Do you know what it means, when you see an egg with an ‘X’ on it? I bet you do. I do. But why? Why do I know? Did someone tell me? If they did, it was a very long time ago. If they didn’t, I must have just figured it out. But what I’m not sure of is: does everybody know? If someone from the other side of the world comes into my house and looks at my eggs, and sees one with an ‘X’ written on it, will they know what it means? Should I expect them to?
Because it seems that we all know that an egg marked with an ‘X’ has been boiled.
But is this intuitive? Think of the other things an ‘X’ tends to mean: ‘No’ or ‘Don’t’ or ‘Not allowed’. Three X’s can mean moonshine, or adult entertinament, or the third strike on Family Feud. It could mean ‘finished’ or if we see it on someone’s picture it may mean they’re dead, and perhaps suggests that they were hunted.
But we can have ‘X’ mark the spot — indicating where treasure may be buried. And at the end of a letter it can mean kisses (for me, though, when conisdering ‘xoxo’, it is not at all intuitive to me which, of ‘x’ and ‘o’ means hugs, and which means kisses…)
So WHY does an ‘X’ on an egg mean ‘boiled’? Well, pehaps its as simple as it’s a clearly intentional mark, and any mark will really do. I mean, an unmarked egg is an egg, if the egg is bad it will be thrown out (or saved for halloween), and if the egg is boiled, we put an ‘X’.
Maybe somewhere, out there, there is a culture that marks their hard-boiled (or soft-boiled) eggs with an ‘O’, and when our two populations meet, they can play tic-tac-toe. Maybe ‘X’ should mean hard-boiled and ‘O’ should mean soft-boiled — of course you never really know which it is until you bite into it.
But I wonder if the system was ever really explained to me, or if I just saw an egg with an ‘X’ on it, and just figured it out. Or I overheard it and I immediately filed it away as ‘very useful information. Who knows?
I like to think of an alternate reality where it could mean something different. Something where it could make more sense. Like, in a dimension where chickens could lay two kinds of eggs: real ones and fake ones. So you would mark the fake ones with an ‘X’ to indicate ‘not an egg’.
But in our dimension I guess it still kind of works, because, as Golem noted:
A box without hinges, key, or lid,
yet golden treasure inside is hid.
He of course meant the egg, and in that sense, perhaps its appropriate when ‘X’ marks the spot. But, really, the treasure is there, weather its boiled or not, so it doesn’t work, after all. Maybe the X can just mean ‘dead’. Because you boiled the egg, and if there was a baby chicken in there, it’s dead now. And if that baby chicken was a cartoon, they would have most certainly drawn ‘X’s for eyes.