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King’s X

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.


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Examples

WEBSTER’S DEFINES “King’s X” as an expression “used as a cry in children’s games to claim exemption from being tagged or caught or to call for a time out.” (The Oil & Gas Journal)

When Kane suggested immunity applied to Norville’s situation because he was a supervisor, Chief Justice Brian Quinn seemed incredulous, asking if she meant a supervisor “could beat you up if you’re researching blast effect and walk away and say ‘King’s X,’” drawing on a schoolyard expression for immunity. (The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

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