Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Impostor X

The underdog in the English language is the letter X. The only letter in the alphabet which struggles to find its place in the world of sound. The origin of the X letter dates back to 900BC and was born after changing hands from the Phoenicians to the Greeks to the Romans to what we know today.

Unless the letter X is hyphenated at the beginning of a word like X-ray or follows an e as in eXit, then this letter doesn't say its name. All other times the letter X is an impostor. Just think about the various sounds this lone little guy mimics.

X replaces the /ks/ sound combination in words such as wax and fox and /gz/ sound found in auxiliary and exhaust. This is commonly referred to as voiceless velar fricative. In short this means,  the way these words are spoken by placing the back of the tongue at the soft palate.

X is substituted for the /z/ sound as xylophone and Xanadu, the hard /k/ sound as in excite and /kzh/ as in luxury. The /x/ can also be silent as in Sioux (Falls) and the French loan-word faux. Credit for the letter 'X' information.

Did you say, "Too much information?" If so, then you'd be right. Who can remember all of this? I sure can't. What about kids? I think on how this must confuse the socks or is it sox off them?

Children learn best through song. At you can find many free resources to help your kiddoes to grasp number order, sounds, or other subjects through music. Below is the lyrics to teach the X AlphaSong. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to locate YouTube video so you can hear the melody to go with the lyrics, but you can buy Mr. Whitfield's CD from Songs for Teaching at a reasonable price.

X (from Greg Whitfield's AlphaSongs CD)

Written By: Greg Whitfield
Copyright © 1996 Greg Whitfield

Near the end of the alphabet
Just before Y
Lives a letter that's made
By crossing two lines
And this letter called X
Can sound like K-S
If it comes at the end of
A word such as flex

Or right in the middle
Like in saxophone
Or Texas or taxes
Or New Mexico
I hear it in six
And I hear it in fox
I hear it in axe
And I hear it in box

It comes at the end of
Old number six
It makes the last sound
In ox, Max, and mix
But there on the alphabet
Up on the wall
The picture that goes
With the X, you recall
Is always the same
Wherever you go:
X is always for xylophone

X is always for xylophone
X is always for xylophone
It's always the same
Wherever you go
X is always for xylophone

Now who thought this up?
It sounds like a Z
At the front of a word,
But there just couldn't be
All that many good words
With an X at the start
Try to think of a few
It can be pretty hard
There aren't many in fact,
Ask around and you'll see
Why X is always for xylophone

X is always for xylophone
X is always for xylophone
It's always the same
Wherever you go
X is always for xylophone

As for me, I like X
When it's not the first letter
It's so easy to read
And it sounds so much better
When it comes somewhere other
Than right at the start
But I've been around
And I know in my heart
That your teacher will
Probably point at the wall
And say, "X is always for xylophone."

X is always for xylophone
X is always for xylophone
It's always the same
Wherever you go
X is always for xylophone cool is this? The timing works out perfectly with today's lesson. One of my favorite bloggers is Xmas Dolly (Marie). You may want to visit her and join her for Monday's Music Moves Me for an eXhilarating eXperience. One thing for sure, you'll make her feel eXtra special, if you decide to play along!

My **xzibit of letter X is an inspiration of Miss Jenny's weekly class assignment. For more 'X' posts visit Alphabe-Thursday.
Jenny Matlock
** < X > replaces the syllable {eks}. The silent is dropped. < Z > notates the constants voiced, instead of [eks] it is [egz]. Compare Texaco with exact. See? This blending is done with the two most conspicuous letters of the alphabet < X > & < Z >. Credit for use of the word 'xzibit'.

1. Thinking back to your days in grammar school, what was the most confusing thing to learn in English?

The one I had trouble with was I  before E, except after C concept. I always stumbled on this and even today I have to think about it. When in question, though I always look it up!

2. I'm curious, do you still go through the alphabet song silently when you alphabetize or look up a word in the dictionary?

