Monday, August 22, 2016

Word of the Week - & (Ampersand)


At Dictionary.com last week, my attention was grabbed by one of their slideshows about punctuation. Because, yes, I'm a grammar nerd. This has been well established. ;-) But the very first slide was far and away the most interesting to me.

&
Ampersand

Both of these things have always been an enigma to me. Where in the world did we get that curly thingy-ma-bob, and why did it mean "and." And why in the world was it called an "ampersand"? Questions I have long gone without knowing the answers to. But now it's all clear. ;-)

The original ampersand was the one that looked like the above, in the graphic--the others are just deviations. And the reason is quite simple. When writing in cursive, Latin scribes would combine and quicken the letters in "and"--et. That combined et made its way into other Latin-based languages like English as a symbol. But it wasn't called an "ampersand" until the 1830s.

At that point in time, this symbol was being taught as a 27th letter of the alphabet. The schoolchildren's recitation would say, "X, Y, Z, and per se and." That "and per se and" got slurred--into ampersand!

And there we go. Your weekly dose of word . . . er, punctuation? . . . fun. ;-)


1 comment:

  1. Roseanna, you give us the most interesting information. :-) Thank you.

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