Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point
On Air
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Friday, January 1, 1999 Published at 00:46 GMT


World

1999 - MIM or MCMXCIX?



As thousands of computer experts wrestle with the Millennium bug to prevent plane crashes in the year 2000, scholars are furiously debating how Julius Caesar would have written the year 1999.

They cannot agree whether it should be the snappy MIM or a more unwieldy MCMXCIX.

A standard usage is important for publishers, film-makers, and many others who use Roman numerals to stamp copyright on their work.

The long form translates as one thousand nine-hundred and ninety nine - or 1,000, plus 1000 minus 100, plus 100 minus 10, plus 10 minus one.

The shorter equivalent of MIM means two thousand minus one. The BBC has chosen the longer version. The year 2000 will be MM.

Others who will have to make up their mind include Pope John Paul II, film director Stephen Spielberg as he puts the finishing touches to his latest movie, American football superbowl which also uses Roman numbers and the Finnish radio station which broadcasts in Latin.

Roman numerals use letters in place of numbers: M = 1,000, D = 500, C = 100, L=50, X = 10, V = 5, and I = 1.

A number placed before a larger one can have the effect of minus - thus IV is four, five minus one, athough it is also often written as IIII.

Some classicists think MIM is theoretically possible but unlikely and America's Institute of Standards favours MCMXCIX.



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage |




Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia


In this section

From Business
Microsoft trial mediator appointed

Violence greets Clinton visit

From Entertainment
Taxman scoops a million

Safety chief deplores crash speculation

Bush calls for 'American internationalism'

Hurricane Lenny abates

EU fraud: a billion dollar bill

Russian forces pound Grozny

Senate passes US budget

Boy held after US school shooting

Cardinal may face loan-shark charges

Sudan power struggle denied

Sharif: I'm innocent

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

India's malnutrition 'crisis'

Next steps for peace

Homeless suffer as quake toll rises

Dam builders charged in bribery scandal

Burundi camps 'too dire' to help

DiCaprio film trial begins

Memorial for bonfire dead

Spy allegations bug South Africa

Senate leader's dismissal 'a good omen'

Tamil rebels consolidate gains

New constitution for Venezuela

Hurricane pounds Caribbean

Millennium sect heads for the hills

South African gays take centre stage

Lockerbie trial judges named