And the Winner is And

AmpersandI don’t know if you pay any attention to my Regular Reads column on the right, after all, its main purpose is to let me know when someone has posted.

But every now and then, they teach me something I didn’t know, like where the humble & symbol comes from and why it is called an ampersand.

If you already know this, then hit the back button now.

The & character is 1,500 years old and dates back to the Latin et, meaning and. The Romans wrote in cursive so the two letters were joined which you can see quite clearly in the example above.

I used to think it strange when people wrote &c to mean etc, but once you know the above, it makes perfect sense. They really were writing etc.

So far, so unsurprising. It was the origin of the name ampersand that took me aback.

There was a time when the & was part of the English alphabet and up to the early 19th century it was tagged on the end as a 27th letter which went X, Y, Z, And.

Except this this sounded a little odd. And what? So, for recitation purposes, it became X, Y, Z and per se And, meaning X, Y, Z and by itself And.

Over time, And per se and became slurred together to create the word we now know as ampersand.

Well thought it was interesting. For the original explanation, see The Hot Word.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

2 comments… Add yours
  • Coleen Manthar 6th September 2011

    wow! i never really though of it before, but this is surely interesting, i browsed the net a klittle and found this ‘The typographic symbol used to designate the word and (& ) is the Latin symbol for et which means and. The name, ampersand , is believed to be derived from the phrase “and per se and.” ‘ It would be interesting to find the origin of other letters too..

  • Yorkshire Pudding 7th September 2011

    I always thought that ‘Amper Sand or & for short was an east coast caravan park near Skegness where one could eat winkles, cockles, mussels etc. presented in attractive wickerwork ‘ampers.


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