Grammar

That’s No Typo, It’s a Roman Numeral

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A friend of mine was thrown by the logo of the upcoming Super Bowl because of the Roman numeral for 54 in the game’s title.

When she saw Super Bowl LIV, she mistook the Roman numeral for a typo, thinking it should have read “Super Bowl LIVE.”

Well, as much as we value “live” content on television these, days, I guess we’re all conditioned to think everything should be live.

The Super Bowl, of course, is always broadcast live.

But in this case, they didn’t leave off an E.

That LIV is the Roman numeral for the number 54. The L stands for 50 and the IV means 4. (Actually, since the smaller digit I (for 1) comes before the larger digit V (for 5), that IV means “one from five.”

When a smaller Roman numeral comes before a larger one, you subtract the smaller from the larger. When a larger comes first, you add whatever follows it.

In copyright notices years ago, we represented the 20th century with years that always began with MCM. The M means 1,000 and the C means 100. So MCM means 1,000 plus (100 from 1,000) or 900, for a total of 1900. We then specified the actual year with the letters that followed it.

The year I graduated from high school, 1988, may have been the longest Roman numeral for the century: MCMLXXXVIII.

On clocks and watches, you sometimes see IIII instead of IV.

A friend of mine owns a watch with Roman numerals on its face. I noticed the other day that the watch represents the 4 as IIII, not IV.

I’ve seen this on other watches and even large clocks. And I found an interesting story about that. Apparently, clockmakers use the IIII for symmetry on the face. Otherwise, an IV would render the count of letters on each half of the clock face uneven.

(At least, that’s one of several explanations.)

Who’d have thought?

But at least now, you know that Super Bowl LIV isn’t a typo. They meant it that way.

Do you like Roman numerals or do you prefer Arabic numerals for titles like this?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.