Talk:Roman numerals

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Latest very elaborale and thoughtful edit of the "introduction" to the basic decimal nature of RNs[edit]

My own thoughts on this one (I know I said I was going to do let you have the first shake, but I'm relenting). These are not, perhaps, in the best order - I'm just hammering them out one by one, as I think of them.

  • 1. "Decimal" counting means counting to ten (NOT nine). In a "place" system we "shift place" after nine and return to the first numeral followed by its place marker, but with Roman Numerals ten is naturally the "last unit" as well as the "first ten" (they're the same thing!). Otherwise we couldn't do the "subtractive 9" as "IX", for instance. This is perfectly consistent in a "non-place" system, no matter how untidy it might look in a place system. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 11:45, 18 April 2019 (UTC)
Sorry, I defintely disagree. The Roman numerals were clearly "decimal" in the same sense as the Arabic and Chinese ones: that is, for each power of ten there are only NINE symbols, that do NOT include a symbol for the next power of ten. In a decimal system one counts by one only up to NINE, then one shifts to a count of tens plus a separate count of units.
That was very clear in the original system, that used only I and V for units, X and L for tens, etc.. There was no question that "X" was "one tenful", not "ten units".
To read (or operate) with a Roman numeral, the very first step is to break it into its four parts - thousands, hundreds, tens, and units. (Once one understands that, doing arithmetic with Roman numerals is not much harder than with Arabic ones.) But the "X" in "XVI", "CCX", or "LXX" is part of the tens group, not of the units group; and so is "X" alone.
A reader who does not know Roman numerals will be very confused if you tell him that the units part can be "I, II, III, ... , VIII, IX, or X". The units part can be only I to IX in the modern system, or I to VIIII in the original one. Note that, with this definition, there is no ambiguity in the parsing -- as there would be if one included "X" as a possible value for the units part. --Jorge Stolfi (talk) 23:55, 18 April 2019 (UTC)
In a non-place numeric system like RNs there we extrapolate at our peril to "place" systems. "One tenful" and "ten ones" are not mutually exclusive, but two ways of looking at the same number - which the old Romans undoubtedly do here. Otherwise the subtractive 9 (IX), which is very clearly a "units" numeral, would never have occurred to them. Of course the Romans "broke their numerals down" to places (hundreds, units, and tens) - that is the main idea our introduction actually introduces. Bur even doing this, "Roman arithmetic" remains very fiddly indeed! Just try long division! For serious calculations they use an abacus incidentally. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 07:43, 19 April 2019 (UTC)
Long division is hard even in Arabic numerals. In Roman numerals, once you realize that they are just base 10 with the digits 0-9 written in silly ways, it is only a bit harder. You must do exacly the same steps and reasoning.
The hardest part is finding each digit of the divisor; namely, dividing A by B given that A is at most 9 times B. That is hard in Arabic too. That requires guessing a digit d, multiplying it by B and adjusting the guess if the product is greater than A, or if A-d*B is B or more.
To do that one must know the multiplication table of the digits by heart. In Arabic there is only one such table. In Roman there are 10 tables (units x units, units x tens, ...), but they only differ by the letters -- so you need to learn only the units x units. If you know that IX times VI is XXXVI, you also know that IX times LX is CCCLX, and that XC times LX is MMMDC.
On the other hand, Roman numerals have one huge advantage over Arabic: there are no numbers beyond 3999 😀.
A point is being missed here that modern "decimal" counting uses ten (not nine) different digits, as it includes a zero, and so allows representation of numbers of arbitrary magnitude simply by place shifting rather than needing distinct figures for each ten-step. In this case, nine is effectively the tenth number (as we start from zero - fencepost error much?), and ten itself is represented with a zero... in the units column, and a one in the tens column, being the equivalent (at least, when clearly followed by a zero) of an X. Similarly five + zero is equivalent of an L, one + zero + zero is C, etc (through to 10,000,000 being equivalent of an overlined |M|... after which RNs either run out of levels, or have to start adding multiple over- and side-lines to signify higher magnitudes). The changing letter was the Roman substitute for adding zeroes; without doing that, you can still only count up to nine (or if you cut short - ninety, or nine hundred... or maybe just four, 44/49, or 444/449). Both are essentially decimal because the magnitude shift kicks in at ten, but one lacks zeroes so has to make do with a different way of signifying that shift. (or... would RNs be better described as duopental, seeing as it's actually broken into paired blocks of five?) (talk) 18:00, 22 August 2019 (UTC)
See the section 'A "base 10" system' below. In my experience "bi-quinary" is the more common term. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 20:44, 22 August 2019 (UTC)
  • 2. It is NOT a good idea to make too much of "non-subtractive" notation (e.g. IIII, VIIII etc.). In fact perehps we already do, it these needs to be cut down. Interest in it is really only historical, and it has little or no direct relevance to RNs "as we use them nowadays" (what we need to convey to our reader before we go on to other aspects). The little bow to the way the underlying tally is built up right at the beginning is best isolated (in fact it might even be best to remove it altogether? - unfortunately this leaves a gap) rather than hammered again and again right through multiple paragraphs. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 11:45, 18 April 2019 (UTC)
I agree that everyone should know the modern system, not just the original one. However, I think that starting with the original one makes the idea much easier to understand. It makes it easy to see the most important concept: that a roman numeral consists of four parts, for the four powers of ten, and each part is encoded in a similar way but with a different pair of symbols.
Once that idea is explained, the subtractive notation is easily understood as being simply a hack that lets one write only two letters instead of four for "4", and instead of five for "9". Then the use of "X" in the units part is not confusing: "IX" is still one of the units digits (but "X" without a preceding "I" is not).
