So this week finds me back at school. Scared freshmen scurry in the halls; upperclassmen complain about their schedules. We teachers, though happy to be back, are bewildered and a little groggy since we have yet to get used to getting up an hour earlier each day. However, there is still an energy of excitement thrumming through the high school.
School–a time to guide and educate youth to the best of our abilities, to bring attention to what is correct and what is incorrect, wrong. In Western cultures, when correcting papers, the symbol for getting a problem or item incorrect is to mark it with and “X.”
Why do we use the “X?” I don’t know. Perhaps in earlier times of the first written documents, when everything was written and copied by hand, people crossed out words or phrases that were to be removed from the document’s next copy for brevity, phrasing or the statement/item/word was wrong. Crossing out something consists of making an “X.” (Go mark something wrong, give it a try now, I’ll wait…see, you use an “X” to indicate something that needs to be removed or amended. Good job!) So now, when correcting anything, the “X” has become a symbol for WRONG, NO, TRY-AGAIN.
Which leaves me in a quandary about this little gem
So we have a picture of a Wooly Mammoth the text reading “Xx is for extinct.”
This appears to be a children’s picture book that teaches kids the alphabet. You remember how these picture books work–on each page, the letter being learned is represented with a picture of an item that begins with the aforementioned letter. The letter is listed on its own with the word of the image spelled out to help the child connect the sound of word associated with the image and the sound of the letters on the page that make up that word. For example, a book may begin with “A is for apple” a picture of an apple used to illustrate the object. (Again, the object’s name sound and the letter with which that name sound begins.) The author may even use: a picture of an ant with the word “ant”, a picture of an avocado with the word “avocado” or even a picture of a severed limb and a person clutching at his brand-new horrific wound at the shoulder with the word “amputee.” You get the idea, the illustration is physical representation of the word.
Let’s look at the picture again
1. We have a picture of a Woolly Mammoth yet the letter is not “W” and the text does not read “W is for Wooly Mammoth.” WRONG.
2. The text reads “Xx is for extinct.” Problem A. Again, be wary of homonyms, children. Though it sounds like it should be correct, the word “extinct” does not, in fact, begin with the letter “x.” Problem B. The word “extinct” does not have direct physical representation; it is not tangible and can not and should not be represented by an object. So the phrase, the object and the letter have no simple, direct, correlation. No one points to something and says “Look out, Honey! That extinct almost knocked you over.” or “Damn it. I hate it when my husband asks me to pick up some extincts on the way home. Can’t he haul his ass to the market and do it himself??” And no one goes to a national park to see those wild extincts thunder across the open plain. The image and the word are not directly representative of each other. For this type of book, this is WRONG.
However, the publisher and author may have covered their asses. Again, the text reads “Xx is for extinct.” Since we have established that marking something with the letter “X” indicates that the item is wrong, incorrect, in error, perhaps this whole page is validated with the presence of not one but two “X”s. One is letter represented and the other to mark that this is, in fact, INCORRECT, WRONG. So wrong. So very, very wrong. This explanation would be the only way to make this wrong, well, right. (Rock yourself to sleep with that though, chickens.)
Thank you failblog.org for the image!