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What's the purpose of using letter 'x' or 'X' as a suffix in brand names?

Some examples:

  • SpaceX
  • HubX
  • TEDx
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  • eXtended. But for Microsoft DirectX, the X stands as a wildcard for Direct3D, DirectDraw, DirectMusic, DirectPlay, DirectSound.
    – Graffito
    Nov 13, 2016 at 21:59
  • Some people feel it's seXy.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 14, 2016 at 1:27

1 Answer 1

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  1. Most such uses come from using x as a placeholder - a variable name. Brand X means any (other) brand - substitute whatever for X.

    Why has x, in particular, been used as a placeholder? My guess is that it is because it has had (and still has) so few other immediate associations. For a placeholder name that is entirely non-committal about the kind of replacements possible, you want a name that has no, or few, associations.

    Another way of putting this is that if a name has few or no other meanings then there is little chance of variable "name capture", that is, ambiguity. If a name means something else then you have to point out specially that you are using it here as a placeholder. If it has no other meaning then you do not need to do that.

    Because this has been done lots with x (and a few other names) in particular, x has become the poster-child placeholder.

  2. Other uses come from some word pronounced with the sound "ex", especially extra. In such cases the association is with something that is special (improved, super,...) or has extra features.

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  • Brandnames are usually striving to sound impressive. Why would anybody think that inserting a mere placeholder makes a name impressive?
    – jsw29
    Jun 23, 2023 at 16:06
  • @jsw29: "Brand X" is not intended as the name for an actual brand. The whole thing is a place holder, like "Name" instead of an actual name. "Brand X" was used in advertisements for particular (real) brands, contrasting them with an arbitrary hypothetical brand, "Brand X".
    – Drew
    Jun 23, 2023 at 17:12

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