Do these questions get asked all that frequently? No. But these are questions I do hear now and then. My earnest answers are supplied.
What does the “X” in your name stand for?
Nothing. It is just an X, preferably with no period after it, although try telling that to journal editors!
Did your parents name you “Christopher X Jon Jensen”?
No. My given name is “Christopher Jon Jensen”.
Well then, where did the “X” come from?
When I was in graduate school and about to publish my first paper (co-authored with my advisor Lev Ginzburg), I did a quick search for “CJ Jensen” on Web of Science. This search turned up 100’s of other CJ Jensen’s. A quick addition of an “X” (CXJ Jensen) yielded no search results. My new nom de plume was born. Incidentally, I managed to get Stony Brook University to include the X on my Ph.D. diploma; my bachelor’s degree from Pomona College — earned many years earlier — contains no X.
Why an X? Why not a Z?
There are three somewhat silly reasons for the X. The first is just an allusion to activists like Malcolm X, who used the X to take on an identity independent of their history (not that I have a personal history that is at all analogous to anyone whose family endured slavery…). The second is an allusion to the straight-edge movement, which was an important facet of my life for about twenty years. The third X allusion is to the book Baby X (also known as X: A fabulous child’s story), a book about a child whose sex is not revealed to anyone but X’s parents. It is just a letter. Don’t over-interpret it!