How many letters are there in the English alphabet? We all know that the answer to this is 26. It has been taught to us since childhood.
However, would you be surprised if we told you that not very long ago, English used to have 27 letters in its alphabet? Do you know the 27th letter of the English alphabet?
Don’t worry if you don’t as you’re not alone. We are here to tell you all about the 27th letter of the alphabet and how it came into being. Take a look:
Up until the 19th century, English used to have 27 letters in its alphabet. While this terminated letter is no longer in the alphabet, it is still quite popular, and almost all of us use it every day. We’re talking about the (&) ampersand. Yes! The ampersand was the 27th letter, and all children from 200 years ago would recite an alphabet of 27 letters.
It is quite shocking that the ampersand, which is mostly used as an abbreviation or a punctuation, once used to be such a prominent letter. However, that brings us to the point of why was it included in the alphabet in the first place. Let’s find out.
(Image Courtesy: Boldomatic)
While it is impossible to tell the exact time in history when the ampersand was adopted as the 27th letter, we do have concrete evidence of how it started to come in use. This makes for quite an interesting story. The ampersand was simply called ‘and’ back then, but it made reciting the alphabet tricky and awkward. So, it was then replaced by ‘and by itself and’ which again was a tricky thing to say. So, the ‘by itself’ was substituted by its Latin counterpart per se, that made it ‘and per se and.’ So, now you know that an ampersand is just a distorted form of and per se and.
(Image Courtesy: Ian Fleming Production)
Why the ampersand was included in the alphabet in the first place and why its usage fell out is as good as anyone’s guess. However, this just reminds us that there is so much we still don’t know about the evolution of English as a language. If you found this article informative, let us know in the comments below.
(Featured Image Courtesy: Ian)