Re: 1ˢᵗ, 2ⁿᵈ, 3ʳᵈ, 4ᵗʰ … 9ᵗʰ

Kent Karlsson kent.b.karlsson at
Wed Dec 23 19:20:42 CST 2020

> 24 dec. 2020 kl. 01:42 skrev Doug Ewell via Unicode <unicode at>:
> 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;

I think they are. At least it is not uncommon to write them without
superscripting them, and I don’t think that causes any confusion.

> if they are not, that might
> help explain why dedicated characters for º and ª were prioritized in
> earlier character sets.

There may be some stronger preference to superscript them, but
not more than that. (And that France did not insist on œ/Œ in Latin-1…)

Note that superscript o and superscript a are doubly encoded.
AFAICT, I think the explanation for that is the following:
The ordinal indicators are optionally underlined (varies by font) at the
superscript level, whereas the modifier letters are not underlined.
(And I know of no current styling mechanism, or font feature, to underline
them at the superscript level; underlining would underline them at the
normal letter baseline level.)
> There are two types of people: those who are bothered by “Unicode
> abuse” and those who are not.

Nit: I submitted to CLDR RBNF rules for numeric ordinals in several languages
using the superscript letters several years ago. After a year or two the CLDR
committee replaced the superscript letters by ordinary letters, citing lack of
(consistent) font support for the superscript letters. Even now, looking at this
email, I see superscript letters of inconsistent sizes and positions, and some
superscript letters (even if only looking for a-z) might not be supported in ”all” fonts.

/Kent K

> --
> Doug Ewell, CC, ALB | Thornton, CO, US |

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