“X” is for “Xanny”

Trying to come up with an idea for this “X” blog, I kept coming back to one question: Why did pirates use “X” to mark the spot? Why not a circle? Think about it. In the olden days before internet and ubiquitous GPS, people used maps to orient themselves and to plot a course. In my experience, most people would draw a circle around their destination. Why didn’t pirates?

Welp, I hopped down the old Wikipedia rabbit hole and learned that “X” is used to indicate a variant or unknown value in mathematics, which led to its use representing the unknown in other contexts; for example, X-rays, Gen X, “The X Files,” or as a designation for an unspecified non-binary gender. “X” is used to represent negation (“this is wrong”) or absence ( in place of an illiterate or unsighted person’s signature).  Conversely, and illogically, “X” used to “mark the spot” on a map signifies a known location.

I learned a lot about “X” but found nothing to explain why pirates used “X” to mark the location of their treasure stash. I did, however, find a surprising connection between pirates and “X.” That link is American singer-songwriter Billie Eilish, who has, in a BBC interview, confirmed  her full legal name is Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell. “Baird” and “O’Connell” are her mother’s and father’s last names, respectively. “Pirate” was conferred by her older brother, then-four-year-old Finneas.

The home-schooled siblings are singer-songwriters working independently and together. They co-wrote Billie’s song, “Xanny,” the third track on her 2019 debut album (produced by Finneas). “Xanny” is a reference to Xanax, brand name of the generic tranquilizer alprazolam. Eilish, who eschews drug use, has said “Xanny” is a cautionary plea to drug-using friends to “be safe.”




10 thoughts on ““X” is for “Xanny”

  1. Xanny the nanny from the Casey Anthony debacle comes to mind. As soon as I heard that come up in court I thought, “Really? She used a Xanax on that poor child?”. Xavier is a great name as well, for a letter that isn’t widely used to begin a word…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would have thought the reason for the X to be related to longitude and latitude. The intersection of those two lines being a spot to mark which would like an X or +. Or maybe because alcohol might be a treasure, and Xs on that container generally refer to how often it has been through a still, or the strength of the brew?

    I love letter X posts! Always such variety.
    It’s hard to believe the blogging challenge is almost over. Then the after survey, reflections, and the road trip sign-up.
    Plus, I’m taking part in the Bout of Books read-a-thon in May. So much excitement!
    J Lenni Dorner~ Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge, OperationAwesome6 Debut Author Interviewer, Reference& Speculative Fiction Author

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The X being related to longitude & latitude sounds very plausible. The alcohol relation, I think, is a bit weaker. While the wiki articles I read referenced X as used in long/lat and alcohol, none made any kind of connection to pirates; just mentioned in passing that pirates used “X marks the spot.” I have to admit, however, that once I came across the Billie Eilish stuff, I ended all other research on the subject.

      I haven’t heard of the Bout of Book read-a thon in May. Just as well, since my May will revolve around writing a daily short story in the Story A Day May Challenge!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s