It is like the "don't" in English: while that word is essential, the best way to master its meaning and use is to learn the grammar of "do not", and then learn that "don't" is just a shorthand for it. It would be very confusing to try to teach students the use of "don't" from the start, as if it were a verb. ("Why can't I say 'He is not don'ting that'?"). --Jorge Stolfi (talk) 23:55, 18 April 2019 (UTC)
The old Romans themselves already used subtractive numbers from an early date - at least they used them (except, for some reason, for "IV") for the numbers of the gates on the Colosseum - these inscriptions were for daily use by ordinary Romans, so they must have already been pretty standard by then. In any case it is simply incorrect to imagine that they are "post-classical". In this context, the idea of a "pre-subtractive" convention as the "original", while plausible, is essentially hypothetical - and does not (or doesn't) warrant a full exposition. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 07:43, 19 April 2019 (UTC)
The Colosseum was built between 72 and 80 AD, so it is not quite "early date". It was the apogee of the Roman Empire, more than 900 years after the Romans began to use those numerals (to say nothing of the Etruscans before them). Things can change a lot in 900 years...
So, the implicit assumption that the subtractive notation was "original" or "used since the earliest times", besides being logically problematic, is speculation too. We sorely need some reliable source WITH PHOTOS of dated inscriptions from the early period.
(Speaking of which, it would be nice to have a gallery or montage with photos of all 32 extant Colosseum gate numbers. A pity that I did not think of that when I was in Rome a few years ago...)
But, fortunately, since the point of that section is to teach readers how to read Roman numerals, it does not matter when the subtractive notation came into use. And it does not matter whether the Romans thought of "X" as "ten units" or "one tenful". For the modern reader, the latter is definitely the right way to read it. It makes the parsing of Roman numerals much easier and unambiguous, and makes the rules for the four groups exactly the same, except with different symbols.
That is, just as there are nine possible values for the units group, starting with "I" and ending with "IX" or "VIIII", there are nine possible values for the tens group, starting with "X" ("one tenful") and ending with "XC" or "LXXXX" ("nine tenfuls"). With your proposed reading, there would be ten values for the units group, from "I" to "X", but only nine for the tens group, from "XX" ("two tenfuls") to "C" ("ten tenfuls"); since "XIII" would be "10 units plus 3 units", not "1 tenful plus 3 units".
Said another way, the simplest algorithm for reading a Roman numeral (subtractive, non-subtractive, or mixed) is
1. Break the numeral into four successive sections, from left to right: thousands (any "M" letters in front), hundreds (the part consisting of "C" and "D" letters), tens ("X" and "L" letters) and units ("I" and "V" letters); except that any "CM" belongs to the hundreds section, any "XC" belongs to the tens, and any "IX" goes with the units. Some sections may be missing.
2. Translate the units section into a decimal digit from 1 to 9, according to the table "I" = 1, "II" = 2, "III" = 3, "IV" or "IIII" = 4, "V" = 5, "VI" = 6, "VII" = 7, "IIX" or "VIII" = 8, and "VIIII" or "IX" = 9. If that section is missing, write a digit "0" instead.
3. Translate each of the other section into a digit. The same table holds for the tens group, with "X,L,C" instead of "I,V,X"; for the hundreds, with "C,D,M" instead of "I,V,X", and for the thousands, with "M" instead of "I". (The Roman numerals are no longer used for values above 4999, so there cannot be any symbols in the thousands section that would correspond to the "V" and "X" in the units section. Thus that table is only "M" = 1, "MM" = 2, "MMM" = 3, and "MMMM" = 4.)
4. Read the four digits, in the same order as the sections, as a decimal number, in the usual (Arabic) notation
5. Any string of letters that cannot be unambiguously parsed and translated by the above rules is an invalid Roman numeral.
This algorithm seems to be the simplest to learn and execute, both on a computer or in one's head. The table in step 2 could be replaced by an algorithm, like
2a. Translate the units section into a number. Count each "I" as "1", "V" as "5", and "X" as "10"; except that "I" before "V" or "X" counts as "-1", and "II" before "X" counts as -2. Add all these numbers and write the result, which should be a single digit between 1 and 9. If the units section is missing, write a digit "0".
While this variant makes the logic of the system more evident, after a bit of practice people will surely use the table version mentally. (That is how people read written words, especially in English: not letter by letter, but all at once -- as a single "ideogram", or a group of a few ideograms.)
Also, unlike the table version, this variant would also accept "IIIIII", "IIIV", and "IVII" for 6, "IVV", "IIXI" and "VIV" for 9, "IVIIII" and "IVIV" for 8, etc.
All the best, --Jorge Stolfi (talk) 02:34, 20 April 2019 (UTC)
  • 3. What we don't want is to picture a complete, but largely hypothetical "additive system" - remembering that (probably) "D" and (certainly) "M" were never part of the "Classical" system at all. Historical concerns need to be kept very much in the background at this stage, of course, we are, as I said concerned first with the system as we use it, BUT we DO need at all costs to avoid incorrect historical information. Your repeated "might be" shows you actually understand this yourself - but we shouldn't talk to our readers in code. "MMMM" - to take the most glaring example - is NOT in any way shape or form "additive" notation for 4,000, and never has been. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 11:45, 18 April 2019 (UTC)
I agree that one must not invent history, not even for pedagogical reasons. So maybe the description of the non-additive system should be limited at "CCCCLXXXXVIIII" or whatever is the largest historically attested value. It would have the benefit of getting to the subtractive system sooner.
On the other hand, since the point of that section would be to teach the how RNs work, not to tell their history, I think that it would be OK to use examples up to "MMMMDCCCCLXXXXVIIII" if SOMEONE has used such numerals at some time for real counting (even in modern times). (As for the history, see the separate thread below.) --Jorge Stolfi (talk) 23:55, 18 April 2019 (UTC)
I think we have already covered this? As often happens, I think we are disagreeing less that we seemed to at first. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 07:43, 19 April 2019 (UTC)

