# Were Roman Numbers different back in the Shaker days?

This is trivial stuff, but I've been making a few Shaker wall clocks and downloaded a clockface with Roman numerals. Where I went to school, the number (4) was IV. However on the clockface I have it is IIII. Thinking it must just be wrong on this particular face, I checked a couple of photos of clocks at the Hancock Shaker Village and they are also IIII for (4). Did I learn this wrong or something - I doubt the Romans changed it in the past 200 years.
Don
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<http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_153
--
~ Stay Calm... Be Brave... Wait for the Signs ~
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"D. J." wrote:

It's a colloqiolism -- strictly speaking, IV is "correct", but I have also noted the IIII. Whether there was a particular individual or village responsible, I don't know...someone more versed in Shaker tradition may. BTW, I've seen the same thing w/ some old Mennonite work here in the Midwest.
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_numerals http://www.ubr.com/clocks/faq/iiii.html http://members.aol.com/lolathrop/roman/iv.html http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_153
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Either is correct, but formal usage I think favors IV for 4
John
wrote:

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wrote:

Although some subset of the Shakers produced attractive instances of simplified forms, which have become hallmarks of the style commonly associated with their sect, they did not show a particularly keen sense of history, as is evidenced in your clock face question, nor did they have a gift for the extension of history into the future, as is evidenced by their distaste for procreation.
Quite frankly, they put me in mind of the current day inhabitants of the red areas of the map, excepting the creativity.
Tom Watson - WoodDorker tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1/ (website)
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On Fri, 01 Jul 2005 23:19:54 -0400, Tom Watson wrote:

"Build it as if you were going to die tomorrow, and as if the object were to last a thousand years."
Others have posted the appropriate links: clocks use IIII for four, a usage steeped in history.
When you understand Mother Ann's personal history, you'll understand why she was inclined to renounce "the flesh."
Sorry, Tom. Your posts are usually smack on target but you blew it with that one. :)
--
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Tom Watson wrote:

put me in mind
Tom, who prefers 4 words where 2 would suffice. :) (the two words being the simpler form, "remind me".
Dave
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*early* Roman numerals were evaluated _without_ regard to the order of the 'digits'. IIVLXXXCD was one of many valid representations for 687, for example.
An 'standardized' form of numbering introduced the 'semi-positional' sequencing where things were arranged strictly biggest-to-smallest, left-to-right. e.g. DCLXXXVII for 687
*ONLY* with 'late' Roman numbering did the "short-hand" notation of 'prefixing' a unit with a smaller unit to indicate 'subtraciton' occur.
Both "IIII" and "IV" are 'correct' representations for the value "four".
Just as "a quarter to twelve", and "eleven forty-five" are both correct representations for the time described as "the big hand is pointing to the left, and the little hand is nearly straight up".
After the 'subtractive' forms were introduced, they were *very* commonly used, primarily because they were shorter, and less strokes, to write.
Note: I opened my yap once too often in a math class, with regard to why *only* 'power of ten' figures -- and only the one that was one less than the right-hand 'digit' -- were used in the 'subtractive' forms, e.g. why not "XM" for 990, or "VC" for 95; and got stuck with a serious research project on the matter. At this remove, I don't remember the date ranges associated with the various changes, but I _do_ remember the history.
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D. J. wrote:

G'day all, This seems to be a standard with clocks, even modern ones tend to have the number 4 represented as IIII. I don't know why clocks are different from the norm. Many years ago, more than I care to remember, when I was in Primary school I queried the teacher on the same thing and was told not to be a smart arse, that IV was the way we would do it and if clock makers wanted to be wrong and use IIII then so be it. :) Regards to all John
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This is a much older change than the Shakers - it's usually dated to a clock that Henry VIII had installed at Hampton Court.
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On Sat, 02 Jul 2005 10:23:56 +0100, Andy Dingley

Did Henry install it or was it already there by Cardinal Woolsey?
--
LRod

Master Woodbutcher and seasoned termite
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Henry. He'd already been in residence for some time.
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From a visual standpoint, which looks better to you? Aside from the VIII, there isn't any other character that takes up four spaces. Of course, one could argue that the 4 balances the 8, but it's up to you to decide which is more aesthetically pleasing. I believe most learned Roman numerals with the IV. Do they still teach them in school these days?
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Hey you can ever use a "four" that has a triangle at the tip or one that strictly has all right angles. Which way is correct? ;~)
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for
it
There are many "optional" ways to write things, such as: - Three with a flat top or round top. - Four with pointed top or with an open top. - Seven with a small cross bar or without it. - Nine with a loop on a stick or with one large curve. - Lower case a wit a loop on a straight stick or a loop on a curved stick.
..... and many more. When you think about it, old businesses such as lumber and printing count thousands as the roman numeral M. e.g. 10M means 10,000. New businesses such as the electronics world uses the metric term K to stand for thousand. e.g. 10K means 10,000. The world is full of multiple things that mean the same, and many same things that have different meanings.
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wrote:

And if you want to get really technical the world is full of lots of things that mean nothing.
-- "We need to make a sacrifice to the gods, find me a young virgin... oh, and bring something to kill"
Tim Douglass
http://www.DouglassClan.com
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Hi DJ -
My vote's for the IIII as the better choice.... If you ever spot a clock-face in a mirror - you won't mistake the reversed "IV" for "VI"....
Not that Shakers spent a lot of time in bars..... :)
Cheers -
Rob
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