Last one out of the Kinjaverse, turn out the lights.
Last one out of the Kinjaverse, turn out the lights.

Otters Oddities

Illustration for article titled Otters Oddities

And, and and....I'm tired of and. I want choices! I want OR!

Or do I?

Wait....*mumbling to myself* if I or, but mean and, the...7 carry the 1...whatnot, whose but...or and?


Geez. I think I finally drove myself crazy.

Naw...who am I kidding? I drove myself crazy back when I only had a license for my Big Wheel.


See that thing? You know what it is. It's the symbol that mean 'and'. It's scientific name is Logogramus Amersandi. Or, it would be if Carolinus Lineaus had named it. Instead, it has the boring name, Ampersand.

The ampersand has been around for a long time. A lot longer than most people know. It has been around since the first century when the Romans used it in their writings. It didn't originally look exactly the way it does now.


If you look at the picture of the ampersand I included, you will see the many different forms of the ampersand, including the original. Look at the left side of the upper loop, just about a quarter of the way up from the lower loop. Do you see the symbol that looks like a cursive et? That's it!

Et, in latin meant the same to the Romans as it does to the French today: and. When writing in Roman cursive, they combined the letters 'e' and 't' into a ligature, or a shorthand way of writing a common word.


In the early centuries, ligatures were common. Since all manuscripts were hand written, shortcuts of any kind were used when ever they could. The ampersand we use today was developed around the same time as the printing press. The early presses used wooden blocks to print the individual letters, and the current version was easier to carve.

One of the interesting things about the ampersand is, for a long time, it was treated as the 27th letter of the alphabet. It's pronounced 'and'.


In the classical rules of latin, when you recite the alphabet and come to a letter that can also be a word, (A, I, and at one point O), it was common to use the latin phrase 'per se' which translates as 'by itself'.

And that's how the ampersand got it's name.

What do you mean you don't get it? Isn't it obvious? Recite the alphabet using the classical latin rules:

U, V, W, X, Y, Z, and, per se, AND.

and, per se, AND.

Eventually people contracted 'and, per se, and' to 'ampersand'.

As late as the 1860's in the US, the ampersand was listed in school books as the 27th letter, and was dutifully recited by school children everywhere.


Legend has it that the ampersand was dropped when the alphabet was put to music. The Alphabet Song music is thought, by people who are wrong, to be based on music written by Mozart.

I guess, technically, it is. In the 1780's Mozart wrote 'Twelve Variations on Ah, Vous Dirai-je, Maman'. But, Mozart didn't really write it. As the title says, it's just twelve variations on a song written 1n 1761 called 'Ah, Vous Dirai-je, Maman'. So, mozart actually covered the song.


But that's not the reason the amoersand ws dropped from the alphabet. The actual reason is, all the letters are based on a sound. (including A and I, even though they can be stand alone words). The ampersand is pronounced as a word, not a sound. So it was felt that it should join the ranks of the Logograms. (also known as ideograms)

To simplify it a bit, a logogram, (or ideogram, whichever you choose to call it), is a picture that means something, and is recognizable to everyone, regardless of their native language. Modern examples include the symbols for the mens room, ladies room, public telephones and wheelchair access. No matter what language you speak, you will recognize those symbols.


So now you know the history of the ampersand, and how it got it's name. Personally, I don't use it. I use the backwards three with a line through it. Which is also a valid form of the ampersand. The main reason I use that variant is because I learned it in Ireland, and that's one of the versions they use. They also use a figure eight with the top half of the upper loop cut off. (looks like a U with the arms crossed)

They are all correct. So, use what you want, they are all ampersands, and they are all pronounced 'and'.

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Illustration for article titled Otters Oddities

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