That will have to do for now, as I am very tired and "they" are telling be to go to bed - (I am at the stage of life when I no longer able stay up entirely at my own volition). --Soundofmusicals (talk) 11:45, 18 April 2019 (UTC)

  • I restored a few of my edits, and expanded the head section a bit. Please see if those changes are acceptable to you. All the best, --Jorge Stolfi (talk) 04:24, 21 April 2019 (UTC)

Characters not showing[edit]

Firefox, Internet Explorer and Chrome do not show the characters for 50 and 500 at the end of the sentence "The use of separate symbols for 5, 50, 500 etc. is a feature of the old Greek numbers system..." in the section "Origin of the system". George Rodney Maruri Game (talk) 07:48, 5 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Browsers depend on fonts installed on your machine to render character codes. Not all fonts have all Unicode characters. Those characters that you mention are in the Ancient_Greek_Numbers_(Unicode_block). Their high code values (starting at 10140 hexadecimal) imply that they were added somewhat recently. Unfortunatey we don't have any easy way to display those characters in the text without resorting to Unicode. You will have to find and download fonts that cover those codes.
    All the best, --Jorge Stolfi (talk) 11:32, 5 May 2019 (UTC)
This seems like an obstinate refusal to provide an alternate, more compatible way of displaying the characters - for example, a simple graphical table or suchlike. The fact that, after trying both Chrome under Windows, and the default Webkit browser on my phone, I have not seen anything rendered for the "missing" / high codenumber characters than a blank box (or a box with a cross in it) suggests that these characters simply will not show up for the greater majority of WP readers, as these are by far the world's most popular OSes and browsers... hardly anything unusual or outdated. If it was a common thing for up-to-date browsers to come with a font showing these characters, I'd be seeing them right now. Thus, the page has been designed for use with exceptional browsers (or by exceptional readers), which is surely a mistake.
Relying on the majority of everyday users to go to the time and trouble of seeking out and installing custom fonts - which, ignoring the fact that it's a technical tasks that will be beyond a lot of them (and possibly completely blocked for others, especially in schools), is quite a heavy download and additional strain on system resources (in order to work properly, it would have to replace the browser's default font, and be used for all pages), and one I doubt I could make work on my rather memory and CPU bound handset - just so a couple of paragraphs on a single wiki page will render correctly, and so the authors of the page don't have to put themselves to the trouble of creating and inserting a graphic, is to my eye somewhere between madness and just plain rude.
The characters show up just fine - as readymade graphics - on when I select them and do a websearch for each, so it wouldn't be particularly burdensome to whizz up a table of them. Might even do it myself if I have time later on, but I don't have an account so I'm not entirely sure how I'd then insert it. Alternatively it could probably be built from just arranging the UT files in a grid, or maybe even inlining them into the text (with a considerable downsize in their image tag), or even just providing a suitable link to each character's page on UT behind the relevant errorbox. (talk) 17:22, 22 August 2019 (UTC)
Edit: Article is semi-protected, so I can't commit any of those suggested fixes regardless. Going to have to rely on the sense and diligence of registered editors in this case.
If it's any use, here's links for the first two blocks [1] and [2]; and direct to the images... oh... huh. The page must have a special font embedded into it (which is actually a thing these days; in this case, "u10000.woff", which presumably only encodes a certain subset of the larger table, and so provides the specific capability quite efficiently), because the large versions that display properly are actually characters not images (whilst the small ones, which aren't HTML coded to use the special font, are still rendered only as empty boxes). Can we not attempt that on WP somehow? Surely there must be some provision for that kind of capability in the wiki software... and if not, it's something that it's well worth petitioning for the addition of? (talk) 17:35, 22 August 2019 (UTC)
The Number Forms article is already using small images for these, you can copy them from there.Spitzak (talk) 01:03, 23 August 2019 (UTC)

Etruscan numerals problem[edit]

The Etruscan numerals do not shows properly in my device, do yours?

