Jeff Guevin wrote:
> My understanding, coming from a professor of Arabic in Cairo,
> is that Arabs
> (or Egyptians, at least) say that the numerals they use are called
> "hindi"--ie, "Indian"--in Arabic. Granted, however, he was unable to
> explain why Europeans' digits are called "Arabic" and why
> Arabs don't use Arabic numerals.

Why is it surprising? Both Arabs and Europeans called the digits with the
name of the people they have borrowed them from.

It is the same reason why the maize in Italian is called "granturco" (lit.
Turkish Corn). Clearly, the new breed of corn coming from America reached
Turkey first, and Turks exported it in Italy

> As for the change from LTR Indic to RTL Arabic to LTR
> European scripts, I
> tend to doubt it played much part in changing the glyphs,
> considering that
> Arabs still write their numbers LTR.

This point has been discussed before on the Unicode List, but I remember
that it wasn't settled definitively.

We all know that in a number such as "123", the "1" (representing "one
hundred") is always on the left side. But who tells us that Arabs actually
wrote "1", then "2", then "3" from left to right, rather that "3", "2", "1"
from right to left?

You cannot tell this by looking at a written number: you have to spy the
hand of people in the *act* of writing it.

When this issue was discussed before, we discovered that nowadays Persians,
Hebrews and other people using RTL scripts actually write number LTR (after
moving the pen leftwards by an appropriate space).

Someone said that this is also common among Arabs, especially when Western
glyphs for digits are used.

But is this the way *all* Arabs write numbers? And, more important, was this
the way Arabs wrote numbers centuries ago, when the shape of "Arabic-Indic"
digits was fixed? *This* is not easy to determine.

In favor of the RTL hypothesis, there is the fact that in classical Arabic
the order of *spoken* digits was the opposite than in in most European and
Indian languages. E.g., a phrase like "TWO thousand THREE hundred FOURty
FIVE" was "FIVE FOURty THREE hundred TWO thousand". This fact could
naturally lead to write the number "2345" in the usual right-to-left
direction : "5", "4", "3", "2".

_ Marco