Friday, May 23, 2008

Letters and Numbers

Do you ever wonder why our numbers are so different from our letters? A one (1) is like a lowercase ‘l’, but do you ever confuse the two? A two (2) and a five (5) are something like an ‘s’, but how distinct, with angles and slants where there ought to be curves. Sevens (7) look like inverted uppercase ‘L’s except for that odd direction of the longer stem. I often confuse a six (6) for an uppercase ‘G’, though a ‘G’ is much grander and stately for having that right angle at the tip of the curve. Letters are as alike and similar to numbers as hearing a sound through the air to hearing it through the water. Almost numbers are a foreign rendering of a concept, foreign to the alphabet we own. I venture to guess that numbers are a later invention, and carry less meaning in their shape.

To God be all glory.

1 comment:

Doc Op said...

Our Roman numerals actually have quite a bit of meaning associated with their shapes.

I can't really illustrate it here, but as these numbers were originally written (with straight lines, not curves) each numeral contained that number of angles.

For example 2 would have been written more like a "z" and has two major angles.

The three like a sideways M would have three major angles and so on.

1 originally had the top single angle, 7 used to have a cross hatch mark, and 8 would be two diamond shapes -- while 0 has no angles.

So -- even the shapes of our letters are stuffed with meaning.