The Big 'X': What Do Virtual Kisses Really Mean?

By Morwenna Ferrier - 5 November 2014

Features Editor

Email kisses

Last week, I sent an email about sellotape to a colleague. I signed it off with an ‘X’ and seven hours later we were making sweet love in the disabled loo. OK that didn’t happen, but according to dating website – it could well have done.

In a survey conducted among 1000 people research found that of those who had met partners/flings at work, half said that the relationship/affair had been initiated after an ‘X’ was deployed in an email or text.

Though not hugely surprising, to some people this may be disturbing. I’m one of those people. In emails, both private and public, I scatter ‘X’ with the absentmindedness of pepper in ragu. It’s also never occurred to me that anyone would read anything into this. An X is a sign off, that is it. Friendly at best, but with no romantic cognitive value whatsoever. Which is why I pop X’s in emails to my female friends and colleagues and I can safely say that my line manager does not think I’m trying to seduce her every time I do so.

To be honest, I never thought there was anything to it. In the UK, and the US I suspect, we automatically sign off with a X or an O or an XO. In Italy for example they find this most confusing – an XO means pero (but) which I learned to my detriment. It’s as common as ‘Best’, as normal as ‘thanks’ and one of those odd, British lingual idiosyncracies that occurs when we don’t know how else to end a conversation.

Thinking about it though, perhaps - perhaps - there is something in it. Perhaps an X is not so innocent, and imbued with some level of affection, however minor. After all, when I’m cross I pointedly remove an X from my sign off. And when that creepy guy from my last job used to email LOLs at lunchtime, I never ever used an X in my replies. And when I’m apologising or getting emo I dribble a big old line of X’s at the end of my messages. 

So as frustrating as this may be, of course it makes sense. Do I like it? Not one jot. To me it goes hand in hand with the notion that men are simple beasts and will read too much into my innocuous email. It also worries me – how many men have I led on? Should I backtrack and claim back my X? Or does this mean that drink I organise for next week is off the cards because he now thinks we’re going on a date? So. Many. Rules. And all because of an X.

With that in mind, i've come up with a 3-step guide to reponsibly deploying your X's:

1. X - this means: I am who i am. Tough, bold, strident. (To your mum this is nice if a little aggressive.) To anyone else this means: SNOG, NOW?

2. XoXo -classic sign off. This also means: I watch Gossip Girl.

3. xxxx - this means: we're married aren't we? Or at least will be. To anyone else, this means: RUN.



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