Neatorama explains the origins of my favorite typographical symbol, the ampersand (&):
This symbol is stylized et, Latin for "and." Although it was invented by the Roman scribe Marcus Tullius Tiro in the first century B.C., it didn’t get its strange name until centuries later. In the early 1800s, schoolchildren learned this symbol as the 27th letter of the alphabet: X, Y, Z, &. But the symbol had no name. So, they ended their ABCs with "and, per se, and" meaning "&, which means ‘and.’" This phrase was slurred into one garbled word that eventually caught on with everyone: ampersand.
Wow. Never knew that.
What I love about this factoid is that the ampersand went through about seventeen centuries completely nameless, as just that squiggly thing that means and, a member of those common, nameless objects like that dangley thing at the back of your throat and the feeling you get when you sleep too much that feels kinda like tiredness, but must not be tiredness. And then it gets named - not by the dictate of some denoter from above - but from schoolkids. Being lazy.
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