There are 26 letters in the English alphabet. At one time there were 27.

It’s true.

Throughout the 19th century, there was an extra character after ‘Z’. It was this:

ampersand leadership

The symbol wasn’t new, it had been part of the Latin alphabet since the early 11th century. But its inclusion in the English alphabet started in the 1800s. Its name, or as it was referred to in the alphabet, was:

and, per se, and

When you recited the alphabet in the 19th century, here’s how you ended it:

…U, V, W, X, Y, Z, and, per se, and.

ampersand leadership alphabet

And, per se, and”, in modern English, means “and the symbol, on its own, means ‘and’.”

Once the 20th century started rolling around, the language began to morph, as languages are wont to do. I’m not sure if people were drunk or lazy or what, but they began to slur together the words of this final “letter.”

And-per-se-and” became “and-per-sand.”

Eventually, with the same lackadaisical linguistics that turns “sandwich” into “sam-wich”, the symbol previously known as “and-per-se-and” became the word we know today: “ampersand

I tell you this because, first, it’s a really cool fact that may come in handy when you’re searching for small talk at your next linguistic club luau.

(Editors Note: you’re welcome)

Secondly, the story of the ampersand exemplifies one of the most important traits of successful leadership.

I love when that happens.