*blush* I still repeat the alphabet song to myself, but I don't have to go all the way through it. I've gotten quick with jumping to segments to make sure I get the letters in the proper order. lol

Name Graphics


  1. Exactly the lesson I was looking for. Thanx for an informative blog♫♪

  2. What a wonderful lesson. I thought about tackling that theme too, but time did not allow. Yours is awesome though.

  3. Hey XCathy...that IS how you'd spell your name if it started with X, right? Great and thoughtful post. Thanks for your kind comments on my photos. If you want to embrace photog, start making yourself shoot at least one thing each day, even if it's just around the house. You'll be surprised how quickly you'll see improvement! Have a great week.

    Oh, and by the way, X is an impostor in Spanish too. For example, Mexico...pronounced May-hee-co... :)

  4. That's a really Xtremely interesting post.
    Getting the grammar right has been an issue for me in English. Regarding the alphabet song I still do sing it out aloud as I'm teaching it to my little girl.

  5. I'd never read the poem about 'X'. I'm going to save it for my grandsons.
    I, too, had trouble with the i before e thing and still rhyme off the exceptions 'neither, either, seize, weird' to myself.

  6. I also wrote about X, but as a Roman number, lol !

  7. I so enjoyed reading your post on the
    letter X.. although I could not think
    of anything to write about using an x
    I did post at Jennys...
    great post!

  8. I really appreciated this, Cathy. :)

    I asked your first question to Mrs. Jim and my SIL, Billy. Billy said the letter "X" sounding for sure. Mrs. Jim said 'too much info' like you did there.

    I loved to diagram sentences. The more complex the better. Guess this is the engineer coming out at an early age. I too liked the "i" before "e" rule and still recite that one.

    Never again will I use the dictionary, well hardly ever. Google is my friend for that now. Wikipedia gives more info than I asked for, really great (!), and also leads to all kind of on-line dictionaries.
    Oh yes, I don't recite the alphabet song as I never learned it. I think it was written after I left school. I do alphabetize the latter letters in the Bible as they are arranged in that order.

  9. All this and it's worth lots of points in Scrabble, too. Triple word square anyone??


  10. Oops, make that triple letter square!


  11. This was such an XXXX-tra cool X POST!

  12. I always enjoy your posts! I love it and so true about this X.

    1. I did have to keep remembering the i before the E, except after C :) and when to add 'ies' and drop the 'y' :)

    2. I do it for my kids to help them find words.

  13. 1&2) i think what you're confused about, got me too. Also sometimes effect/ affect confused me, and that's probably not all.
    Learning English as a second language, I always feel like I don't absord it like normal native born Americans. but I try my best, and stop beating myself up about it. Nice X post...that took a lot of research, yes?

  14. love all the lessons I learn on this blog! That's for the lesson! {:-Deb

  15. Cathy, if you want to see some "X" words, I suggest you check out this

    There are more x's there than you can shake a stick at!!!!

  16. Hello.
    I almost made my post about xylophone too, but at the last minute my Assistant came up with Xanthippe. Who knew "X" could be so interesting! (lol) Thanks a lot for sharing and for your lovely comments on my Xanthippe woman.

    If you're free this Saturday, come join me for Blog Hop Saturday!


  17. Hi Cathy! Your post is wonderful! I miss that my kids are nearly all grown up. :( I liked spending time with them and singing silly songs and dancing crazy dances!

    I am happy that I was able to stop by.

    Happy Mother's Day and enjoy the weekend!

  18. Now that was a totally comprehensive X post!!! well played!!! and amazingly interesting ...

  19. Yep, I sing the alphabet song (or parts of it) just like you!
    My vocabulary is now increased as well!
    I don't think I struggled too much with language and spelling with only a couple exceptions. My husband taught me the difference between desert and dessert. Dessert has 2 Ss because it's super sweet!

  20. I have to sing the alphabet song ALL the time! That comment made me smile!

    And I've never heard the Alphabet songs before, but that is the best little poem!

    Thanks for an absolutely Xcellent link to the letter X.

    Hope your Mothers Day was Xcellent as well!

    Hugs and A+


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