In fact, I can think of only one instance where a phrase of two or more words became a single word. “Ampersand” was originally the phrase “and per se and,” which was tacked onto the end of 18th century recitations of the English alphabet because “&” was then considered a letter capable of standing alone as a word (“per se,” by itself). The symbol we call an “ampersand” today is actually a symbolic rendition of the Latin “et” (meaning “and”) was pronounced as “and.” So “and per se and” meant “and, standing alone, and.” It’s an unlikely, but true, story. But the development of “ampersand” is solidly documented, which, unfortunately, that old lady on the porch is not.

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3 comments on this post.
  1. gregg:

    i love your work, brother. i’d donate if i had some extra scratch, but i’m just a poor slob living day by day. i do recommend your site to any sentient being, so perhaps that is helpful.

    keep it up! i learn a lot from you and come here often to enlighten myself. you have a gift; you use it; hence you are a gift.

    all best,

    detroit mi

  2. jeroboambramblejam:

    … and thanks for the amusing & illuminatin’ analysis.
    As far as I know, they didn’t short shrift me aironautically, but in a brief text.
    My dad, Bob Birch, raised us on farina and puns (he loved “weighing with plurds”) so I may have inherited a much too flexicographical sense of such things.
    Thanks again for your thoughtful and generous explication!

  3. Kristin:


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