Alphabets! Great group of symbols designed to express a language in written media. Alphabets are present in our everyday life (right now you’re reading one arranged according to English language) and we never realize the long story & journey each single letter has to tell. For instance, what happened to the 27th lost letter of Roman alphabet? What was it & why it’s not around here anymore?
Johnson & Johnson, Barnes & Noble, Dolce & Gabbana: the AMPERSAND today is used primarily in business names, but that small character was indeed the 27th letter of the Latin alphabet. Where did it come from though? The origin of its name is almost as bizarre as the name itself.
The shape of the character (&) predates the word ampersand by more than 1,500 years. In the first century, Roman scribes wrote in cursive, so when they wrote the Latin word et which means “and” they linked the e and t. Over time the combined letters came to signify the word “and” in English as well. Certain versions of the ampersand, like that in the font Caslon, clearly reveal the origin of the shape.
The word “ampersand” came many years later when “&” was actually part of the English alphabet. In the early 1800s, school children reciting their ABCs concluded the alphabet with the &. It would have been confusing to say “X, Y, Z, and.” Rather, the students said, “and per se and.” “Per se” means “by itself,” so the students were essentially saying, “X, Y, Z, and by itself and.” Over time, “and per se and” was slurred together into the word we use today: ampersand.
(The ampersand is also used in an unusual configuration where it appears as “&c” and means etc. The ampersand does double work as the e and t.)
The ampersand isn’t the only former member of the alphabet. There are MORE and it’ll be shown for the curious and avid minds soon. Stay tuned.
Based on Dictionary.com