1ˢᵗ, 2ⁿᵈ, 3ʳᵈ, 4ᵗʰ … 9ᵗʰ

Doug Ewell doug at ewellic.org
Wed Dec 23 18:42:10 CST 2020

Fredrick Brennan wrote:
> With Unicode superscript lowercase letters, dates with superscript
> ordinal indicators in English can be written in plaintext, e.g.:
> 1ˢᵗ of January, 2ⁿᵈ of February, 3ʳᵈ of March, 4ᵗʰ of April, and so
> on.
> [...]
> However, I have a feeling that this use is an abuse of the standard,
> but that brings up an interesting comparison with the ordinal
> indicators for Spanish, Portuguese (& other languages?), the masculine
> º and the feminine ª.
> If anyone has time to answer, why is one an abuse and the other not,
> if indeed 1ˢᵗ is an abuse as I think?
I suppose it is, and the best answer to “why” is definitional:
because º and ª were encoded (in legacy standards, and consequently
brought into Unicode) for the purpose of being ordinal indicators,
whereas ˢ and ᵗ and ⁿ and ᵈ and ʳ and ʰ were encoded for the
purpose of being phonetic modifiers.  (Even ⁿ, encoded alongside the
superscript digits, “functions as a modifier letter” according to
the note in the code chart.)
I know that 1st and 2nd and 3rd and 4th (no superscripts) are generally
considered legible in English (back to the “plain text is for
legibility” definition). I don’t know if 1o and 2a are considered
equally legible in Spanish and Portuguese; if they are not, that might
help explain why dedicated characters for º and ª were prioritized in
earlier character sets.
There are two types of people: those who are bothered by “Unicode
abuse” and those who are not.
Doug Ewell, CC, ALB | Thornton, CO, US | ewellic.org

More information about the Unicode mailing list