—Your's sincerely, Soumyabrata 17:17, 17 May 2019 (UTC)

This is a "font" or typeface problem, alas. Although an effort has been made to substitute characters in this article to get as many of them as possible displaying (at least after a fashion) there are a few exceptions. Changing to another default typeface may help - my grat-nephew's computer actually displays more characters (in this article and elsewhere) correctly than mine (they both run Windows 10 on comparable and allegedly compatible machines! Complain to Microsoft (or Apple, if your problem is on a mac). --Soundofmusicals (talk) 13:11, 18 May 2019 (UTC)
Or, yknow... provide them as simple graphics, which will show without issue on any system from the last twenty years (thirty, if they're GIF instead of PNG / SVG), and without need for extra fonts which J. Randomuser may not have the facility to install. You may as well provide images in .PSD format and make the retort that they're perfectly viewable so long as the viewer installs Photoshop or some other advanced image editor. Pages on WP should be built for the LCD. Which in this case doesn't even mean someone browsing with IE6 on their 15 year old eMachines desktop - still-common Win7 and Android Kitkat with reasonably up-to-date versions of Chrome and Webkit are failing to display the characters. At this point in time, proper rendering of those characters is probably no more likely than that of the "aerial tramway" emoji, and as such should be backed up with graphics, rather than expecting exceptional behaviour from a large proportion of the readerbase. (talk) 17:26, 22 August 2019 (UTC)

DCD for CM = VIV for IX[edit]

Someone thought that pointing this out was "vandalism". Writing 900 as 500+400 is indeed the same as writing 9 as 5+4. A clear example of the different powers of ten following the same pattern. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 23:49, 7 June 2019 (UTC)

Do you get any evidence of this?
—Your's sincerely, Soumyabrata 04:32, 10 June 2019 (UTC)
Read the article - especially the section headed "A base 10 system".
To summarise the (very basic) logic here:
I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X = 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
The equivalent pattern for the tens is the same
X, XX, XXX, XL, L, LX, LXX, LXXX, XC, C = 10,20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100
Also the hundreds:
C, CC, CCC, CD, D, DC, DCC, DCCC, CM, M = 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900, ::1000
So in conventional RNs CM=900 (just as IX=9)
If "DCD" was how we wrote 900, then on that pattern 9 would be VIV.
The article is if anything even clearer --Soundofmusicals (talk) 06:54, 10 June 2019 (UTC)
Deep web is not a publisher of original thought
—Your's sincerely, Soumyabrata 07:37, 14 June 2019 (UTC)

Very true indeed - by all means call us out on anything "original" in the above (hint; there istn't anything of the kind there). --Soundofmusicals (talk) 10:20, 14 June 2019 (UTC)

Not going to "battle on alone" any further on this one - if no one else is interested in defending it I will quietly "bin" it. A shame in a way, but we've all got more important information to defend. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 23:47, 16 June 2019 (UTC)
Incidentally "your's" isn't English - we don't appostrophise words that are already possesives (viz. his, hers, ours, theirs etc.). AND it's easier, as well as more standard, to sign with four "tildes" (these things "~").
What do you mean!?
—Your's sincerely, Soumyabrata (talk) 14:33, 24 June 2019 (UTC)

Problem with Greek source[edit]

Concering Greek numerals, it says,

"Η" for 100, etc. (the Greek word for 100 was however ἑκατόν, starting with E)

It's true that ἑκατόν starts with epsilon, but in Archaic and Classical Greece eta (Η) often stood for the aspiration (which is why it means that for us), so ἑκατόν would have been written ΗΕΚΑΤΟΝ. Hence Η being 100. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Adnphph (talkcontribs) 19:37, 16 June 2019 (UTC)

Is there a consensus on this? All Greek to me, but the original text before the edit based on this one probably needs reinstating? --Soundofmusicals (talk) 09:46, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
OK, someone's done it! Thanks are due, I suppose, but in general changes like this should be run here first (see next). --Soundofmusicals (talk) 19:51, 27 June 2019 (UTC)

Coin illustrations[edit]

While the addition of an illustration of Louis XIV's coinage is impressive - on reflection it is overdoing it a bit - and I have reverted to the original illustration as a bit less overpowering, while making the point equally well. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 03:39, 30 June 2019 (UTC)

"IV vs IIII" revisited (copied from my talk page)[edit]

