Ampersand

The other day I had to look up how to spell “hip-hop.” Not the “hip” or the “hop” parts. I could handle those, thank you very much. But was there a space or a hyphen in the middle?

According to The Oxford English Dictionary, it should be “hip-hop.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary agreed with “hip-hop.”

But Wikipedia said “hip hop.”

And Dictionary.com said “hiphop.”

(And you think your job is mindless sometimes.)

In situations such as this, in which there is no clear consensus, most newspaper writers go to the Associated Press Stylebook as the definitive guide.

According to the AP Stylebook, the proper way to write said musical style is “hip-hop.” Hip to the hop with a hyphen in the stop.

Word to your mother.

The AP Stylebook also insists that the proper way to spell “rock and roll” is “rock ’n’ roll,” with two apostrophes on either side of the n, which is really hard to type if your word processing software keeps automatically correcting the first apostrophe to a quote mark.

The AP Stylebook is also not consistent in its preferred spelling of the word “and.” (You’d think a three-letter word wouldn’t be this difficult.)

It’s rock ’n’ roll, but R&B and bed-and-breakfast.

If, however, “and” is part of a proper name, then you spell it however said entity spells it:

Sticks & Stuff. Salt-N-Pepa. Bed Bath & Beyond. Bone thugs-n-harmony. Rick & Bubba. Smith & Wesson. Sturm und Drang.

This thing — & — is called an ampersand. It is as old as the Roman empire, when scribes invented it as an easier way to write the word “et,” which is Latin for “and.”

The French still use the word “et.” In Spanish, the word for “and” is “y.” In German, it’s “und.” In Norwegian, it’s “og.”

I have to admire the ancient Romans, because I can’t write an ampersand to save my life. When I need a shorthand abbreviation for “and,” I usually make a mark that looks like an upside-down 4, which I think was originally supposed to be a plus sign. Sometimes, though, I’ll use a backwards 3 with a line through it.

Learning to read English is hard enough without throwing upside-down numbers into the mix. Also, it doesn’t help that the word “also” can also be used in place of “and.”

In grammatical terms, “and” is a part of speech known as a conjunction. Its function is to conjoin other words or phrases together.

Your English teacher might have told you that it’s against the rules to start a sentence with the word “and,” but that rule has been broken so many times it’s become meaningless.

And that’s the way it is.

On the other hand, it’s pretty much impossible to end a sentence with the word and.

Lisa Davis is Features Editor of The Anniston Star. Contact her at 256-235-3555 or ldavis@annistonstar.com.

Features Editor Lisa Davis: 256-235-3555.

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