March 14, 2008
¶ As namesakes go, the ampersand isn’t a bad one to claim. It also happens to be my favorite piece of punctuation. Who doesn’t love a term born from mispronunciation and the evolution of Latin? It began as the ligature for ‘et’, and some faces (like the beautiful Galliard italic above) preserve that lineage more obviously than others.
¶ But why the evolution from et to &, or for that matter from and per se and to ampersand? A beautiful signature printed by Mark Byk and Kristine Tortora for the 2007 Wayzgoose Anthology informed me that the ligature was invented by the personal secretary to Cicero, Marcus Tullius Tiro. While there’s some debate about that, the mark did tack itself onto the end of the alphabet whose traditional pattern of recitation included ‘per se’ in front of any letter that could itself be used as a word (per se ‘a’), thusly becoming “and, [lastly], per se ‘and’”. Like all things difficult to annunciate after multiple repetitions, and per se and became the dawnzerlee-light of the extended recited alphabet.
¶ Beyond having an interesting history, what a beautiful symbol it is both on the page and the tongue… the word feels much longer that it should be to represent such a short conjunction, and the symbol itself can be far more elegant than a treble clef. The magic of the ampersand comes from the fact that you never say its name when reading it. A symbol is by nature a representation of something beyond itself, but the ampersand takes representation to an extreme by being the only piece of punctuation pronounced but never named.* But one of my favorite reasons to love the ampersand is its knack for solving some clunky sentence situations. For example, if it was absolutely necessary to write, ‘Becca and Adrian and their adventures,’ a lot of visual awkward can be fixed by rewriting it as, ‘Becca & Adrian and their adventures.’
¶ Form, function & fabulousness, all rolled into one little mark.
* I’ve always wondered why the @ only seems to have a separate name in other languages. Arroba, in Spanish, is my favorite.
March 12, 2008
¶ The pilcrow, that elegant little backwards P, marks the start of a new paragraph. I believe that beginnings deserve announcement, but pilcrows are all but lost outside of the world of typography. In fact, there’s a whole slew of punctuation that’s either been ignored, regularly misused, or completely discarded.
¶ The importance of this? In practicality, none, but I’ve been developing a small fascination for all the lost symbols. Punctuation has the uniquely beautiful role of constructing the intricacies of our language. Is there a better point of conversation?
¶ Probably. And on the list of such points of conversation could be the following things:
· the last 70 days of an undergrad’s education,
· the start of a new life in Providence, Rhode Island,
· and hopefully the beginning of a career in graphic design.
¶ But as for the punctuation, nothing seems more fitting right now than a little definition.