As easy as I, II, III

When watching an old TV show or film sometimes curiosity comes upon you to know what year the vehicle was made. Crystal clear if an easy to understand (c) 2003 flashes up on the screen. Not so simple if it’s in heathen Roman Numerals.

MMIII is crystal clear too. It gets rocky (Sly gave us I through V then he dropped the numbers with Rocky Balboa) when MCMLXXXVIII is displayed. Now you all can work out what MCMLXXXVIII is as it is prominently on display here. Trouble occurs when the Roman clock face year is shown for a split second then you’d have to be Superman (Christopher Reeve made IV of these) to decode the legion length letters (LLL is better than CL, don’t you think?). It gives me a hangover (II of these so far) when the year zips by and I’m left in the dark.

24 thoughts on “As easy as I, II, III”

  1. It was XLIII BC (How did they know?) in the ancient town of Ebagumium (It was near York – don’t even ask) and the kids were playing hideus seekiusque. They all ran off to hide as the kid who was ‘it’ put his hands over his eyes and started counting, “Eye, Eye eye, Eye eye eye, Eye vee, Vee, Vee eye….”

    Oh, is that my taxi?


  2. They’re getting a bad press just now, them Romans. I think the best solution would be to ask Italy for an apology for the sins of the fathers; or maybe the Vatican, where confessions are daily fare. Talking of which (fares I mean), imagine what a Roman taximeter looked like!

  3. Thanks for the chuckle, OZ.

    In all seriousness another thing that irks me is when the credits go rolling fast at the end. It is impossible to make out the names. I find it important to know the name of the second unit diector and the key grip.

  4. Morning TR: Speaking of football, New Orleans will host the Superbowl next year (Superbowl XLVII), that means in 2016 we will have Superbowl L. That doesn’t sound quite so grand to me.

    Multiplication in Roman times was also quite a challenge (V down and carry I).

    When Arabic scholars introduced western clerics to their system of notation they explained carefully that a number like 1,256,512 was easily expressed by counting from the smallest digit and working upwards ie 2 units, 1 ten, 5 hundreds, 6 thousands etc. all eminently logical. What the Scholars neglected to stress was that Arabic script is read from RIGHT to LEFT so in our reading system the number should logically be written 215,652,1 which would have made much more sense in the west, avoiding the requirement to jump to the end of the number and count back to get the name of the most significant digit. (This is probably a myth but it does make sense)

    Why do many old clocks dials use IIII for IV ?

  5. LW, my head is swimming.

    Logically, would not readers of right to left leaning be left-handed readers? Would left-handers find it easier to write right to left?

    Did Roman prisoners of war scribe on the walls of their cells their days in captivity in Roman Numerals or use the 1, 11, 111, 1111, 1111 system?

  6. TR: The big advantage of the latter is that the marks are used repeatedly thus saving valuable scribing time for other more rewarding pastimes (hunting cockroaches for food maybe).

    Those Romans have a lot to answer for. Even managed to royally (imperially?) screw up the calendar. Why are the months from September to December called seven (Sept.) through ten (Dec.) when they are actually numbered nine through twelve.

  7. If man had evolved with two more fingers on each hand, you would be counting in hexadecimal. 🙂

    Do not forget that the decimal system originated in India and only became really useful when someone clever came up with the concept of zero.

  8. JW – Many of the ‘kitty-paw’ persuasion write like President O’Barmey with the hand twisted downwards to pull the pen across the page. This was originally designed to avoid smudging the wet ink as one wrote. The Great She-Wolf, however, writes with her pen held in the ‘normal’ position although she does have to push the nib across the page rather than pull it, if you see what I mean.

