-----Original Message-----
From: Edward Cherlin [mailto:edward.cherlin.sy.67@...]
Sent: Wednesday, June 06, 2001 19.39
To: Jeff Guevin
Cc: Unicode
Subject: Re: Digits shapes

This is an FAQ. Europeans call them Arabic numerals because that's
where Europe got them from. Same problem as native American Turkeys,
which went to Spain, then Turkey, then England, where they were
naturally known as Turkey cocks and Turkey hens. (Side note: 1492 is
the year the Jews in Spain were expelled. Many fled to Turkey, where
Judeo-Spanish, aka Ladino, is still spoken.) Arabs don't call their
numerals Arabic because they didn't get them from themselves, but
from India. Calling European numerals Arabic wouldn't make sense to
them, either. Isn't language fun?

At 9:50 AM -0400 6/6/01, 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.
>Also, both sets of glyphs are used throughout the Arab world, not just in
>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.
>>> Today's European digits like 0, 1, 2, and 3 are actually closer to
>>> the original Hindu glyphs from 1000 years ago than to true Arabic
>>> numerals.
>> I think that the early (Italian? Spanish?) mathematicians who adopted
>> "Arabic" digits actually used the Arabic glyphs
>> I wondered too whether these glyph had undergone 45 degree rotations
>> their travel from LTR Indic scripts through RTL Arabic script to
>>LTR European
>> scripts.
>> _ Marco


Edward Cherlin, Spamfighter <http://www.cauce.org>
"It isn't what you don't know that hurts you, it's what you know for
certain that just ain't so."--Mark Twain, Josh Billings, Edwin Howard
Armstrong, Will Rogers, Satchel Paige (after Thomas Jefferson)