Our written language is enriched with a myriad of symbols and signs that give added layers of meaning, nuance and tone. One symbol that has survived evolution and come a long way to get it’s own standing today is the ampersand. Did you know that it originated from the first century Rome, and occupies the 27th position in the Latin alphabet?
When reciting the alphabet then, students referred to the ampersand sign as “and, per se, and”, to avoid confusion. Imagine saying “x, y, z and and”. Overtime, “and, per se, and” got condensed into its name today. Say “and, per se, and” 10 times faster, that’s how we got “ampersand”.
Aside from its name, there is also a logical reason for its form. Look closely and you will discover that it is a combination of the letters ‘e’ and ‘t’. This is because in ancient Rome, ‘et’ is Latin for ‘and’. The short form thus birthed the ‘&’ we use in informal text today.
Beyond our colloquial usage of the ampersand sign, it also serves important functions in other sectors including computing encoding and decoding, as well as URLs. Where else do you see the ampersand sign being used and how?
On 8 September, we celebrate Ampersand Day, and we encourage you to explore its history and creative ways to use it!