    FEEG – When I was working in Papua New Guinea I heard the story of a remote tribe resistant to all the missionaries’ efforts to teach them to count in English. It transpired eventually that in their own language (and therefore culture and mentality) the counting went one pig (for example), two pigs, some pigs, more pigs. That was it and everybody seemed to know exactly how many were ‘some’ and ‘more’. I do not recommend this system for those with Tartan or Eh-bah-gum antecedents as it will ineveitably lead to knife fights. 🙂


  9. Low Wattage :

    FEEG: We would need eight on each hand to reliably count in hex. This system is however quite common in the more remote parts of Kentucky. :)

    Whoops. The phone rang while I was typing. That is my excuse. How silly of me. You quite right. I guess tetradecimal numbers are not quite so useful! 😦

  10. OZ: I think it is an American thing, my late wife was a leftie and wrote with her hands in the normal writing position pushing the pen as you state. I think left handed kids are trained here to write in the Obama fashion, marginally better I guess than forcing them to use their right hand. Incidentally the whole teaching of cursive writing is under some threat here, the need for same being questioned in this age of word processing.

  11. Howzit JM

    You’re going to find this hard to believe.

    I have a couple of mates (DJ’s) at our regional radio station,¹ I’d asked them prior to the Olympics to consider playing Muse’s official anthem, did they play it? Not a chance.

    So, I was with one of them this past weekend and told him that they were missing the boat, that I have it on great intelligence that they are a bunch of clowns and that they don’t understand their listenership. He put his hands in the air and claimed that he’s not responsible for the playlists, fair enough. I then explained that I’d recently heard Muse’s latest single.

    Guess what I heard driving home tonight?

    I liked it, it certainly sounds a lot better in my car at 19:40 than at home in the early morning 😉

    ¹ an area from west of Mossel Bay way up past Port St. Johns and north perhaps as far as Bloem, perhaps an area larger than the B. Isles.

  12. Sorry about the footnote but my comment was getting rather full and disjointed, I thought that you’d understand 😉

  13. OZ, is this a new meaning to the term “pen-pushers”? Never really crossed my mind that lefties push the pen. As a puller myself I have noticed that my writing has a slight slant to the left.

    The standards of cursive writing are on the wane, LW, all down to texting and the like. You know the kind of thing I’m talking about.
    IV ever,
    I II I.
    And so and so IV’th

  14. Howzit right back at you Soutie,

    I can understand how you can mix me up with the castle-dweller. It’s the old Battleships 2, sorry, Battleships II thing with the upside down coordinates. MW WM MW WM. No bother, though I am not on good terms with my cousin at the moment because he was swearing like a trooper on another post. Calling it a K doesn’t cut it.

    I’ll forgive you the footnotes as well as at last the Muse has got you. I recommend that you delve into their back catalogue. This band rocks. You know what’s coming.

    Play it loud.

  15. Hee hee TR 😉

    What an almighty mix up, my apologies 😳

    Of course if the song is requested and played often enough I’m expecting a beer or II from them, I’ll think of you as a savour it/them.

  16. LW, “Why are the months from September to December called seven (Sept.) through ten (Dec.) when they are actually numbered nine through twelve?”

    At the risk of boring the cherished historians here, before the Roman calendar underwent its Caesarian procedure there was a two month HIBERNÆ at the start of the year – a kind of date holiday when no official functions took place – and the ‘year’ started on 1st PRIMUS (now March). That’s why September is 7th, etc.

  17. Môre Janus

    I always thought it was because the two Johnny come latelys (i.e. Julius and Augustus) wanted their own months so slipped two extras in! 😕

  18. I’m not sure what the Romans did – but certainly medieval accountants did not use the notation ‘iv’ for 4 but ‘iiij’ – more often than not they used ‘viiij’ for 9.

    I’m sure you are aware Janus, (but at the risk of boring everyone else!) that until the Gregorian reformation of the Calendar at the end of the 16th C all Europe used 25th March as New Year’s Day. The change to January 1st took a long time – and in England that didn’t occur until 1754. It was, thus quite logical that they should continue to call the seventh month September, the eighth month October, etc.

    Incidentally, I also get annoyed when the credits go whizzing past me.. I’m not too interested in the Canteen’s under-dishwasher, but I do occasionally want to know who played what part!

  19. Boadicea :

    I’m not sure what the Romans did – but certainly medieval accountants did not use the notation ‘iv’ for 4 but ‘iiij’ – more often than not they used ‘viiij’ for 9.

    ‘j’ has a very different meaning in modern engineering mathematics. It is the square root of -1! 🙂

  20. FEEG- I think most medieval men would have given you a very funny look had you tried to explain the square root of -1 to them!

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