June 7, 2012

Weekly Language Usage Tips: methods or methodology & the ampersand

Posted in ampersand, methods/methodology at 7:55 am by dlseltzer

Tip 1: Methods or methodology

How many times have you seen a paper that starts off with an introduction or background section, and then goes on to report the methodology, the findings, and the implications or discussion? How many times has someone asked to consult with you about what would be the most appropriate methodology for answering a particular question? Pretty common events, right? Well, there is a problem there, and I’ll tell you what it is.

(We talked about this before, but that was back in the fall of 2009, so it is high time we revisit the topic.)

People commonly use ‘methodology’ as a fancy hifalutin way of saying ‘methods’; they think it sounds smart and adds some gravitas to the discussion. Unfortunately, the words are not the same and should not be used as synonyms.

Methodology is the study or theoretical analysis of a set or system of techniques used in a specific discipline. Methods are the processes, procedures, or techniques used to answer a research question.

One way to think about it is this: ‘methods’ is to ‘methodology’ as ‘myth” is to ‘mythology,’ that is, ‘myth’ refers to a single story while ‘mythology’ refers to the collection of many stories or the study of those stories. Another example that might clarify the difference is this: ‘methods’ is to ‘methodology’ as ‘neonate’ is to ‘neonatology,’ that is when we talk about a ‘neonates,’ we are talking about newborn infants in their first 28 days of life, and when we talk about ‘neonatology,’ we are talking about the study of the development of infants.

So in your communications about the procedures you use to answer a research questions, we want to talk about methods. Let’s leave the discussion of methodology to the philosophers.

Tip 2: & the ampersand

A reader writes:

Ever wonder where the ampersand came from and why it looks like and means what it does?

Well, this is a question of a different ilk, but since it happily coincides with my affection for type and design, I’m happy to take a stab at answering it. A while back I wrote about a book I was reading and enjoying thoroughly, Simon Garfield’s Just My Type: A book about fonts (full citation follows). Well, Just My Type happens to have a chapter on the ampersand, and that was when I was introduced to the ampersand’s background. When I received today’s question, I immediately went to that book and reviewed the chapter called, “The Ampersand’s Final Twist,” and that is the source for much of this. My other source is another book on type a friend generously gave to me, Type & Typography: Highlights from Matrix, The review for printers and bibliophiles (full citation follows).

First, I need to tell you that the symbol existed long before its name. It is estimated that they symbol was first used in 63 BC. The symbol or ligature is a melding of the letters ‘e’ and ‘t’ to form a close ‘et,’ the Latin word for ‘and.’ The letter combination is not all that clear in many fonts, but it is in Garamond Italic:


[NOTE: If this doesn’t show up so in your email, change the ampersand to Garamond 24 to see the ‘et.’]

So how did it get the name ampersand? Well, long ago, the ligature, &, was considered the 27th and last letter of the alphabet, so when children recited the alphabet, they ended with “x, y, z, & (pronounced and).” Ending the recitation with ‘and’ was confusing, so to clarify it, teachers added this to introduce the &, ‘and, by itself, &.’  But instead of ‘by itself,’ they used the Latin term, ‘ per se.’

Are you still with me? So they would end the recitations with ‘and per se &’ pronounced ‘and per se and,’ which the school children slurred together and by the beginning of the 19th century, was pronounced ampersand. Thus the word was born.

I found a site (no longer active but still available) that displays 365 ampersands. It’s nice in that it allows the reader to clearly see the variety of ampersands available:  http://ampersandampersand.tumblr.com/archive

Check it out.

Garfield, Simon. Just My Type: A Book About Fonts. New York, N.Y, 2011.

Type & Typography: Highlights from Matrix, The review for printers and bibliophiles. Mark Batty Publisher, LLC. West New York, N.J, 2003.


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