Today, September 8th, is National Ampersand Day.
What is an ampersand, you ask? Good question. I didn’t know either, so I had to Google it.
Turns out, an ampersand is an important part of our English language, especially in recent years with the dawning of cell phones and text messages.
The short version is that an ampersand is…the short version of the word and. Otherwise known as &.
If you change fonts, it has at least a hundred other variations.
The ampersand is actually the joining of two letters, otherwise known as a ligature. If you look closely, you can see it—e and t. Put ‘em together and whadda ya got? (To borrow from Cinderella)
et. In Latin, et means…you guessed it.
Here’s a really cool tidbit about the ampersand. In the early 1800’s, the ampersand was actually the last letter of the alphabet! Since it would be too confusing for schoolchildren reciting their ABCs to say, “X, Y, Z, and”…they instead said, “and per se and.” Per se means by itself.
So, in layman’s terms, And by itself, and.
I know. Awesome, right?
An ampersand is also a mondegreen—a word that results from a mishearing of something that is said or sung. The word mondegreen was made up by a woman named Sylvia Wright in 1954 in her article for Harper’s Bazaar. Her mother had read her The Bonny Earl of Murray. Apparently the poor earl is slain near the end of one stanza says, “They layd him on the green.” (Not a misspelling, LOL) Ms. Wright evidently thought the stanza ended with, “And Lady Mondegreen.” Poor woman. And to think she died quite in error.
But since by this time Ms. Wright’s commentary had already been printed, the creative author simply made up a word for her mistake–the mondegreen.
How many generations of Catholic schoolchildren prayed, “Blessed art thou a monk swimmin’,” and reverently sang, “Sleep in heavenly peas?” Or little girls dancing around singing, “I am a Cheerio girl in a Cheerio world.” Or, if you ‘re closer to my age, Crystal Gayle’s, “Donut Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”
Come on. Admit it. I’m not the only one who sang Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville as, “Blew out my flip-flop, stepped on a Pop Tart.”
Ahem. So back to mondegreens and the ampersand…
“And per se and.” Say it quickly three times.
Aaaand there you have it.
Was that fun or what?
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Hi Deb! Interesting word history. Thanks for sharing. As a language teacher, it was always fun to see how a room full of students heard a phrase or word in a variety of ways. The same is true as I watch the language development in my grandchildren, especially my verbal 4 year old granddaughter. Yesterday she was retelling stories that I had read to her the day before to her dolls. Very interesting. Will be thinking of you this evening at the Texas Tenors concert in SW Michigan. Best wishes and enjoy your weekend.
Deb Kastner says
Awww…ENVIOUS!!! But I know you’ll love your evening. =) And their brand new CD is out today as well.
I love the way language changes over time. It wasn’t long ago that, “Wait–what?” came on the scene, and “much” at the end of a phrase, like, “Snarky, much?” Two of the latest are “unpacking” ideas and “Be you.”
Elizabeth Maddrey says
I love this so much! This is a true word nerd post :) I also have a little thing for ampersands, so that doesn’t hurt at all.
Deb Kastner says
I had SO much fun writing this one, although it took more research time than I probably ought to have used.
Hysterical! You made me laugh this morning. Thank you!
Very interesting, thanks for sharing!
Valerie Comer says
Nice! And the one at our house for a long time was Grampa and Gramma (me) thinking the little grandgirls were talking about Papa Troll. (I’ll wait…)
Apparently it’s Paw Patrol. Who knew? Well, three preschoolers and their parents sure did!
Deb Kastner says
Papa Troll. I *love* that. My grandkids both watched Paw Patrol when they were younger so I immediately got it, but SUCH a cute example of a mondegreen!
now that was fun!
How fun. Thanks for sharing.
Merrillee Whren says
Deb, thanks for the history lesson and the laughs.
Jessica B. says
There’s a day for everything now! Thanks for sharing.
Jackie Smith says
So fun, Deb! Just what we all need to get our minds off the storms!
Nikki Dawson says
Thanks for the interesting history lesson , & you made me sit & giggle , & yes I also listen to Jimmy s songs !
Margaret Nelson says
Very cool…especially that it used to be part of the alphabet!
Thank you for the fun post!!
Learn something new everyday…lol! I often mis-hear songs and then when I find out what it really says, I have to laugh at myself! It’s funny what the human ear THINKS it hears!
Gail Estes Hollingsworth says
Thanks for sharing.
Lucy M Reynolds says
Very interesting. Thank you for sharing.
hahaha thanks Deb! :D
Interesting! Love the book covers :)
Loved the history. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought the wrongs words in a song. I laugh sometimes because I wondered what were the singers thinking?
Susan Carroll says
I like the way you write and think! Always used ampersand, but always thought it was just a quick way to write “and”. What an interesting word history. Had no idea it was actually a letter! English has such a fascinating and complicated history. Thanks for the lesson.