Roman and italic ampersands. Based on plain an...
Roman and italic ampersands. Based on plain and italic Garamond samples, and simplified a bit on Inkscape. Made by Fibonacci. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Did you ever wonder where that little squiggle came from? I got to thinking about that the other day and decided to do some research to find out. According to Wikipedia (hey, it’s on the Internet so it’s utterly trustworthy, right?) it’s a logogram and represents the word “and.” Further, it’s also a ligature of the letters making up the Latin word et, for “and.” You can kind of see that, can’t you? A logogram is a symbol that stands for a word. A ligature is a graphic representation from the letters of a word. Now you know, and no, I don’t have too much time on my hands and I can’t imagine what would give you an idea like that, I really can’t.

But, so what?  I’ll tell you why I’m devoting a few hundred words to the topic.  It’s that I took a few minutes to notice something I saw in an essay on the web and stopped to think about that little squiggle, which the writer used quite often.  It stuck out, it caught my attention in a way it never had before.  I became a bit more attentive to what was going on and stopped to think, a rare enough event.  My first reaction was that the guy writing the piece was being artificial about it, trying to draw attention to his use of something antiquated, more a part of the age of the quill pen and ink wells, when paper and ink were expensive and letters and documents tedious to write out.  Then I wondered about the ampersand and what an odd thing it was and I asked myself where it came from.  The point is, I slowed down a little and stopped to notice something that, on another day, I mightn’t have given a second thought to.  I felt a little joy at learning there was, indeed, a definition and someone had codified the use of the ampersand – I knew something I hadn’t known before, however “useless” the knowledge.

It made me wonder how common it is in my life to become so focused in the task at hand, the very practical business of daily life that I don’t bother to notice little things that provide a moment’s joy.  It’s pretty common, and I’m kind of shocked by that.  My discovery reminded me to slow down a bit and remember to pay attention to the simple, joyful acts of just looking & listening.

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