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2 minute read / Jul 13, 2022 /

The Missing Letter from the English Alphabet

Before the Second World War, King George journaled the end of Neville Chamberlain’s term as prime minister:

“I accepted his resignation, & told him how grossly unfairly I thought he had been treated, & that I was terribly sorry that all this controversy had happened. … I sent for Winston & asked him to form a Government. This he accepted & told me he had not thought this was the reason for my having sent for him.”

Five ampersands! In three sentences! Written by a king! Of England!

I was excited by this grammar. I wondered why an abbreviation for the fifth most popular word in the English language doesn’t grace every text, email, and book today, as it did then.

Time for a Wikipedia journey. In the mid-1800s, “&” served as the 27th letter of the English language.

But when the author of the now-ubiquitous ditty “ABCDEFG” sought to rhyme “Now I know my ABCs,” Z usurped “&”. After all, what rhymes with ampersand?

Over time, “&” fell from its regal perch as a letter.

But I think it’s time for a comeback. I’m replacing the three keystrokes “a-n-d” with “&” in emails and blog posts.

A pyrrhic productivity win or an homage to the Queen’s English?

It’s not an either/or.

It’s an &.

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