#161 & Per Se &
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Okay, this is one of the weirdest titles I’ve issued—
does & per se & even mean anything?
It sure does mean something! In fact, it’s what my AmperArt series is all about.
“& per se &” is how we used to describe the last letter of the English alphabet — no, not z, but following z — when it had 27 characters. Yes, the English alphabet was once 27 letters long (actually, 26 letters & 1 symbol) up until about the middle of the 19th century. That last character was none other than our favorite character — drumroll — the fun & fabulous ampersand.
In reciting the alphabet, after z, schoolkids would say “&, per se, &.”
“Per se” means “by itself,” so the students were essentially saying of the &: “…x, y, z, and, by itself, ‘and’.”
Maybe if & was still part of the alphabet it would have been included in allowable symbols for urls. Unfortunately, the ampersand & several other useful glyphs (such as # and +) cannot be used in a url, but they should be. I can’t even use the ampersand in the names of AmperArt posts, such as would be “amperart.com/#163-&-per-se-&” or “amperart.com/laurel-&-hardy.” I have to settle for “amperart.com/163-per-se-” or “amperart.com/laurel-hardy.” And many companies can’t even display their names accurately in a url, such as “good&plenty,com” or “arm&hammer.com.”
Why is it called an ampersand?
Say “& per se &” 50 times real fast & you’ll see (or hear) how it eventually slurred into the sound “ampersand” – & stuck, as the name for the symbol that was once part of the alphabet. It may have fallen off the ABC’s but today is part of nearly every large law firm; is shorthand for “and;” is heavily used in name brands (don’t miss the post celebrating National Good & Plenty Day in October); and, of course, the fun & fabulous little squiggle inspired this AmperArt series.
World Ampersand Day is September 8 and this is why:
It was apparent several of the characters in “September 8” can be cleverly disguised as ampersands when certain fonts are used, as shown above. Read about World Ampersand Day (& for you typophiles, see the callout of fonts in the above graphic) here:
Here’s a version of The ABC Song on YouTube. Two things amaze me about this. First, in every version it is sung as if lmnop is the name of one single letter. You probably grew up singing it like that, and so did I. Now I know why — that’s how it’s sung on YouTube. (Gotcha! There was no YouTube when I was growing up.) Why are kids taught to sing it like that? It’s absurd. Second, listen closely (if you can get through the hideous song) & you’ll hear not one, but two ampersands — neither, of course, at the end, as a 27th character. It goes “A B C D E F G H I J K lmnop Q R S T U & V W X Y & Z…”
Concept & design
This AmperArt piece went through a couple iterations. The original concept, above or at left, was the finished design (so I thought), completed a week ahead of World Ampersand Day, 2020.
But then I had an idea for some additional, relevant design which I am very satisfied with (& proud of). Got that done, too (it’s the finished piece featured in this post, which you can download here for framing).
I believe if a better idea comes along, at least try it. I won’t settle for design that is really, really good when it can be perfect. That’s one thing I admire about my idol, Walt Disney. He would scrap a near-finished project so he could start over with the latest technology or a better concept.
In this case, the background you see in this first iteration is just a fancy pattern. I realized, hey, this is about the ampersand ending the alphabet, so why not include the first 26 letters too? It turned into a very enjoyable task of creating true graphic design with typography, one of my favorite types of art. True, that usually means commercial art, but at least to my eyes it’s still art. (I admit I can’t draw more than a stick figure.)
Creating the design for #161 And Per Se And took awhile due to the revisions, but nothing compared to trying to write the story, trying to explain what the title means.
On top of that, a few days before release date I hit a record for concurrent contingencies (air conditioner quit completely & power blackout due to heat wave) & emergencies (cat was panting way too hard) as the heat wave hit 110 degrees. I just couldn’t finish writing the story by 6am September 8, National Ampersand Day.
So here it is, AmperArt #161, celebrating the fun & fabulous ampersand with the origin of its pronunciation, & per se &. Issued one year later. With the finished new design. Before any emergencies postpone it again.
This is the official logo for National Ampersand Day, designed by Chaz DeSimone for National Day Calendar.
Dear ampersand fans, thank you for checking out AmperArt, my monthly project which takes a common phrase (okay, & per se & isn’t that common), adding some artwork, & turning the whole thing into a celebration of the fun & fabulous ampersand. If you haven’t subscribed yet, head over here.
Celebrate World Ampersand Day here!
4 thoughts to “#161 & Per Se &”
I truly enjoy the study of words but you have gone beyond in that you tell all about ampersands & it is VERY interesting! Thanks. The design for Ampersand Day is beautiful!
Thanks, Becca. My father was born in Sicily and sailed da boat with his family to America at a young age. Having to learn a new language, he too was very much into etymology. We had a giant red Webster’s Dictionary that was 6 inches thick!
Kudos & Cheers!
Thank You & Stay Safe!
Su, that made me smile! You are a fun & fabulous ampersand fan.