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Why Elon Musk Is Obsessed With The Letter 'X' — And Has Been For More Than 20 Years

Photo: Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock
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Since its release in 2006, Twitter has become a household name, so much so that the Oxford Dictionary added "tweet" as a word in 2013. But that doesn't stop the company formerly known as Twitter's new owner Elon Musk from wanting a major rebranding.

Following many layoffs and significant updates to the social media platform, Musk's name change from Twitter to "X" — officially X Corp — comes as yet another step in altering the platform beyond recognition.

Why "X," though? Well, Musk has had quite a history of obsessing over the 24th letter.

Elon Musk has been obsessed with the letter 'X' for more than 20 years.

Just prior to the official announcement, Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino indicated that 'X' embodies "the future state of unlimited interactivity" and will create connections "in ways we're just beginning to imagine."

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"This transformation knows no bounds. X will become the platform capable of delivering," she said.

The choice to rebrand the social media platform is a key component in Musk's grand scheme of transforming Twitter, now "X," into a comprehensive application, dubbed "the everything app." This app will accommodate digital transactions, taxi reservations, and other financial services akin to China's WeChat.

Musk has been heavily investing in the social media platform since his record-breaking $44 billion purchase last year. Before acquiring Twitter in 2022, Musk had stated, "Purchasing Twitter serves as a catalyst for developing X, the everything app."

This April, a California federal court case filing disclosed that Twitter had been rebranded as X Corp. In the same month, Musk tweeted the solitary letter 'X.' Surprisingly, this isn't the first time he wanted to rename a major company with the letter.

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Musk's obsession began with a startup company over two decades ago.

In 1999, he founded an online banking startup which he gave the now familiar name "X.com." Just a year later, his company merged with Confinity making him the CEO of the new company called PayPal.



According to Max Chafkin's "The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley's Pursuit of Power," Musk wanted to rename the company to incorporate the 24th letter and broaden the platform's capabilities past just being a money-transfer company. Sound familiar?

Well, PayPal founders Peter Thiel and Max Levchin were not having it. They kicked Musk from the company, but that didn't stop his obsession. 

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In 2002, Musk founded his spaceship manufacturing company, SpaceX.

The full name of the company is "Space Exploration Technologies Corporation." In this case, the "X" seems pretty clear since "SpaceX" is a shortening of "Space" and "Exploration." And just one year later, he founded his most famous endeavor, Tesla. Shockingly, no "X" associated with the company! 

Well, that wasn't until he released his Tesla Model X car around a decade later. Critics of "X.com" have pointed out that it doesn't make a lot of sense to name a company that, especially an online one, since "X" is a common letter associated with pornography.

"X had conducted a series of focus groups showing customers disliked the brand name, because it reminded them of porn," Max Chafkin wrote.

So, it may come as no surprise that the almost-never-serious Musk gave the names Model S, Model 3 and Model Y to the other cars in the series — making them together spell out "S3XY."

Despite all of these "Xs," they aren't the only ones Elon holds near and dear to his heart. Some entrepreneurs and artists look at their work as an extension of them, viewing it as their children. Well, Elon has a real child whose name took inspiration from his obsession with the letter.

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Elon Musk and Grimes' son's first name starts with the letter 'X.'

Many of us are all too familiar with the couple naming their son X Æ A-Xii in 2020. However, on an episode of the Joe Rogan Experience, Musk clarified that the only part of the name that was his contribution was the A-Xii for his favorite aircraft, the Lockheed A-12.

Grimes, in a tweet — if we can still call it that — defines the "X" part of their son's name as the "unknown variable." Though, with the recent news, it's increasingly harder to believe that Elon had zero effect on the X in their son's name.

Photo: Twitter via @grimezsz

But why is Elon so obsessed with X?

Leon F. Seltzer wrote a July 2023 piece for Psychology Today that might just answer that question. X can mean birth, death, cancellation, multiplication, and so much more. Then again, Seltzer also said that X is the most "nihilistic" of the letters, adding, "X as signifying the end of something — an entity whose existence is over, past, dead, and gone."

Overall, perhaps Musk is so obsessed with the letter X because, like his dream for X.com, it encompasses nearly everything.

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Ethan Cotler is a writer and frequent contributor to YourTango living in Boston. His writing covers entertainment, news, and human interest stories.