Sunday, 30 September 2012

& keeping it short

It's a simple rule really - dictators dictate - so someone has to be around to write it all down. The great orators of the 1st-century BC - particularly Cicero - were famous for speaking 150 words a minute while filibustering for hours on end - much to the chagrin of fellow senators or jurists bored to the point of committing the ultimate crime just to shut them up. And to catch every word, their personal scribes burnt out stylus after stylus trying to record the magnificent tedium so school children could read these speeches for the next twenty centuries. Cicero's personal scribe, a young Greek named Tiro is credited with inventing his own 'symbolised' style of shorthand, known as Tironian, which was to be used throughout the western world until the 1100s. Yet while his method has now fallen out of use, at least one of his word symbols remains on nearly every computer keyboard to this day - and is very likely to be right in front of you sitting on the '7' key. It's the Ampersand. That little '&' has been around since at least 63BC & was first used to record some of Cicero's greatest speeches at the very moment they were spoken. Think about that next time you hit shift.

Find out if Calvus ever scratched '&' on the court stool in front of him


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