at the end from someone he had never met or spken too. He aasumed she had done it on autopilot as neither he nor I would dream of doing it (nor had we seen it in a business environmment before). He and I are 40 and 50 respectively, but our younger colleagues were as surprised as us. We are lawyers, maybe affection comes hard to us? 🙂

  13. I remember using a lot more than a mere three ‘x’s in thank-you letters to relatives. Entire lines, maybe three or more.
    My Canadian cousin introduced me to ‘o’s for hugs, but they weren’t something I ever found it necessary to use.

  14. I’d always assumed the X was representing crossed arms of a hug and O illustrated the shape of kissing lips. After reading this article and its comments I can only guess those assumptions are based on having been told “XOXO” means “hugs and kisses” then assigning value based on relative word placement. I’m an American in my mid-30’s, btw.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s