I take your point that we should not "ape" references and rather use our own words, however nor should we alter or inflate the meaning of them (seeWP:STICKTOSOURCE). "Most" has a very different meaning to "many" as I'm sure you will agree. As such, I'll come an alternative way of expressing more accurately the meaning of the reference. Cheers Jschnur (talk) 02:55, 12 August 2019 (UTC)

By all means (I take YOUR point too, of course) - or, and this may be an even better idea, find an alternative reference that is closer to our text! In the aftermath of making my latest edit I had fun looking at some of these (just try Googling "Roman numeral clock IIII" ) - interestingly, MANY (if not MOST) of these use a phrase that includes MOST rather than MANY.
But let's get this into proportion - the best and most important reason for having citations at all is to increase the accuracy of this encyclopedia by cutting down on "original research" (in the sense of editors' pet notions). But the "notion" that not just MOST, but practically ALL Roman numeral clocks use "IIII" rather than "IV" is hardly one crying out for specific verification - "public" exceptions like Big Ben are actually very rare indeed - most exceptions are in the "private" or "deliberately non-traditional" category! --Soundofmusicals (talk) 03:26, 12 August 2019 (UTC)
I took your suggestion of Googling "Roman numeral clock IIII" and sure enough, I found myself falling into a rabbit hole full of twists and turns involving at least four different theories (more like speculations really) on why most clocks seem to use IIII. I now think you were right to revert my edit, I just wish we had a citation that used that word rather than many (and that my kitchen clock didn't use a "IV"). Jschnur (talk) 07:16, 12 August 2019 (UTC)
I think the current citation is the best of a bad lot. Remember this is the "lede" - we treat the question more comprehensively in the body of the article, where we can better sort out what "citations" to refer to. A citation that is at best a blog deserves less reverence than (say) a prestigious print encyclopedia. [edit: in fact I've substituted a "reputable newspaper one]
Another point is that the difference between "many" and "most" (in this context, at least) is as points on a continuum running between "few", "some", "many", "most" and "practically all". None of these are "different" in a precise (or, in this case, measurable) sense.
Before the current trend surfaced for wrist watches, kitchen clocks and such (what I referred to as "private" timepieces in my last post) to use Roman Numerals, virtually all RN clock faces appeared on public clocks and used the traditional form (each numeral oriented radially rather than vertically, as well as using IIII instead of IV). To be fair, most still do. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 13:39, 12 August 2019 (UTC)
We now cut the Gordian knot by not using either word. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 07:11, 28 August 2019 (UTC)
Much better :-) Jschnur (talk) 21:22, 28 August 2019 (UTC)

General "Variant forms" heading[edit]

This was lost in a flurry of edits - I have put it back (without altering any of the other changes, useful or inconsequential, made at the same time). The main value of this can be seen in the contents list - it is now much more clearly evident, especially to one of the 4,000 or so people who actually consult it on a daily basis - where the part of the article dealing with "non-standard" RNs actually starts. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 09:22, 23 August 2019 (UTC)

Thanks for all your work looking after this article. I have been watching since 2010 but haven't done much apart from create {{rn}}. However, I support your edits such as the one mentioned. Johnuniq (talk) 10:29, 23 August 2019 (UTC)
Can't say how much I appreciate ANY support for the otherwise more or less thankless headbanging I have gone through over this one - but especially is it welcome from an editor so eminent (any apparent crawling and sarcasm not intended - well not very much anyway). Best wishes. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 12:20, 23 August 2019 (UTC)

Subtractive notation reason[edit]

Apparently nobody is allowed to state the blatantly obvious reason for subtractive notation (that it is shorter) because that is "speculation". However for some reason the ridiculous idea that it is based on the Latin or Etruscan (!) pronounciation of numbers is allowed??? That explanation is stupid because subtractive notation is used for plenty of numbers (like 4 and 9) that are not pronounced that way. If "shorter" is disallowed "speculation" than certainly this pronounciation explanation is as well.Spitzak (talk) 15:58, 23 August 2019 (UTC)

The actual edit you made in the text was "well picked" (hence my thanks). The "shorter" bit is SO bloody obvious (excuse Australian) that it doesn't seem to NEED a "reliable source" type citation. This kind of thing (which of course abounds thoughout Deep web) used to drive me crazy, too, so I deeply empathise. On the other hand the Etruscan bit IS (apparently) cited, and therefore not to be removed except in extremis - at first blush Wiki rules on this kind of thing may seem pedantic and illogical but try to imagine the alternative, with completely open slather for everyone's pet notions! In some ways each article having a single editor, as in a conventional encyclopedia, would definitely be advantageous - but for all its frustrations the way things are oranised here DOES have advantages too. In any case I long ago gave up "campaigning". --Soundofmusicals (talk) 21:55, 24 August 2019 (UTC)
Although we did manage to keep the "shorter" (and even the "more distinctive") explanations in a footnote. Also see the next topic - which is about the Etruscans in another context. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 07:08, 28 August 2019 (UTC)

Etruscan numerals[edit]

