[Ads-l] Antedating of "Ampersand"

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 19 18:25:04 UTC 2014

Below is a claim about the position of & in an alphabetic ordering.

News source: The Guardian
Article title: From 'A' to 'ampersand', English is a wonderfully
curious language
Article author: Paul Anthony Jones
Date on website: 15 February 2014


[Begin excerpt]

Until as recently as the early 1900s, "&" was considered a letter of
the alphabet and listed after Z in 27th position. To avoid confusion
with the word "and", anyone reciting the alphabet would add "per se"
("by itself") to its name, so that the alphabet ended "X, Y, Z and per
se &". This final "and per se and" eventually ran together, and the
"ampersand" was born.
[End excerpt]


On Fri, Dec 19, 2014 at 1:12 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: Antedating of "Ampersand"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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"?
> Joel
> 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

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

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