5 The Forgotten 27th Letter is Still There On Your Keyboard
Despite all those renegades and fools who tried to change things, the English alphabet still only has twenty six letters in it. That is not to say that there weren’t many who got pretty darn close to adding to it. In fact, there is one staring you right in the face (presuming you are sitting at a computer of course. If not, you would it would probably depend on your phone or tablet or whatever….point is it’s on a keypad). You needn’t feel violated like if someone was staring at you right now through the window from the bushes outside. But it is staring at you….. Can you see it?
It’s the ampersand. The “&” symbol or “shift-7” as we never call it. The ampersand comes from Roman times. When they were busy writing Roman things and signing Jesus’ death warrant, they would often blur their “T”s and “E”s. You know like “et cetera” and that sort of thing. Basically, “et” means “and” in Latin. So as the written language went on and on and become corrupted as they tend to do, the individual letters became a different beast all together. And so we ended up with the ampersand. Interestingly, the name “ampersand” quite clearly includes the “word” it describes but that is whole other kettle of bizarre English language fish.
Here’s a piece of semi-useful trivia for you; when letters are merged in such a way, they are referred to as ligatures. There are others however, none rate as high of a mention as the ampersand which became highly used in Latin texts and then followed on through in to derivatives which used the Latin alphabet. The ampersand stayed on the fringes of the English alphabet deep in to the 1800s before we eventually began to think of it as an outsider. But I guess you could say that it used to be the twenty-seventh letter of the alphabet. It even rated a mention in “Apple Pie ABC” which served as one of the first, and hugely popular, children’s alphabet songs.