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XOXO: You've Been Kissing the People You Should've Been Hugging.

Updated on August 1, 2016

We all know what XOXO means. Ending our letters and goodbyes with a stream of x’s and o’s is something we all do. Remember how Gossip Girl ended every blog post: “You know you love me, XOXO Gossip Girl.” But let’s take the acronym apart for a second. Now, you know that one letter signifies hugs and the other kisses. But which is which?

From what I can tell, most people think that “X” means hugs and “O” means the kiss–75%, to be exact. They’d suggest that the “X” looks like two people embracing so it should signify hugs while the “O” looks like a mouth puckering up for a kiss. But according to history, those people are wrong.

Two centuries ago, not a lot of people were literate. Some of them didn’t know how to sign a document with their own legal names so they would simply sign a “X” and it would be regarded as their signature. They would then kiss the “X” as a bible was usually kissed to express the importance of it. This led to the “X” mark symbolizing a kiss.

Tracing the history of the “O” is a bit more difficult and this theory is just speculation. When Jewish immigrants arrived to the U.S., they refused to use the “X” because they claimed it invoked Christian beliefs. Using it didn’t sit well with their own beliefs. As a result, illiterate people who came to the U.S. would sign their documents with an “O.” Over time, the “O” came to represent a hug.

At the end of the day, what something means is determined by the people who use it. I guess for most people, swapping makes more sense. And if we follow the traditional meaning of Xs and Os, the saying should really be “kisses and hugs, kisses and hugs,” which doesn’t have the same ring as “hugs and kisses, hugs and kisses.”

Just make sure the person on the other end knows what you mean, or just do it in real life.


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