What Character Was Removed from the Alphabet?

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Adobe Caslon Ampersand

Adobe Caslon Ampersand

bulletcrs211Johnson & Johnson, Barnes & Noble, Dolce & Gabbana: the ampersand today is used primarily in business names, but that small character was once the 27th part of the 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. When a word comes about from a mistaken pronunciation, it’s called a mondegreen.

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Effective/ Affordable Web & Graphic design Solutions. Our two man team began Bolt Cutter Design in 2000, primarily as a print graphics design house. In 2003 we took the plunge and expanded into the "New Media" establishing a web design studio. We use freelancers and outside contractors as the project requires. We are proficient in HTML, DHTML, XHTML, and CSS. We are moderately proficient in Javascript and are actively engaged in learning XML and its sub-languages. When not eating and breathing Art, our interests include Bookbinding, Military History, Collecting European History during the Age of Empire, Russian & German Philately, and first edition books.
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