The ampersand, an accepted symbol for the conjunction and, has long graced the English language — dating back to 63 BC, when it was first credited to Marcus Tiro. Derived from the Latin word “et”, the ampersand now serves both as an elegant addition to typography and a convenient way to whittle down wordy tweets.
But in a tech-driven society where time – and characters – count, an Australian restaurant owner is wondering why the same can’t be applied to the English language’s most used word, “the.” Paul Mathis, a Melbourne businessman who owns 10 cafes and restaurants in the Australian city has created a symbol he believes could be the future typeface of the word: an uppercase T and a lowercase h melded together in one stroke (Ћ).
In the amusing video above, Mathis persuasively argues that the new character could save time and give the popular, three-letter word the status it deserves. “Why does and have all the fun?” he asks, referring to the playful ampersand. He continues, “The has never been recognized for its impressive usage,” as the most frequently used word in the English language. (And, on the other hand, is merely the fifth most used word.)
As the impassioned restaurateur campaigns for his new character, he’s already facing criticism for plagiarism. Some have accused Matthis of trying to trademark a symbol belonging to the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet. Pronounced “tshe”, the letter represents the “ch” sound found in the word “chew”. While admitting the similarity, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, Mathis maintains he didn’t realize the comparison until much later in the project, which he has invested $75,000 in to date.
He even created an app that downloads a new keyboard to smartphones, including not only the newfangled symbol but also a row of keys containing the top 10 or 15 most frequently used words in English.
But touting the convenience and social media friendliness of the symbol hasn’t done much for Ћ. Apple rejected his app, responding that, “Apps should be engaging and exciting, enabling users to do something they couldn’t do before; or to do something in a way they couldn’t do before or better than they could do it before.” The tech giant instead invited him to add features to deliver what they referred to as a “robust user experience.” Don’t fret Apple users, Mathis tweeted a way around:
For now, the app is only available to Android users, but Mathis has lofty aspirations for his creation. “The Benedictine monks developed the modern version of the ampersand in the Middle Ages, when they were hand-copying religious texts,” he said. “I’m not putting myself in the same league, but who knows – maybe in 500 years’ time people will be amazed that there was a time when we didn’t use Ћ.”