Wednesday, May 20, 2015

& & &

If you read my posts often you know I'm interested in words and language and often blog about those things.

Here's another post on that topic.

The symbol, &, is called an ampersand. We see that little, squiggly mark often and most people know it means "and."

But did you know it's actually the Latin word, et?  The two letters, e and t, are sort of squished together on top of each other.

In the Latin language the word, "et," means "and" just as the symbol does.

And the word, ampersand, is also squished together. It was originally a phrase, "and per se and." Per se is a Latin phrase meaning "by itself." In English we might say "and, by itself, means and."


I have no idea why that complex phrase was used to define something simple. Why couldn't they have just called it "and?"

The Latin language has influenced ours a lot because the Romans conquered and ruled Britain. Later the French did the same thing and French is a Latin-based language because the Romans had also conquered that country. Since the rulers were the upper class people, those languages are the original forms of a lot of English words having to do with political power,  the arts (only rich people had anything to do with those,) etc.

And, back then, only a few people knew how to read and write.

But today the ampersand is something ordinary people use all the time.


Susan Hornbach said...

Thanks Jan for that tid-bit of info.

Janet Ann Collins said...

Thank you, Susan.