Recently, I noticed a new store in Moscow called Ampersand. According to their website, it’s an “Oil & Vinegar Tap House.” They offer infused oils and vinegar from around the world on tap, along with other specialty grocery items. But the name seems to stump some passersby. I overheard two people trying to pronounce it and wondering aloud what it could mean.
Ampersand is a fancy word for a common symbol … the “and” sign.
And, seems like it’s been everywhere lately … it popped up on Dictionary.com the other day when I was checking the spelling of some obscure word under a heading titled “What Character Was Removed from the Alphabet?”. Dictionary.com goes on to tell us that the symbol “&” was first used by Roman scribes in the 1st century, when they linked the two letters of “and” in Latin, “et,” in a kind of early shorthand. And the symbol was actually part of the alphabet in early English, coming after the Z at the end of the alphabet (X, Y, Z, &). But when reciting the alphabet, it was confusing to have the word “and” at the end … and … what?
So students reciting the alphabet used the words “per se” (by itself) to clarify: “X, Y, Z, and per se &.”
and-per-se-and … ampersand!