Language is a living, breathing organism.
What makes it unique is that it can take on more than one form; in its spoken form, language can be used to build connections, come to agreements, and share ideas.
In its written form, language can form the backbone of entire cultures and civilizations.
And, like all living things, language evolves with time: New words are introduced into the lexicon and soon become a part of common speech, while the grammar itself morphs over the decades.
What is of particular interest is how the different forms of language, be it the spoken word or the written one, affect each other and influence the overall change in a language.
For instance, sometimes people become so enamored by the formality of the written language that it affects how they speak, causing them to adopt a “proper” tone and to avoid words and syntax that are “uncultured,” which is what happened with the 16th century Portuguese when they were looking for a word for flower.
With the appearance of modern forms of communication, including texting and instant messaging, the relationship between what we say and what we write has become all the more symbiotic, and the laid-back tone of texting has enriched today’s language, offering us new words and expressions, much to the chagrin of older generations who hate hearing their kids say aloud words like “brb” and “lol.”
However, texting hasn’t just introduced us to new words; it has also made emoticons, the predecessor of emojis, a part of our everyday life.
These drawings that are used to express emotions or ideas simply and succinctly have become so ubiquitous in today’s culture that some linguists joke that, at this rate, we’ll all be communicating exclusively in emojis within a century.
One of these emoticons, the subject of today’s inquiry, is XD, an expression that appeared at the beginning of the 2000s and has stayed with us since.
What does XD mean?
XD can stand for many things. As an emoticon, it means LOL, aka laugh out loud; it was used before emojis took on their more colorful appearance that we are familiar with today. It can also mean “I love you,” especially when used within the emo subculture. Another definition, one used by companies like Disney and Cinemark, is extreme digital, and it relates to entertainment services provided. There are a few other definitions, including crossed and kissed, or it can act as an acronym for numerous expressions, depending on the context.
XD as an emoticon
The most popular usage of XD is as an emoticon that means roaring with laughter, and not only do people use it while texting, but they also use XD in their social media accounts.
You are likely to find this particular emoticon populating teenagers’ Facebook posts and their Instagram comment section.
They’ll use it when they find something uproariously hilarious, be it a joke, a post, or a comment.
XD stands for a laughing face. The “X” represents two eyes that are closed shut from all the laughing, while the “D” stands for an inverted open mouth.
So, while the “X” may be written in either upper or lower case, the “D” needs to be capitalized for the expression to come across. Phonetically, this emoticon is transcribed as ecks dee.
Aside from texting and social media, XD has become popular among the online gaming community.
After all, online gamers usually have a lot to say to one another but rarely the time to express their ideas fully in written form.
So, any shortcuts are welcome. For instance, a normal conversation between two gamers could look something like this:
Person #1: Where is he? I can’t find him anywhere.
Person #2: XD. Right behind you.
The origin of XD
Before we had an emoji keyboard on our phone, people used to text each other emoticons using the letters and symbols on their keyboards.
For instance, smiling was :), whereas frowning was :(.
That said, emoticons and their later iterations, emojis, have always had the benefit of offering quick shortcuts for people to express emotions, which is why they caught on quickly with frequent texters.
Side note: If, like me, you feel confused between the terms emoticons and emojis, the difference is really simple.
Emoji can be derived from Japanese, where “E” means “picture” and “moji” means “character.” These are the little yellowish characters you can send your friends; they are fully-formed, almost cartoonish characters.
On the other hand, emoticons are the faces and images you can send using the letters and symbols on your keyboard, just like the smiley and frowning face used above.
Emoticons are older than emojis, but today, several chatting apps will automatically switch an emoticon into an emoji, bridging the gap between the old and the new.
As for our friend, XD, this particular emoticon was all the rage back in the early 2000s among AIM users.
Even though this emoticon’s exact origin is a mystery, it first made its way into the Urban Dictionary on the 29th of March in 2003.
On December 23rd of the same year, another user submitted the phonetic spelling of XD, and ever since then, it has been part of our texting culture.
The spread of XD
XD has been met with a mixed reception. Whereas some people liked it and found it expressive, others weren’t as enthusiastic about it. Some even went so far as to classify XD as a form of spam.
This dichotomy can be seen even further in the fact that while some were trying to explain to the world what XD meant, such as the YouTuber Pronunciation Orator in their video “What Does XD Face Mean?” uploaded on September 5th of 2011 and the YouTuber Not an Alternate Channel in their video “Ecks Dee” uploaded on May 12th of 2012, there were those who were openly declaring their dislike for this emoticon.
One such person was a Facebook user who started a page called “For all those who hate the “xD” emoticon!” on the 19th of March of 2010.
And another one was the IGN Forums member RodHumble who, on January 16th of 2014, claimed in a post that those who use the XD emoticon are “12 years old,” “aspies,” “bronies,” “betas,” and “forever alones.”
In fact, one gamer, League of Legends Forums member Tempname8956, hated the emoticon so much that they proposed on the 27th of March in 2013 that both XD and D: should be banned from multiplayer game chat.
