Friday, July 02, 2004

Happy IIII of July

As Kondel said, the number four on the clock was IIII instead of the expected IV. Landy decided it wouldn't do to have what she called "an illiterate" clock.

"We called up the clock manufacturer and they said, `That's the way we do clocks,'" she told the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester in an interview published Friday.

When she looked at her watch, which had Roman numerals, she discovered that it too used IIII for the number four.

Doing a little research, Landy and Kondel found that most clocks use IIII. But the reason is uncertain.

The Horological Institute says that it may be that the Romans avoided the common four in favor of IIII because I and V are the first two letters of the Latin spelling of the name for the Roman God Jupiter (Ivpiter). The institute said it also may have to do with balance, as eight is denoted as VIII and the opposite number of four also would have four letters if it was IIII., an Internet encyclopedia, says that manuscripts from the 1300s are inconsistent on the use of IV and IIII to denote the number four. It also suggests that a Roman ruler at some point ordered the change to IIII, and it has come down through history as a tradition.

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Vulgarius said...

I avoid IV's if at all possible.

Don Snabulus said...

...and anyone horological.

Anonymous said...


I think the real reason is just that European society during the time clocks were invented was too simple and illiterate to figure out the Roman number system, and they didn't bother with any quantity that they couldn't count on the fingers of one hand.