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The truth about the ampersand will blow your mind

Ampersand
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The English language is a treasure trove of eccentricity. It constantly delivers golden nuggets of trivia that are delightfully fascinating, and today's instalment is related to the ampersand. For those not familiar with the technical lingo, it's this '&' symbol, commonly used as shorthand for 'and'. 

We actually covered this typography trivia in our unknown stories behind everyday icons, but now that it's come up again, we felt it deserved some extra attention. And designers' reactions on Twitter prove that if you didn't know it already, we're about to blow you away. (If you'd like to try out the ampersand in a range of different fonts, check out the best free fonts around).

Editor and author Sarah Pappalardo explained the secret behind the symbol with a tweet that has sparked astonishment in the Twitter world. She pointed out that the ampersand is a ligature (a combination of two or more graphemes tied together, if you're not in the know), for the word 'et'.   

Reactions on Twitter cover the history of the word itself.

And people sharing when they first found this out (those clever clogs are very much in the minority, though, we have to say).

Other notable ligatures include those representing 'ae' and 'oe', but we reckon there are none so well-known and visible as the ampersand. Another interesting nugget is that the symbol used to come at the end of the alphabet, making it a character in its own right that children would recite up until the 1800s. You can find out even more in the below video. Who knew there was so much to discover about the curly 'and' symbol?

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