Session 1

Millions of people finish their messages with an X, which means ‘kiss’ in English. Learn how X came to mean ‘kiss’ in today’s episode!
Namoonni miliyoonotaan lakkaa’aman dhaamsasaanii ‘X’n xumuru; kana jechuunis Afaan Ingiliziitiin dhungoo jechuudha. Kutaa har’aa keessatti akkamitti ‘X’, ‘dhungoo’ jechuu akka ta’e hubadhu.

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

Why does X mean ‘kiss’ in English?

Millions of people finish their messages with an X, which means ‘kiss’ in English. Learn how X came to mean ‘kiss’ in today’s episode!
Namoonni miliyoonotaan lakkaa’aman dhaamsasaanii ‘X’n xumuru; kana jechuunis Afaan Ingiliziitiin dhungoo jechuudha. Kutaa har’aa keessatti akkamitti ‘X’, ‘dhungoo’ jechuu akka ta’e hubadhu.

Before you listen!

Consider the following questions:

  • How long have people been speaking your native language?
  • Does your language ‘borrow’ words or symbols from other languages? What are they?


Listen to the audio and take the quiz.

Show transcript Hide transcript

Caalii
Yooyyaa! Odeessaalee Afaan Inglizii sirri ta'an akka hubattuuf bakka itti si barsiifnutti  dhihaate caqasuuf baga nagaan dhufte! An Caaliidha.

Tom
And I'm Tom! Hi everybody

Caalii
Har'a, akkamitti 'X'n ykn 'x'n wayita dhuma dhaamsarratti barreeffamu hiika 'dhungoo' jedhu akka qabaatu ilaalla. Do you put X  on the end of your messages, Tom?

Tom
I do, actually, yes, but only with my mother!

Caalii
Har'a kiliipii Raadiyoo BBC 4 Word of Mouth jedhurraa kutaa tokkoffaa haacaqasnu. Qubee 'x' ykn 'x'n yeroo jalqabaaf xalayaarratti malatteffamuun kan eegale bara kamirraa jalqabeetii? Innis dhunguu meeqa qaba ture? Lakkoofsasaa baruuf caqasi!

Insert
Woman

Well, we've been adding Xs, for kisses, at the bottom of our letters, since at least 1763, so the very first one we know of had seven Xs!

Tom
She said 'since at least 1763'!

Caalii
Wow! More than 250 years ago! And she said there were seven Xs!

Tom
That's right! 'X' starts with a vowel sound.
Often, words which begin with vowel sounds can take the last sound of the word which comes before. 'Seven Xs', then, is pronounced 'seveNexes'. I could also say 'seveNever'.
Listen again for 'seveNexes'. Which verb and preposition come before?

Insert
Woman

Well, we've been adding Xs, for kisses, at the bottom of our letters, since at least 1763, so the very first one we know of had seven Xs!

Tom
She said 'the very first one we know of'.

Caalii
'Know of' kan fayyadamnu, wanti tokko jiraachuusaa beeknee, garuummoo waa'ee waan sanaa bal'inaan beekuu dhabuu keenya dubbachuu wayita barbaannuudha.  

Tom
So, we know of a piece of evidence – this is the old letter which contains Xs.

Caalii
Kunis'know about', isa jedhuufi waa’ee waantokkoorratti beekumsi ykn hubannoon olaanaa ta'e jiraachuusaa kan ibsurraa adda.

Tom
We know of the letter, but we still don't understand our main question! We need to know about X. Why does X mean kiss in English?

Caalii
Let's listen to the rest of the clip for the answer! Qubeen 'X'n maalirraa dhufee? Akkamittis sagaleeffamee?

Insert
Woman
We get X from the Roman alphabet, which got it from the Greek alphabet, pronounced 'kss'. And the Romans certainly found it good for…

Man
Oh! That's nearly a kiss, isn't it?!

Woman
Yeah, it is, isn't it? I think a penny's just dropped there.

Tom
So, X comes from the Roman alphabet! And they pronounced it 'kss'.

