The Origin of My Name XAH in Xah Lee

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated:

Many people have asked me about why my name is “Xah”, since that does not seem like a normal name, nor is it Chinese. I started to use the name Xah in about 1987, and the name has been my legal name since ~1990.

The name “XAH” is by design. It is not a Chinese transliteration. I choose XAH as my English legal name. I wanted a unique name. Out of the myriad letter combinations, XAH came to be more or less because I am fascinated by symmetric alphabets since young. There are still a lot possibilities of names with symmetric letters, but XAH seems to be good and was chosen.

It would be fun to write a program to generate all plausible names that are composed of symmetric letters. Anyone risen for the challenge?

By the way, alphabet may have mirror symmetry (A, M, U…) or horizontal line symmetry (B, C, E…) or 2-fold rotational symmetry (N, Z, S), or 4-fold rotational symmetry with mirror (X, I), or diagonal symmetry (idealized L, Q), or a combination of the above (H, I, O). We might also consider lower cases. For example C, O, I … has the property that the symmetry is invariant among lower or upper cases. Symmetry are exhibited in whole words in different ways. E.g. AHA, WOW; MOW, pod; DO, COX, BEE, EXCEED; DID, DEED; civic, eve, eye. When applied to sentences in left/right mirror without regards to letter shapes, it's called palindrome. That is, sentences that reads the same forward or backward. e.g. “god”, “A man, a plan, a canal, Panama!”. There are palindromes that are pages long, and I know there are books collecting it as wordy games.

By the by the way, speaking of symmetry… The mathematical study of symmetry is called group theory. Group theory is the abstraction of abstractions. Its beauty surpasses that of visual. Just about few years ago, I was very puzzled by such a idea. How could math, with all the formula and precision, codify such a non-numeric concept as symmetry? What's there to study about symmetry? Isn't it just all “looks”? Indeed, understanding group theory has been a extreme satisfaction for me.

addendum: since 2005, i started to use a Chinese counterpart 杀 for Xah, when in Chinese language communities. The character 杀 is a transliteration from “Xah”. (i.e. the char is a homonym of Xah) The char means “kill”. I choose that char because my hatred. The Chinese version isn't used on any government papers, but i'll probably make it so when i get a convenient chance for the paperwork.