Will the object of this word vex you? Yes. But will the word itself? Perhaps not. It has been a boon to many a Scrabble player, but it is also a fun and useful word in its own right. It may look like the code for Saskatoon’s airport, but that’s YXE, and if you have to fly there, you will certainly hope that your seatmate does not yex. This word rhymes with an assortment of words not made for polite company: hex, sex, vex, and Tex-Mex. So we know what one expects. Its form is interesting: curt, to be sure, and made of angles with one curve. The y reaches down, like one starting to clear the throat, while the x is a point of constriction and in form and sound may remind one of the effect at the culmination of the throat-clearing. And the e? Perhaps the unclear throat itself, or an open mouth… Interestingly, this word – a gift from Old English, also spelled yesk to match the two forms it has had through the ages – first referred to sobbing, and then to hiccuping. Now it’s gone decidedly downmarket. But, if anything, it has become ever more onomatopoeic. Big yucks to that.
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