Posted by: Jack Henry | June 2, 2017

Editor’s Corner: King X

It’s all fun and games until somebody yells “King’s X!”

Some of my favorite studies and articles are about how different regions of the United States refer to the same things. For example, do you “mow the lawn” or do you “cut the grass”? (Click here to see the many comparisons.) I don’t do either—I let the dogs run around after each other until all that is left is dirt.

But that’s beside the point.

Today’s article is from The Grammarist, about the term King’s X, which means it’s time for a break in the game you are playing. I was particularly curious because the article says that these days, King’s X is mostly heard in the American South. Maybe some of you can verify this for me? I know growing up in Seattle, if we were playing a game and it was break time, we just yelled “Time out!” As for finger gestures, well, we won’t talk about those.

King’s X is a term that has only recently been added to the Oxford English Dictionary, but has been around for a long time. We will examine the meaning of the term King’s X, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

King’s X is a term used by schoolchildren to indicate a brief break from a game, known as a truce term. While very popular in the 1950s, the term King’s X is currently mostly found in the American South. Equivalent terms used worldwide are fains which is used in England, barley which is used in England and Australia and pegs or nibs used in New Zealand. In the United States, the simple exclamation time out! has replaced King’s X, for the most part. Usually, the cry King’s X is accompanied by the gesture of crossing one’s fingers. The Oxford English Dictionary cites this gesture as the origin of the term King’s X, though it may also be linked to the King’s Mark. This was a seal affixed to documents, including documents guaranteeing safe passage or other favors to subjects carrying it. Notice the placement of the apostrophe in the word King’s in King’s X, as it is a possessive noun. Furthermore, note that both King’s and X are properly rendered with capital letters.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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