or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, July 09, 2007

And So Forth

Today: two splendid etymologies for the price of one!

Boingboing led to this explanation of the etymology of the word "ampersand": it's a slurring of the phrase "and per se and", which is to say "&, which is to say 'and'".

I already knew this (really), but it's still pretty wonderful. Here comes the thing I didn't know.

The French word for "ampersand" is "esperluette", and the etymology, astoundingly, is exactly the same as the English one except in a different language. The matching French phrase is "et per se lu et", which is to say "&, which is to say read as 'and'". ("Et" is the French word for "and"; "lu" is the past participle of the verb "lire", "to read".) Isn't that just about the best thing you ever read?

"Et" is not only "and" in French; it's also "and" in Latin. The symbol for the ampersand is a slurred version of the word "et", as the following illustration will show.
That's the old ampersand on the right, clearly the word "et" written in rather fancy script, and that's the modern version on the left--barely recognizable but still cut from the same cloth.

By the way, if you are in the habit of making your ampersands as follows

then you ought to stop immediately, because that's not an ampersand, it's a treble clef.


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