Let's Party Like It's MCMXCIX
August 19, 2006 4:30 AM   Subscribe

Roman Numerals and Arithmetic
posted by jack_mo (19 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Always looking for good Roman numeral references to bookmark. Thanks! If someone could settle the mystery of using "IIII" instead "IV" on clock faces, however, I'd be greatly relieved.
posted by steef at 5:24 AM on August 19, 2006


steef, the clock face thing is covered near the end of the linked post

my favorite theory is The king of France liked the way that "IIII" looked better that "IV".
posted by tsarfan at 5:27 AM on August 19, 2006


Good link - I liked the discussion on clock faces (my money is on it being just because it makes it more symmetrical - four sets of numbers beginnng with I, etc).

On the continued use of Roman numerals, I used to write the date with Roman numerals for the month - hence, 19.viii.06. I think I picked this up from my history teacher when I was about 15, thinking it was rather eccentric and sophisticated. Now I just cringe when I think of it...
posted by greycap at 5:29 AM on August 19, 2006


I learned how to read Roman numerals when i was in school but I had forgotten most of it long before I actually went to Rome this summer. My dad, however, still retained much from his high school Latin class and refreshed my memory. Although he didn't remember much of the language itself beyond the basics, just understanding the numerals was very helpful for determining the age of many monuments and buildings, putting them in a more defined historical context. Instead of saying, "Whoa dude, that's old", we could say, "Whoa dude, that's 1,493 years old." Or rather MCDXCIII.
posted by chillmost at 5:50 AM on August 19, 2006


I had to laugh at #3: XVI = 15 (followed by a correct parsing of the number to state later that it equals 16)

Good refresher, nonetheless.
posted by Busithoth at 5:51 AM on August 19, 2006


That was neat.
posted by oddman at 6:08 AM on August 19, 2006


Nitpick but...
Shouldn't we be partying like it's MIM?

Yeah, I know MCMXCIX makes for a better FPP, but I remember my teacher telling us that you should use the minimum number of characters in your Roman numerals.
posted by PlusDistance at 6:53 AM on August 19, 2006


Your teacher is wrong, there is a 1/10 the value clause that MIM would violate. You cannot subtract numbers so large according to correct roman numeral usage.
posted by geoff. at 6:57 AM on August 19, 2006


In the post itself: "In general (though not always), you do not precede a symbol by anything smaller than 1/10th its value. So you wouldn't write "IC" for 99."
posted by geoff. at 6:58 AM on August 19, 2006


As a kid I became obsessed with trying to learn Roman numerals so I could decipher the movie release dates at the end of motion picture credits. Do they still even do that? I think a few TV show did it as well.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:59 AM on August 19, 2006


On the continued use of Roman numerals, I used to write the date with Roman numerals for the month - hence, 19.viii.06. I think I picked this up from my history teacher when I was about 15, thinking it was rather eccentric and sophisticated. Now I just cringe when I think of it...

greycap, I think that system is actually pretty useful. Here in Canada, for example, dates are supposed to be written day/month/year, as they are in Britain. But as with many things, creeping American influence leads many to write dates as month/day/year. So if you see a handwritten date like 3/2/2006 you're never absolutely sure what the person meant (businesses and government adhere to the Canadian standard).

The "19.viii.06" would eliminate all confusion. So no need to cringe!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 7:12 AM on August 19, 2006


Slack-a-gogo said 'As a kid I became obsessed with trying to learn Roman numerals so I could decipher the movie release dates at the end of motion picture credits. Do they still even do that? I think a few TV show did it as well.'

Wikipedia has an explanation for that practice, but it seems a little suspect to me:
The film industry has used [Roman numerals] perhaps since its inception to denote the year a film was made, so that it could be redistributed later, either locally or to a foreign country, without making it immediately clear to viewers what the actual date was. This became more useful when films were broadcast on television to partially conceal the age of films. From this came the policy of the broadcasting industry, including the BBC, to use them to denote the year in which a television program was made.
posted by jack_mo at 7:28 AM on August 19, 2006


Modern practice always seems like a grab for prestige. Why watch the movie "Halloween 3" when you could experience the motion picture "Halloween III"?

Roman numerals also connote the proper degree of pomp in certain sports events, like Super Bowl XLI, or especially the ladder of grandiosity leading from "the Olympics" to "The Olympic Games" to "Games of the XVIIIIth Olympiad."

When not in Rome, do not as the Romans... in the US, at least, we should stick with our Freedom Numerals.
posted by kurumi at 10:26 AM on August 19, 2006


Another Good Math, Bad Math post!

Subtractive notation (IV) arose later, so it's not surprising some institutions still use IIII (call them ubertraditionalists).
posted by Eideteker at 12:52 PM on August 19, 2006


As far as subtractive notation is concerned, my understanding is that it's *very* recent -- well after Roman numerals were in primary usage anywhere, and that practice was somewhat random back when they were in primary usage.
posted by baylink at 2:42 PM on August 19, 2006


I once heard that the gov't started requiring movie studios to put the year of the film's relase somewhere in the credits. Studios didn't want their films to seem dated, so they used roman numerals to disguise the date, which is why one was always seeing MCMXIVWhatever in the credits in movies released last century. The whole thing breaks down past 2000, however, since that's written simply as MM. Not even sure if the regulation still stands.
posted by telstar at 4:56 PM on August 19, 2006


This post is an example of why I love Metafiler. Thanks.
posted by snsranch at 7:02 PM on August 19, 2006


Do they still even do that? I think a few TV show did it as well.

Yep - it just got a whole lot less interesting after MM so you probably don't notice.
posted by Sparx at 2:34 PM on August 20, 2006


Is there a roman numeral 0? Yes, but it's not authentic. During the middle ages, monks using roman numerals used "N", for "nullae" to represent 0. But it wasn't the positional zero of arabic numbers; it was just a roman numeral to fill into the astronomical tables used to compute the date of Easter rather than leaving the column blank.

I wonder if theres a direct link from this to nulls in database tables?
posted by Artw at 3:58 PM on August 20, 2006


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