by Daniel Swanson
& Trey Jones
Cognomen 2018 (SpecGram, CLXXX.3) in footnote ‡‡† lays out “a superior, novel solution” to extending Numeri++, his science-nerd–friendly upgrade to Roman numerals, to accommodate values beyond 5,000. Below we provide a handy converter† for the mathematically and/or typographically challenged among you who would like to use this system.
† It appears that our buddy Prae-Prae put a little too much faith in the Unicode Consortium. Obviously any entity with “Consortium” right there in the name is not to be trusted fully.
The biggest problem is that there are no versions of ß in the double-struck, fraktur, or encircled character ranges. Sure, you can say the Germans have no right to a double-struck ß, because if you gave them one their mathematicians would almost certainly start using it, and then the whole world would have to catch up. And while there are many, many encircled characters, you have to draw a line somewhere or you’ll end up with “Unicode” and “Encircled Unicode”. Admittedly they tried, with COMBINING ENCLOSING CIRCLE, though it is poorly supported by so, so many fonts. But no ß in the frakkin’ fraktur character range? Really? It’s exactly the kind of uncaring evil you’d expect from a Consortium.
In order to mitigate this disaster, we’ve had the Typographic Interns whip up some image-based alternatives: , , and .
alt text for each so that if you have smart copy-n-paste you’ll get something like “[double-struck ß]” if you copy them somewhere else. If you have dumb copy-n-paste, it will silently swallow them, and you will look like a fool to the broader Numeri++ community. Caveat Transcriptor!
A lesser implementation difficulty has been that in the vast majority of fonts we tested, cedillas under some letters, notably G, K, L, N, and R, are rendered less like cedillas and more like commas. This is true for both the pre-composed versions (ĢĶĻŅŖ—cf. ÇȨḨŞŢ) and those that use the combining form of the cedilla (G̦K̦L̦N̦R̦—cf. ÇȨḨŞŢ). Good luck telling them apart from the commafied versions (G̦K̦L̦N̦R̦—cf. C̦E̦H̦ȘȚ) in print. You might be able to fix the problem with a fresh sharpie and a steady hand, but other than that, you are on your own.
While Unicode supports all these nifty letters, most fonts do not. If your computer isn’t old enough to vote, it might have something on it that will render everything here, albeit in a significantly less nifty fashion. On this page we have included a carefully curated set of web fonts chosen and configured “just so” to give some mild sense of aesthetic pleasingness. Your metaphorical mileage will almost certainly vary—don’t forget to adjust your leading and kerning!
Finally, there are probably some other typographic difficulties to be had, based on your browser, operating system, astrological sign, handedness, favorite phoneme, or computing device. (If you are on mobile, just... don’t even start!) If you notice any problems, you could let the editors of SpecGram know, or—and we’re just spitballing here—you could keep it to your damn self!
Not that we’re bitter.