XD within the emo subculture
Pairing up XD with “Rawr” can also mean “I love you” in dinosaur.
Yep, you read that correctly, and nope, there no typos in the above sentence. If you feel like what you just read made no sense to you whatsoever, don’t worry; I felt the exact same way.
However, you are in good hands, and once we unpack that sentence, which will involve a little exploration of the emo subculture, you will get it.
The emo subculture originated from emotional hardcore, which was a type of punk rock that was popular in the ’80s.
Whereas the music is loud, passionate, and confessional, the people who consider themselves emo tend to be disheartened youth who have a bone to pick with society and feel like they don’t belong anywhere.
They tend to wear dark, unique clothing that definitely sets them apart, and some of them color their hair in bright colors, such as light green, pink, and blue.
Now, within the emo subculture, the term “Rawr” appeared and became popular during the middle of the 2000s. (It is an Onomatopoeia, which is a word that sounds like the sound it is describing.
Other examples include cuckoo and hiss.)
Aside from being an alternative, cute way to write roar, it became a term that indicates attraction, sort of like cat-calling but for dinosaurs. “Rawr” also came to mean “I love you.”
The idea is that it is rarely used seriously; instead, it is used playfully and can have a wide range of meanings, all of which can be circumscribed by the idea of interest/ love.
At some point, the “XD” was added. “XD” is written as it would be if it were an emoticon, with the “D” capitalized and the “X” going either way.
The idea seems that the “XD” adds to the “cuteness” of the overall expression, with “Rawr” meaning “I love you” and “XD” being a huge smile following that confession.
The spread of “Rawr XD” among the emo subculture
When the term gained popularity, it was mainly used by teens and preteens. It was used as a way to flirt with someone else.
For instance, a young boy could text a girl, “Rawr XD, LOL” with the LOL softening the blow of the Rawr, if not giving the boy an escape hatch, a sort of “I was just joking” clause, should things not work out for him.
Interestingly, the term gained enough popularity that it jumped out of the messaging screens and made its way into everyday speech.
Kids in middle school started saying it, and when a girl wanted to let a guy know that she was interested in him, she would walk up to him and say “Rawr XD.”
However, things didn’t stop there. “Rawr XD” also made its way into several trending posts and memes.
For instance, a Facebook user by the name of Bardock Obama wrote that ““Rawr XD” means “Ima eat ya a** in dinosaur,” which really just goes to show the versatility of the Rawr XD.
The same day that Facebook post came out, a Twitter user by the handle of @Trilluminaughty made an emo version of the Confused Nick Young meme and wrote a joke above it, “When you catch your Emo Girlfriend texting “Rawrrrr xD” to other …”
(At this point, if you don’t know what the Confused Nick Young meme is, then just Google. There is only so much of the internet culture I can explain in one post.)
The term even made it into political memes. There was a photoshopped photo of Donald Trump, where he was made to look like an emo girl, and the picture was captioned, “”Rawr XD” means make America great again in dinosaur.”
XD in corporate America
And now, in one of the most abrupt segues ever, let’s talk about how XD is used by corporate America, particularly the media industry.
If anybody reading this has children, then you are probably aware of the Disney XD channel. For the rest of you, Disney XD is an entertainment channel targeting children and early teens.
It offers sitcoms, cartoons, and films, all of which are or have been produced by the Walt Disney Company.
The channel also offers sports programs that cater to the youth and shows the best games of the week along with the highlights.
Thanks to all of its programming as well as the fact that it has both English and Spanish tracks, Disney XD boasts of having more than 80 million subscribers over the United States.
So, what does the XD mean in Disney XD?
Simply, XD is an acronym that stands for “extreme digital,” and Disney uses it to demonstrate the quality of the content they are broadcasting.
Another company that uses XD to mean “extreme digital” quality is Cinemark, a chain of movie theaters that are owned by the parent company Cinemark Holdings, Inc.
Whenever Cinemark XD designs a new theater that shows movies in “extreme digital” quality, thanks largely to the enormous ceiling-to-floor and wall-to-wall movie screens, the company makes sure that it complements this experience with comfortable seats and a reliable acoustic system.
It is this attention to detail that allows Cinemark to compete with IMAX.
Other meanings of XD
Obviously, XD can have other definitions, and a lot of it will be contextual. Other meanings of XD include the following:
- a near-synonym of lol (which should seem a bit familiar to us as we are already aware that XD can be used to denote hysterical laughter)
XD can also act as an acronym, abbreviating any of the following expressions:
- Extreme duty
- Extreme Droll
- Experience design
- Exothermic dispersion
- Extra dimension
- Christmas day
- Executive development
Putting it all together
As you can see, XD can have a wide range of uses.
From indicating laughter to expressing romantic feelings, XD has become sort of a joker of several trades, weaving its way in out of everyday language, both spoken and written.
What is even more interesting is how a single expression can be appropriated by several different subcultures, be it Fortune 500 companies or lonely teenagers staring at their computer screens, and used to mean different things.
And, for us to be able to appreciate these different meanings, we had to explore each subculture and appreciate their uniqueness as well as their development over time.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.