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Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Over at the Writing Tools blog at the Poynter Institute, they're extolling the virtues of the letter X and citing other creative X-philes (this excerpt's from an article about the Moon Winx Lodge in the Oxford American):
The X. It is the Moon Winx Lodge. That X does a lot of work. There is the X that visually represents a cartoon wink. The eyes are X'ed out in death or drunkenness, the unconscious X that mimics the XXX labeling of the jug of moonshine. At night when the kinetic neon of the sign blinks and winks, what flutters on and off is an X of braided tubes. The man in the moon X's out for a moment, then snaps awake again. And why the knowing wink? The X of the unknown or, more precisely, the X of the not wanting to know, the hidden, the disguised, the censored. X'ed out. It is the X of sex, of course, the ultimate rating. The excesses of sex. Or the string of drunken kisses. XXX. The cheesy lodge is a testimonial for itself: The No-Tell Motel. X marks this spot. It now is X-rated. Winx is a kind of poem. It multiplies its meanings. X times X.

I'm reminded of Edgar Allan's Poe's delightfully weird story, "X-ing a Paragrab," about an editor who's teased about his tendency to overuse the ecstatic "O!" in his stories:
'We quote from "The Tea-Pot" of yesterday the subjoined paragraph: "Oh, yes! Oh, we perceive! Oh, no doubt! Oh, my! Oh, goodness! Oh, tempora! Oh, Moses!" Why, the fellow is all O! That accounts for his reasoning in a circle, and explains why there is neither beginning nor end to him, nor to anything he says. We really do not believe the vagabond can write a word that hasn't an O in it. Wonder if this O-ing is a habit of his? By-the-by, he came away from Down-East in a great hurry. Wonder if he O's as much there as he does here? "O! it is pitiful."'

The editor tries to exact revenge on his critics by writing a semi-univocalic article in retaliation, but a rival newspaperman steals all of the O's from the printer, leaving no choice but to replace all the O's with X's:
Next morning the population of Nopolis were taken all aback by reading in 'The Tea-Pot,' the following extraordinary leader: 'Sx hx, Jxhn! hxw nxw? Txld yxu sx, yxu knxw. Dxn't crxw, anxther time, befxre yxu're xut xf the wxxds! Dxes yxur mxther knxw yxu're xut? Xh, nx, nx!–sx gx hxme at xnce, nxw, Jxhn, tx yxur xdixus xld wxxds xf Cxncxrd! Gx hxme tx yxur wxxds, xld xwl,–gx! Yxu wxn't? Xh, pxh, pxh, Jxhn, dxn't dx sx! Yxu've gxt tx gx, yxu knxw, sx gx at xnce, and dxn't gx slxw; fxr nxbxdy xwns yxu here, yxu knxw. Xh, Jxhn, Jxhn, Jxhn, if yxu dxn't gx yxu're nx hxmx–nx! Yxu're xnly a fxwl, an xwl; a cxw, a sxw; a dxll, a pxll; a pxxr xld gxxd-fxr-nxthing-tx-nxbxdy, lxg, dxg, hxg, xr frxg, cxme xut xf a Cxncxrd bxg. Cxxl, nxw–cxxl! Dx be cxxl, yxu fxxl! Nxne xf yxur crxwing, xld cxck! Dxn't frxwn sx–dxn't! Dxn't hxllx, nxr hxwl, nxr grxwl, nxr bxw-wxw-wxw! Gxxd Lxrd, Jxhn, hxw yxu dx lxxk! Txld yxu sx, yxu knxw,–but stxp rxlling yxur gxxse xf an xld pxll abxut sx, and gx and drxwn yxur sxrrxws in a bxwl!'

The editor vanishes in shame--or x-centricity, or x-asperation, or x-uberance, the town guesses--but...
The more common conclusion, however, was that the affair was, simply, X-traordinary and in-X-plicable. Even the town mathematician confessed that he could make nothing of so dark a problem. X, every. body knew, was an unknown quantity; but in this case (as he properly observed), there was an unknown quantity of X.

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Blogger Jenny Davidson on Wed Jul 26, 08:35:00 AM:
Great post! I feel almost certain we've talked about this before, but do you know James Thurbur's story "The Wonderful O"?
Blogger Anna on Wed Jul 26, 04:09:00 PM:
Am I missing something or does someone call John a homo?