There is a strong case, IMHO, for including a brief mention of the Etruscans in this context - but the information about other numeral systems - less directly related to the topic of this article as they are - was not only stubbornly uncited, but also not really necessary. If anyone really misses anything I have excised, and feels contrained to restore any of it - please cite everything to a reliable source, and ensure that it has a direct connection to the subject of the article (which was, last time I looked, ROMAN numerals). --Soundofmusicals (talk) 07:03, 28 August 2019 (UTC)

"Three score" and "four score". (and "Nineteen")[edit]

"Score" for twenty - and "three score" for sixty, "four score" for eighty etc. are all still current (if rather literary/archaic) English. "Three-twenty" is not English at all. In fact probable confusion with "three and twenty" is another reason to avoid word-coinage in this context. Similarly - we just don't say "ten-nine" in English - the word is "nineteen". Nothing "colloquial" about this - there isn't a colloquial English equivalent for "nineteen", or a more formal equivalent either for that matter. "Dix-neuf" on the other hand is the precise equivalent (i.e. the most "literal" translation possible!) of this in French. Might one (very humbly) suggest that whatever the function of an on-line encyclopedia might be, coining new words is not one of them? --Soundofmusicals (talk) 01:45, 6 September 2019 (UTC)

"Score" is indeed standard English and is an ideal translation as in "quatre-vingt" (four score). Furthermore, it illustrates that the pattern was/is common in English. The real issue is with the translations from French where the French is being used to show a pattern. If you were saying that 19 is dix-neuf in French and nineteen in English then that would also be uncontentious. However the two phrases in question are explicitly using the French pattern of language to illustrate a point, then providing an English translation of the French, not the English version of the number. "IIIIXXXIX for 99, reflecting the French reading of that number as quatre-vingt-dix-neuf (four-score-ten-nine)" takes the number, provides an unambiguous modern version (99) and then compares the French form "quatre-vingt-dix-neuf". The parenthesised "(four-score-ten-nine)" is clearly an interpretation of the French for those who may not be familiar with it. To labour the point a little; you could recast it as "IIIIXXXIX for 99, reflecting the French reading of that number as quatre-vingt-dix-neuf or in English four score and nineteen" but why? One can assume that the reader has that already from "99". Finally as regards "coining new words", the last time "nine" and "ten" were neologisms Alfred was still burning his cakes. Let's simply go back to the format at the start of this month, the status quo ante. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 08:03, 6 September 2019 (UTC)
This remains the English version of Deep web, and we cannot assume that "quatre-vingt-dix-neuf" will be anything but gibberish to readers with no French. On the other hand readers who CAN at least count in French will be very well aware that "dix-neuf" is French for nineteen, from "dix" (ten) and neuf (nine). Translating "dix-neuf" as "ten-nine" imparts no new information to a French speaker (or at least a "French counter") - in fact it may be mildly confusing. To someone with as much French as I have Tibetan, on the other hand, it offers nothing but total confusion. "Ten-nine" has the added drawback, as I tried to point out in my last post, of not being English. Nineteen is not just the BEST English language equivalent of "dix-neuf" (not to mention the best English name for the number represented by the numeral "XIX") it is the ONLY equivalent, unless we are determined to coin a new word ("ten-nine") for the number between eighteen and twenty. The improvement represented by the current text over the status quo ante may not be of major importance, but it is definitely worth hanging onto - don't you think? --Soundofmusicals (talk) 00:39, 7 September 2019 (UTC)
Having some fun with the idea of forcing numerals (Roman or Arabic) into a shape determined by linguistic rather than mathematical patterns! In a language I happen to be fluent in due to a period of foreign residence in my (very distant) youth "ninety nine" comes out as "taurahani-ta ahui taurahani-ta" or "twice-four and one tens twice-four and one". Just imagine THAT lot in Medieval Roman numerals - perhaps "IIIVIXIIIVI"? --Soundofmusicals (talk) 01:21, 7 September 2019 (UTC)
I understood the "four-score-ten-nine" or "four-twenty-ten-nine" not as a translation of the whole, but rather showing what each part of the French term meant individually. It shows that the French term is built up from smaller numbers. Perhaps something more like "the French word for 99 (quatre-vingt-dix-neuf) is constructed from the French words for 4, 20, 10, and 9" would better convey the meaning. --Khajidha (talk) 23:56, 19 September 2019 (UTC)
"Showing what each part of the French term meant individually" is not really relevant to an English language encyclopedia article on Roman numerals. A person with at least enough French to count to twenty will probably get the point without us labouring it - but a person with no French will probably not get the point at all. Much better to stick to English - which we can assume is reasonably familiar to all our readers, than insert something specifically for the French speakers, which many users will find confusing. Sorry to be a bit repetitive, but ... --Soundofmusicals (talk) 09:33, 21 September 2019 (UTC)

"Original research"[edit]