Caalii

Exactly! The Roman alphabet jechuun qubee Romaati. Irradeebinee haacaqasnu. Dhiheessitoonni lachuu hubannoosaanii mirkaneessuuf gaafii maalii fayyadamanii?

Insert
Woman
We get X from the Roman alphabet, which got it from the Greek alphabet pronounced 'kss'. And the Romans certainly found it good for…

Man
Oh! That's nearly a kiss, isn't it?!

Woman
Yeah, it is, isn't it?

Caalii
Dhiheessitoonni gaafiiwwan fayyadamu. Gaafiiwwan kunis gara dhuma gaalimarraa ykn 'clause' dhufu.

Tom
So, after 'it is', we could say 'isn't it'.

Caalii
Sirriidha! Gaafiiwwan lamaanuu, fedhii dubbatichi deebii argachuuf qabu mul'isuuf jabeeffamaniiru. Sagalee ol ka'u qabu.

Tom
That's right! Repeat after me. We'll begin with the stressed question. Ready?

isn't it?

it is, isn't it?

Yeah, it is, isn't it?

Caalii
Amma, dubbattoonni lamaanuu gaafiiwwan fayyadamuudhaan hubannoosaanii mirkaneessaniiru. Hubannoo haaraa argame kanarratti yaada kennuuf jecha kam fayyadaman? Ammas caqasi.

Insert
Man
Oh! That's nearly a kiss, isn't it?!

Woman
Yeah, it is, isn't it? I think a penny's just dropped there.

Tom
They used the idiom 'the penny's dropped'.

Caalii
Wayita 'the penny has dropped' jennu, dhumarratti waantokko hubanneerra ykn nuu galeera jechuudha.

Tom
Hopefully, the penny's dropped for you, too, now we know about X, and we know why it means kiss in English. I think this is a good time to finish, isn't it?

Caalii
That's right! Turtii torban kana 'Listen here' irratti waliin qabaanneef galatoomi.

Tom
See you next week everybody! And I'm signing off with an X!

Language features

Sound linking
Consonant to vowel linking is when the first word ends with a consonant sound and the second word begins with a vowel sound. 

‘SEVen EXes’ becomes ‘seveNEXes’.

‘SEVen EVer’ becomes ‘seveNEVer’.

Tag questions
Tag questions come at the end of a clause. We use them to check our understanding of something, or ask for confirmation. The auxiliary verb in the tag questions matches that of the clause.

When the first clause is positive, the tag question is negative.

You’re an English teacher, aren’t you?

If the first clause is negative, the question is positive.

School isn’t open next week, is it?

If the first clause does not contain an auxiliary verb, we need to add one to the second clause.

You work in the bank, don’t you?

The penny has dropped
This is an idiomatic expression we use when we have finally learned or realised something. It implies a period of waiting has taken place. The expression is flexible – we can use it in different tenses.

I studied Spanish grammar for six months before the penny dropped! Now I can speak easily and fluently.

Thanks for explaining our homework! The penny has finally dropped and I won’t need any more help.


Sources
Today’s clip is from BBC Radio 4’s Word of Mouth.

 

Why does X mean ‘kiss’ in English?

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Join us for our next episode of Listen Here! when we will learn more useful language and practise your listening skills.
Kutaa Listen Here kan qooqa daran faayida-qabeessa ta’an keessatti barannuufi daandeettiiwwan dhageettiikee ittiin shaakaltutti yeroo itaanu walitti deebina.

Session Vocabulary

  • Xs
    Danuun qubee X

    alphabet
    Qubee

    know of
    Know of (wayita waa’ee waan tokko bal’inaan beekuu dhabnu fayyadamna).

    know about
    Know about (wayita waa’ee waantokkoorratti beekumsi ykn hubannoon bal’aafi olaanaa ta’e qabnu fayyadamna).

    the penny has dropped
    the penny has dropped (wayita jennu, dhumarratti waantokko hubanneerra ykn nuu galeera jechuudha.)