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Feb 24, 2015This week’s theme
Latin terms in English
This week’s words
The 27-Letter Alphabet
From the book The Dixie Primer, for the Little Folks, 1863
Photo: UNC Chapel Hill
A.Word.A.Daywith Anu Garg
adverb: In or by itself; intrinsically.
From Latin per se, translation of Greek kath auto. Earliest documented use: 1475. Perse is something different.
Today’s term makes an appearance in the word ampersand which is a corruption of “and per se and”. What does it mean? Earlier the & symbol was considered the 27th letter of the alphabet. Yes, they used to say “A to ampersand” instead of “A to Z”. It’d be awkward to recite the alphabet as “... X Y Z &” (and what?), so schoolchildren reciting the alphabet would end it with “& per se and”, meaning the symbol &, by itself, is the word “and”.
Where did the symbol & come from? It’s a corruption of “et”, the Latin word for “and”. That explains why sometimes “etc.” is written as “&c”.
“SHERLOC will not be searching for life per se—only for the trail it leaves behind.”
Corey Powell; Have We Found Alien Life?; Popular Science (New York); Feb 2015.
See more usage examples of per se in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen. -Samuel Lover, songwriter, composer, novelist, and artist (24 Feb 1797-1868)
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