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

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Nuts and Bolts: obelus.

There are two types of obeluses, and three ways of writing one.

You've come across them all already. One is the dagger symbol which either acts like an asterisk to draw attention to a footnote or means that the person with the obelus next to to his name has, sadly, snuffed it. 

It looks like this:

The other sort of obelus you know as well, because it looks either like this:


which usually means divided by (although some Scandinavians used it to mean subtracted by until fairly recently, and in Italy it sometimes indicates a range of values) but can also be used to mark a passage of a book that's reckoned not to be authentic. This kind of obelus can also look like this:

The plural of obelus can be either obeluses or the delightful obeli, so this means that if an extremely ancient and frail scholar has been marking up a book for suspect passages there's always a chance that he or she will do it using wobbly obeli.

One can but hope, anyway.

Word To Use Today: obelus. This word comes from the Greek obelos, which means sharpened stick, spit or pointed pillar. It's basically the same word as obelisk.

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