This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Nuts and Bolts: solidus.

A solidus, oddly, is one of these:


Yes, that's right: it's just a line: so not very solid at all.

Nowadays we tend to call a solidus a forward slash, but this not only takes a little longer to say and write but is confusing because it doesn't really go actually forward at all.


In fact, I would say that a solidus slopes backwards, myself.


Just to make things even more complicated, the backwards slash slopes forward:


(If you're being technical, that's a reverse solidus, but that doesn't help matters at all.)

Perhaps we should have called the solidus a standard slash, or just a slash. It would have surely been easier for everyone, but, hey, it's almost certainly too late, now.

Solidi can be seen all over the place: in abbreviations (w/e (week ending)) in fractions (14/24, which means fourteen twenty fourths, which is the same thing as fourteen divided by twenty four) and of course in dates (DD/MM/YYYY). Or, if you're in the States, MM/DD/YYYY.

A solidus will often also mean or, as in M/F (male or female) or Y/N (yes or no).

In fact they're useful beasts altogether.

Pity about the name, though.

Thing To Use Today: a solidus. A solidus used to be a Byzantine gold coin: solidus meant solid, which is of course what you want your coins to be. By Medieval times a solidus meant a shilling, and was indicated by a long s, which eventually stretched out into our slash/solidus.

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