Why have Roman numerals endured, maintaining a hallowed (if not necessarily useful) place in Western culture?
Better: How many people read that sentence and either ignore it or answer, “No idea,” and don’t think twice about it; versus my predilection to flashback to a MCMXC’s Arsenio Hall-bit that infiltrated pop culture enough to inspire a C+C Music Factory hit single.
Like most of my curiosities, this question did not spontaneously emerge from a vacuum. Less commonly, I managed to stop my rabbit-hole deep-dive before my feet left the ground, though only after falling down the neighboring pit searching for why “L” equals “50.”
I won’t follow that tangent; suffice it to say, none of the numerals that seem to have developed intuitively due to Latin words like “centum” or “mille.”
Naturally, this curiosity resulted from the new ME year celebrated today by my personal Gregorian calendar: As of II:LVI am Pacific Daylight Time, I passed from XLIX to L.
But back to the initial question, because the endurance of Roman numerals for over MM years, long beyond performing any practical, non-decorative function fascinates me. As I approached L, and as people have offered both well-wishes and congratulations, I began considering my own presence, perseverance, and fortitude (whatever they may be), and the representative nature of this blog’s staying power as opposed to simply fading away along with its activity level and relevancy.
I’ve always enjoyed Roman numerals. They’re little more than pretty to look at, but I suppose they provide a weightiness; a kind of numerical bolding, even? I remember II decades ago thinking one of the more monumental changeovers at the turn of the millennium and century was watching MCMXCIX in favor for the larger but more compact MM.
Super Bowls; copyright dates for films, TV, and books; clock faces; building cornerstones and historical plaques: What else regularly utilizes Roman numerals? And still, I’m pretty sure I learned the III most basic—I, V, X—along with, if not before, our standard (Arabic) number system.
For nearly a decade, these birthday posts were the only consistent element of this space, and I used them primarily to note the many interesting people who share(d) my birthday. That annual tradition became irregular and infrequent during the MMX's, even more so since I have II or III birthday posts that I drafted but never published.
My adherence to the birthday post has been its own thing-to-make-me-say-hmmmm. As I noted previously, I have not always enjoyed celebrating my birthday; sometimes, I don’t even want to acknowledge it. I get too self-conscious. I question the motivations of people who disappear from my life before reaching out on that single day with a brief kind (and generic?) word. I contemplate my relationships with those who forget (or don’t care enough to remember?) that it’s my birthday.
So why have I always called greater attention to it in this space? Once again, the contradictory nature of my every feeling reigns supreme. In other words:
I don’t want to be the center of attention; how dare you ignore me!
I would be remiss if I didn’t wish a happy Lth to my birthDATE buddies—Luke Wilson and Alfonso Ribeiro—but otherwise, this year I choose to focus on the some of the various media that entered and/or achieved some cultural significance on-or-around Sept. XXI, MCMLXXI.
For instance, we recently got a new car which came with a IV-month trial subscription to SiriusXM, and on our first long weekend drive, I discovered that the “LXXs on VII” channel reruns American Top XL with Casey Kasem, generally picking that Saturday’s or Sunday’s date from a corresponding year between MCMLXX-MCMLXXIX.
So when I started looking at what command the cultural conversations at the moment I began my true domination of my parents’ lives, I wondered what held the top spot on the Billboard Hot C was when I was born.
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