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 &.