Wednesday, October 12, 2011

IIII or IV?

Something has been driving me crazy as of late.  I've been noticing a large number of clocks with Roman numerals that use IIII as four instead of IV.  I had always been brought up to believe that IV was the only way to write four was IV.  I had a rant planned citing the fall of civilization and the general stupidity of mankind.   Turns out there's a reason I've been seeing it another way.

Wikipedia says:
"Clock faces that are labeled using Roman numerals conventionally show IIII for four o'clock and IX for nine o'clock, using the subtractive principle in one case and not the other. There are many suggested explanations for this:
  • Issac Asimov theorized that, during the early history of Rome, it was common to use IIII to represent four, because IV represented the Roman god Jupiter, whose Latin name, IVPPITER, begins with IV[19]
  • Louis XIV, king of France, who preferred IIII over IV, ordered his clockmakers to produce clocks with IIII and not IV, and thus it has remained.[20]
  • Using standard numerals, two sets of figures would be similar and therefore confusable by children and others unused to reading clockfaces: IV and VI are similar, as are IX and XI. As the first pair are upside down on the face, an additional level of confusion would be introduced—a confusion avoided by using IIII to provide a clear distinction from VI.
  • The four-character form IIII creates a visual symmetry with the VIII on the other side, which the two-character IV would not.
  • With IIII, the number of symbols on the clock totals twenty Is, four Vs, and four Xs,[21] so clock makers need only a single mold with a V, five Is, and an X in order to make the correct number of numerals for their clocks: VIIIIIX. This is cast four times for each clock and the twelve required numerals are separated:
    • V IIII IX
    • VI II IIX
    • VII III X
    • VIII I IX
The IIX and one of the IXs are rotated 180° to form XI and XII. The alternative with IV uses seventeen Is, five Vs, and four Xs, requiring the clock maker to have several different molds.
  • Only the I symbol would be seen in the first four hours of the clock, the V symbol would only appear in the next four hours, and the X symbol only in the last four hours. This would add to the clock's radial symmetry.
  • Many clocks use IIII because that was the tradition established by the earliest surviving clock, the Wells Cathedral clock built between 1386 and 1392. It used IIII because that was the typical method used to denote 4 in contemporary manuscripts (as iiij or iiii). That clock had an asymmetrical 24-hour dial and used Arabic numerals for a minute dial and a moon dial, so theories depending on a symmetrical 12-hour clock face do not apply.[22]"

So there's a legitimate reason.  It all comes down to personal preference.  I don't agree with that.  Anyone who uses IIII is wrong and needs to stop.  It is IV and will forever be IV.
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