A very innocent little paragraph (which shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) is STILL being battered with requests for citation. Even if it should be decided (by whom?) that a statement that boils down to a gentle reminder that ancient (medieval, renaissance etc. etc.) scribes and stone masons were every bit as human (i.e. prone to error) as Deep web editors, and may even have made mistakes at times! is so very contentious and unlikely that it could come under the heading of "research" (original or otherwise) then why not simply find a [naughty Australianism suppressed to protect the innocent] reference themselves? In fact this bit is so VERY "the sky is blue" obvious that one wonders if the kindest thing is simply to delete it. Personally, I (my "first-person" self, to ditch for the moment all pretence of academic objectivity) think that this would be rather a shame. A hypothetical user, faced with the problem of what a particular "Roman numeral" actually means - may very well actually need this final fall-back - "hey - it may just be a mistake! - people have always made them!". A constructive attempt to word this better, or even supply a sensible citation, or, indeed, anything that actually improves the usefulness of this rather frequently consulted article - would certainly attract no argument from me (myself and I). --Soundofmusicals (talk) 01:45, 6 September 2019 (UTC)

@Soumyabrata. Since you STILL don't think it's worth your bother adding edit summaries I really thought you'd fiddled things much more than you had, so my latest "re-edit" gets things back to pretty much how you left them - apart from the "cn" template. I had already started a new discussion on this one, so you really were out of order restoring this - at least without adding to the existing thread with an account of WHY this looks like OR to you. I'd appreciate your reading my comments and pointing out why you can't accept this without a citation. Perhaps we need a few comments from other editors. In any case it's not the kind of thing you CAN cite - all we are saying, as I mentioned above all we are saying is that some alleged "Roman numerals" are simply wrong - people do make mistakes and always have - in ancient and medieval times because so few people were literate, and (especially) nowadays, when most people are not that fluent with Roman numerals anyway, and are liable get the wrong end of the stick. We need to either decide that this paragraph needs to go altogether - or leave it in without the "cn". -Soundofmusicals (talk) 19:54, 8 September 2019 (UTC)

Copyright law[edit]

This came up while I was looking for a reference that it is actually possible to simply "misspell" a Roman numeral! This (IMHO) DOES actually add something useful to the article, which is more than can be said of most recent nitpicky edits!!! -Soundofmusicals (talk) 04:25, 6 September 2019 (UTC)

Statue of Liberty tablet date[edit]

I think that this National Park Service brochure would be a more reliable source. › stli › upload › STLI-Statue-Stats_Rev --Khajidha (talk) 15:48, 19 September 2019 (UTC)

By all means - would you like to add the reference yourself, since you found it? - shame we can't use one of those excellent graphics, but I expect they are all copyright. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 23:13, 19 September 2019 (UTC)
Nah, you go ahead. Citation templates give me headaches. --Khajidha (talk) 23:46, 19 September 2019 (UTC)
I think a clear photo of the tablet and its inscription would be helpful. Such a photo is on Commons, which comes from a Historic American Engineering Record of the statue made during its renovation in 1984–86. A link to it without adding the picture is: Inscription on tablet. — Joe Kress (talk) 00:31, 20 September 2019 (UTC)
US government publications are usually public domain. Does that not apply to their images? --Khajidha (talk) 00:41, 20 September 2019 (UTC)
You are correct. The cited image, Inscription on tablet, would not be on Commons unless it was in the public domain. It can be added to the article at will. It is a government project to photograph the details of all National Park Service structures via HABS (Historic American Buildings Survey) or HAER (Historic American Engineering Record). I have used the many corresponding photos of details of the Washington Monument in its article. They are stored by the Library of Congress on its website. Many/most have already been copied to Commons simply because they are in the public domain, even without any anticipated use in a Deep web article. — Joe Kress (talk) 19:26, 20 September 2019 (UTC)
This is NOT, I feel, a place where a citation is really required anyway. 1776 as the year of American Independence surely does NOT require verification (!?!) Trying to fit an illustration here, in the middle a list of examples, would be very fiddly indeed, the picture would have to be presented in a very small format and would lose a good deal of its clarity. All in all - if someone to whom this is really vital wants to make the changes, and can do so neatly, then go for your life. As far as I am concerned it is not worth the bother. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 10:21, 21 September 2019 (UTC)
I only specified a link to the photo, not the photo itself, because I thought the photo would be too obtrusive. The link can be unobtrusive in a ref. — Joe Kress (talk) 04:25, 22 September 2019 (UTC)


The use of "Roman numeral letters" in non-numeric senses has caused various kinds and degrees of confusion (not to mention wailing and gnashing of teeth) in the real world (for just one example see No. 29 Squadron RAF#Squadron markings and the "misspelled Roman numeral" tradition) - links to common numerals like XXX and XL, which may very well NOT be the numerals for 30 and 40 (depending on context) are at least as valuable as many other factoids in this section - since both the numerals themselves and the "non-numeric equivalents" are still in common use and not just enshrined on a single obscure inscription! Suggest we keep this, anyway. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 23:07, 19 September 2019 (UTC)

