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Library Clock Has 'IIII' Instead of 'IV'

An Anonymous Patron writes "Funny Little Story out of Gardener, MA, where Library director Gail Landy learned that when it comes to Roman numerals on clocks, IIII equals IV.

Construction manager Tom Kondel, head of the Levi Heywood Memorial Library project, came to her recently and said, "Gail, we've got a problem with the clock," referring to the large clock installed over the west door of the new library building.

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."


The folks in Gardener, MA, can relax. The use of "iiii" instead of "iv" for the 4 on clocks with Roman-numeral faces is not illiterate. It's not a mistake. It's not even unusual. It's actually both aesthetically and historically more accurate!In ancient times and well into the Middle Ages, "iiii" was how 4 was written. The form "iv" is a later invention, roughly contemporaneous with that of the clock itself. Besides, the longer form "iiii" balances the "viii" for 8 much better, and keeps the clock face from looking lopsided.Several sites come up if you search "clocks iiii iv" on Google which explain this alleged discrepancy.A discussion at Cecil Adams' "The Straight Dope" ishere.Not that using "iv" is wrong. Some clocks do -- one famous example is Big Ben.

It must be a really, really slow news day.

I knew about the use of iiii. But then my head is full of useless bits of trivia that serve absolutely no purpose. Except when I play trivia type games.

Let's see.

Friday before a three-day weekend.


ALA attendees all just home and recovering.

Sounds like the definition of a slow LISnews day to me. One on which a "iiii-vs-iv" story might be worth commenting on.

Actually, my comment was directed more at the newspaper that carried the story than LISNews.

I'm rarely surprised by anything that pops up on LISNews.

happy fourth of july to everyone celebrating it!


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