Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Real Words - Fake Etymology

ampersand(n)

A typographic symbol (&) used to replace the word "and". These days usage is normally restricted to commonly paired words (fish & chips, Mr. & Mrs.) rather than to replace every instance of conjunction.

Until the advent of the electro-mechanical presses of the late 19th century, typesetting had been a labour-intensive, time-consuming process. Abbreviations and symbols were used extensively to cut down on the amount of work required to typeset a complete page.

One of these early symbols - & - was created by Georges Frederick Ampère, a Viennese scientist originally from Louvaine. The symbol was introduced in England around the early 1500s, where it quickly became known as Ampere's And. Before too long, this name was corrupted into the word that we use today.


7 comments:

Tickersoid said...

Was that just after G.E. Ampere invented electric current.

Qenny said...

Did someone from General Electric come up with that?

It did cross my mind to borrow the fact that André-Marie Ampère was a renowned polymath, but given when he lived, the printing press had been around a bit too long. Perhaps I could make the fictional G F Ampère an ancestor of Mister Electric.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Fascinating!

Inexplicable DeVice said...

No, really. I didn't mean that to sound sarcastic : )

Qenny said...

I much prefer my etymology to the real one. And it sounds so plausible, innit?

AJ said...

hmmmm.....i've heard this before somewhere........now where was it.....?

Qenny said...

It's one of those things that I've been meaning to gift to the wider public for quite some time. Looks like I finally have a forum.

But, hey, aj - you can testify to the fact that you first came across this etymology in The British Museum, can't you?