Ampersands and mondegreens

Did you know that the alphabet used to have 27 letters?

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The 27th letter was the ampersand, which you may know better as the character &, and which has quite an interesting history. The character itself comes from the Romans. When Roman scribes wrote the Latin word “et,” (which means and) in cursive, they linked the e and the t, which made an early version of the character we all know now.

The origin of the word “ampersand” comes from the early 19th Century, when schoolchildren running through the alphabet would say “and per se and” to conclude the recital. This soon became ampersand, which is an example of a mondegreen, the term for a mistaken pronunciation leading to a new word.

 

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