What exactly is an ampersand?
It’s a ligature, or joining, of the letters “e” & “t,” which in Latin is “et,” or “and.”
When did it originate?
The ampersand can be traced back to the 1 A.D. and the old Roman cursive, in which the letters E and T were sometimes written together to form a ligature (a joining of two characters) — something like this:
Why does it look the way it does?
There are many different visual styles of the ampersand, each rendered to complement the typestyle it’s designed for. As long as you can see (or as long as the type designer thinks he sees) an “e” and a “t,” you’ve got an ampersand. Here are some examples:
Did you know our alphabet used to have more than 26 characters?
The symbol “&” was actually part of the English alphabet in the early 1800s. It was the 27th letter, or more accurately, glyph, ligature or symbol.
Why is it called “ampersand”?
School children reciting their ABCs concluded the alphabet with &. 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.
Is the plus sign an ampersand?
“Plus” is a Latin word for “more.” So maybe the plus sign is a figure of sole origin, or it may have been derived from the ampersand, which in a way also means “more.” Here is my own sequence of evolution that supports the theory it is derived from the ampersand:
Why is World Ampersand Day Sept.8?
It was apparent several of the characters in “September 8” can be cleverly disguised as ampersands when certain fonts are used, like this:
For you typophiles, here are the fonts & families used to create the typogram*. Click on the image to view full size:
The SEPTEMBER 8 typogram* is not the official World Ampersand Day logo. Here’s what that looks like, designed by Chaz DeSimone & registered with National Day Calendar in 2015. Note, this is the former National Ampersand Day logo, used to call out the typography. The World Ampersand Day logo is the same except “national” is now “world.” The new designation was registered in 2022. Once the James Webb Space Telescope discovers an ampersand in another galaxy we’ll change it, once again, to Universe Ampersand Day.
*A typogram is the deliberate use of typography to express an idea visually, such as “adddition” & “UPPER&lowercase.” The above rendered “SEPTEMBER 8” would be a true typogram if it spelled “AMPERSAND” with ampersands, but since there’s no term for spelling a date with ampersands we’ll call this a typogram & get away with it, since it does visually express what the date stands for. Or call it a pictogram or hieroglyphics if you wish.
How do you celebrate World Ampersand Day?
Celebrate World Ampersand Day by having fun with it!
& Use lots & lots of ampersands.
& Substitute “&” for “and” in everything you write.
& Think of syllable replacements such as &roid, c&elabra, b&.
& Send friends whose names contain “and” a special note — &y (“Andy”), &rea, Alex&er, Gr&ma.
& Design new styles of ampersands. (Remember, the ampersand represents the letters “et.”)
& Throw an ampersand party & make up ampersand games.
& Use #AmpersandDay & #AmperArt on social media.
& Tell your friends to check out AmperArt.com. Subscribe to get a new AmperArt poster every month. It’s fun & fabulous & free!
What if your birthday is Sept. 8?
& If World Ampersand Day falls on your birthday, September 8, throw an ampersand birthday party with an ampersand cake & party favors & ampersand games. A list of games, gifts & favors is in the works. Subscribe so you don’t miss it.
What if a friend’s birthday is Sept. 8?
& Send anyone whose birthday is September 8 this Happy Birthday link:
& Give or mail them an ampersand birthday card which you can print here:
& Throw them an ampersand birthday party. A list of games, gifts & favors is in the works. Subscribe so you don’t miss it.
What does &c. mean?
“&” is for “et,” & “c.” is for “cetera.”
“Et” is Latin for “and.”
“Cetera” is Latin for “the others.”
What does U&lc mean?
UPPER & lower case, as in capital & non-capital letters. The proper terms, though not heard much anymore, are “majuscule” & “minuscule.”
The terms “upper case” & “lower case” originated in the early days of hand-set type where each character was cast on a separate piece of metal & stored in shallow drawers known as cases. Frequently there were two cases (drawers) for each font, one placed on top of the other while compositing type. The upper case contained the majuscules. The lower case contained the minuscules.
This illustration has the cases reversed — lowercase is on top — to clearly show the various sizes of boxes individual compartments needed to accommodate the quantity of each lowercase letter used for the average composition. (The uppercase compartments are all the same size.) There are more “e“s used in the English language than any other letter, hence “e” is stored in the largest compartment.
Our friend the ampersand is stored in the upper case (bottom in this illustration), near the lower right corner: bottom row & second box in.
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