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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