Oxford... I am enamoured. The university, the town (which I haven’t seen, but it can only be marvellous), and the language. If my dad left me a trust fund, I am convinced that by now I would have had several doctorate degrees in medieval history and languages. Alas, I have to contend myself with ‘The Oxford Dictionary’ – in inverted commas because it deserves reverence.
I have a few favourites:
- New Hart’s Rules,
- New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors, and
- the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.
Unless otherwise specified, my writing follows the rules as prescribed by this Organization - at least I try to, I should probably add.
You may now think that ‘pray tell, what precisely does Oxford have to do with X?’ Well, I found this Oxford YouTube video which offers us a bit of an explanation of the use of the letter ‘x’ in the English language. It inspired me to look up and share a few words starting with this phenomenon of a letter.
After Q and Z, X is the least common letter in English. And like so many other aspects of our language, it has its origin in Greek; Χ and Ψ. I don’t want to list every language that contains an X in their alphabet, but from what I can see, most do, with varying pronunciations. It is interesting to note that the words starting with an X in English are all loan-words or of modern creation.
A sugar substitute. And a good one, apparently. In my opinion, this fact will probably change tomorrow. It is a sugar alcohol, pretty much as sweet as sucrose, but with 33 per cent less calories. And it seems to be beneficial for your dental health.
No, I’m not talking about the film. Xanadu is supposed to be a glorious, idealized place. Where dreams turn into reality even before you realized that you had that dream.
A musical instrument. It is made up of two wooden bars of different lengths. You ‘hit’ these bars with two small sticks. I played a xylophone in a primary school concert, dropped it, sending all the bars flying, crying like only a little girl can, and was embarrassed for the rest of that school year.
5. X in mathematics
In mathematics (never my favourite subject), an ‘x’ represents a number whose value is not mentioned. You all remember (x + 2) – 3 = who knows what.
I have written another article on the relationships between language and mathematics.
I’m not even going to pretend to understand this one. It is an Extensible Markup Language; a system used for marking the structure of text on a computer. An example is when you create a website.
I know that the correct word is isiXhosa, but I decided to use it anyway as it is such a truly South Africa word. Here is a YouTube video that explains the ‘X’-sound.
There are a plethora of other uses of the letter or symbol X:
- a kiss, and
- the Roman numeral for ‘10’.
I have used the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary for words and definitions.
Quick Xhosa lesson
isiXhosa is a tonal language which means that the same arrangement of vowels and consonants may have different meanings, depending on the intonation. The ‘click consonants’ are, of course, a distinctive characteristic of the language.