[Ads-l] Antedating of "Ampersand"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Dec 19 18:12:20 UTC 2014

It strikes me that the 1795 usage is satirical -- if "he" has "tried 
all the historians from great _A_, to _ampersand_" and goes on to 
"selecting his own facts, forming his own conclusions", then "he" 
hasn't gone very far, only from A to ampersand (presumably ampersand 
is sorted among the A's) and not from A to Z.  When and how did "from 
A to ampersand" come to mean "the whole range of a subject"?  Or did 
the 1795 writer take an expression that *already* meant "the whole 
range of a subject", and turn it into a criticism where readers would 
take it literally, as meaning "*not much* of a subject"?


At 12/18/2014 08:47 AM, Michael Quinion wrote:
>Fred Shapiro wrote:
> > ampersand (OED 1837)
> >
> > 1795 'Mr. Pratt' _Gleanings through Wales, Holland and Westphalia_ (pt. 1)
> > 306 (Eighteenth Century Collections Online Text Creation Partnership)  At
> > length, having tried all the historians from great _A_, to _ampersand_,
> > he perceives there is no escaping from the puzzle, but by selecting his
> > own facts, forming his own conclusions, and putting a little trust in his
> > own reason and judgment.
>This is also very probably the first appearance in print of the idiom
>"from A to ampersand", meaning the whole range of a subject. As this idiom
>is recorded into the twentieth century, it long outlasted the saying of
>the alphabet with "and per se and" as the last item.
>Michael Quinion
>World Wide Words
>Web: http://www.worldwidewords.org
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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