This word takes a lexical game of noughts and crosses to the nth degree. Indeed, looking at it, your eyes may be o o or x x; it looks as artificial as nylon, like something from sci-fi or fantasy. It reveals itself gradually, even acrimoniously. Tell me how it’s even pronounced.

When I look at it, in a little moment I see xantho – from a Greek root meaning ‘yellow’ – and xylon – which might look similar to, for instance, xylophone, and rightly so, because they share a root – meaning ‘wood’. So ‘yellow wood’ – which is correct, that’s where it comes from – and because in English we have this idea you can’t start a syllable with /ks/, we say “zantho” for xantho and “zylon” for xylon. Which is how it strikes my eyes: “zanthozylon.”


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