Not only keep it, in fact, but retain its context! This is not really about the way Roman numerals are still used - but what strange and unfamiliar "Roman numerals" a user may encounter. Well worth pointing out that "apparent" combinations of "Roman numeral letters" may bear other, non-numeric interpretations. Having said that, the new text under this heading may be a little clearer. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 09:39, 21 September 2019 (UTC)

A "base 10" system[edit]

The numerals are not really a base ten system, they are more correctly described as bi-quinary system. I'm keeping half an eye open for a citable reference and if I find one I'll update the page. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 15:06, 18 June 2019 (UTC)

In a sense all decimal counting can be called bi-quinary as the very idea of counting in tens is based on the fingers of two human hands of course - but the use of "V", "L" and "D" (sometimes described as "quinary numerals") as non-repeating tally marks clearly marks them as an intervening abbreviation device between the primary symbols "I", "X", "C" (and "M", although M is a special case, as it lacks a quinary symbol of its own). It would be helpful if you ran anything counter to this past the other editors of the page first, at least, rather than rushing in where angels fear to tread. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 09:43, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
Decimal counting with our familiar digits is in no sense bi-quinary. There are ten digits (including zero) and the first change to the pattern occurs at ten. The hands issue is a sideline; children and the innumerate will often use all ten fingers and thumbs as a simple 1-10 tally with no splitting for left and right. Stephenson's work here is highly relevant where he shows the use of spaces on the abacus, plus of course the hand abacus (illustrated) is clearly bi-quinary. Indeed if (and I have neither citation nor proof at the moment) the Romans used the bi-quinary finger counting method then you can tally up to 100 - a fair sized flock of sheep. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 10:03, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
Of course "Arabic" numerals are not in any sense bi-quinary, especially in the sense of being base 5 rather than base 10. The point is that neither are Roman ones! The "quinary Roman numerals" are all non-repeating ("VV", "LL" and "DD" do not ocurr) - plus the repeated pattern which can be seen in the numerals for the powers of ten, and the way each power is written separately clearly show this. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 10:21, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
The numerals V L D are not the quinary part, they are the bi part, as in binary. And just as in binary the digits are absent (binary 0) or present (binary 1). The quinary part is <absent> I II III IIII. Compare a true quinary system: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 20 ... 44, 100. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 10:50, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
Regardless, it cannot be described as decimal (where's the decimal point?) or n-ary for any n other than 1, as it is not a positional/place-value number system, it's a sign-value notation with symbols for some groupings of multiples of 2 and 5. Not sure if a simple terminology or taxonomy exists to describe it, but it is simply inaccurate to refer to it by notions of base/radix. I'm removing "decimal", as it's inaccurate and also inconsistent with the article on numeral systems — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:23, 26 September 2019 (UTC)
(Please sign your posts on talk pages by using four tildes like this: ~~~~.) A decimal point is not needed for a system to be regarded as decimal. According to decimal separator positional decimal fractions appear in the 10th century, would you dismiss Hindu-Arabic numbers prior to that as non-decimal? Roman numbers are not a positional system, but mechanism is distinct from basis, see numeral system. The mechanism is non-positional but the basis is decimal. Describing the system as a unary numeral system is clearly wrong. The first three digits are derived from tally marks, but then so are 1, 2 and 3 (see §4.2 of Hindu–Arabic numeral system and associated illustration). Numbers from IV upwards do not fit the unary pattern. Numeral system refers you to list of numeral systems where the table in §1 gives the base of Roman numerals as 10. Bi-qinary is the term I've heard used, but lacking a citable authority I'm reverting to decimal as the best description, accurate and consistent. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 20:29, 26 September 2019 (UTC)

The passage in question was meant to be a descriptive (rather than an analytical or a prescriptive) summary of how RNs actually work - I hope all this theorising won't render it incomprehensible. Or is it the Decimal article - which seems pretty incompatible with this - that needs rewriting? It would be nice to get this right. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 05:16, 27 September 2019 (UTC)

I think the basic problem is the confusion which has arisen, generally not just here, between a decimal system (base 10) and the Decimal (a specific development of the Hindu-Arabic numbers). Unfortunately Decimal rather falls into this trap, as did (talk · contribs · WHOIS) above. The passage in the main article is meant to be fairly stable, which is why this talk page is the appropriate venu for discussion. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 07:23, 27 September 2019 (UTC)
The part of the system (of RNs) we DO still use is concerned entirely with integers. "Roman fractions" are indeed duodecimal, and for that reason quite unusable in the year MMXIX! (except, perhaps, for S=½). This has nothing to do with the "base 10" nature (of RNs). So yes, I think we are on pretty much the same wavelength at this point. What I fear is a descent into tiresome, irrelevant and confusing technicality. This is essentially a "practical" article - "higher" mathematics are incongruous in a discussion of the numeric system of an ancient people as uninclined to such things as the Romans! --Soundofmusicals (talk) 19:15, 27 September 2019 (UTC)
Notwithstanding the above - I have added a judicious "in that" to hint at the respects in which RNs are "base 10" and "decimal". Hope this adds to clarity. --Soundofmusicals (talk) 22:00, 15 November 2019 (UTC)