From: Philippe VERDY (email@example.com)
Date: Fri Apr 01 2005 - 14:56:48 CST
The real fact is that French keyboards don't have any key to enter the MASCULINE ORDINAL INDICATOR (in fact a superscript o), but only a standard key for the degree sign.
So even if the ° in N° means a superscript o, it is nearly always entered with the degree sign, even if its letter form is too much like a circle instead of an oval (after all, the circle form is also acceptable for a lowercase o, and even the Arial or Times fonts display a circle for this lowercase letter...)
I am definitely not sure that anyone would expect an oval for the superscript o, given than the superscript oval would be most probably interpreted as a superscript zero digit.
The degree sign most often follows a digit, and it's best for it to be a circle rather than an oval.
The only effective difference between a degree sign and a superscript o is that the degree sign is normally a smaller circle (with the same height as the prime and double prime symbols) than a typical superscript letter o.
So when your contact says:
> When we went through our initial round of UI translations, ten years
> ago, our subsidiary in France flat-out insisted that U+00B0 DEGREE SIGN
> be used for the "numero" abbreviation, and not U+00BA MASCULINE ORDINAL
> This was even after I pointed out the availability of both, in both the
> MS-DOS and Windows code pages (we didn't support Unicode yet), and even
> after I pointed out that this was a UI display issue and had no bearing
> on what customers might type.
> No, they said. It's DEGREE SIGN.
they are right, due to the confirmed most common usage and the fact that there's no such "masculine ordinal indicator" in French, and no key for entering it, even if the character is present in codepages 437, 850, Windows-1252 and ISO-8859-1 (most probably for Spanish).
If we had something similar in usage to the "masculine ordinal indicator" in French it would be:
- for the French ordinal indicators: 1<sup>er</sup>, 2<sup>nd</sup>, 3<sup>ème</sup>... and
- their plural forms 1<sup>ers</sup>, 2<sup>nds</sup>, 3<sup>èmes</sup>... and
- féminine forms: 1<sup>ère</sup>, 2<sup>nde</sup>, 3<sup>ème</sup>...
- or féminine plural forms 1<sup>ères</sup>, 2<sup>ndes</sup>, 3<sup>èmes</sup>...
> I'm afraid, they are wrong. I had a discussion with Jacques André a few
> years ago on this, he is one of the best authority on the history of
> French typography. <br>
> It is a letter « o » (like in *N*umer*o*) whose rim is not of even
> width and is more oval than the degree sign.<br>
That's where I disagree. Most fonts display a circle for the lowercase letter o.
> Also consider Numeros (viz. n<sup><u>os</u></sup> in the
> middle of a sentence or N<sup><u>os</u></sup> at the start)
> what would a degree sign do between the letters N and s ?<br>
> Does any know of a font including the two plural forms of numéro with
> the o and s underlined ?<br>
Don't forget as well the other superscript letters used in French, notaly in other abbreviations like the "ment"' suffix written like "m<sup>t</sup>"...
and other plural or feminine forms of abbreviated names, using the <sup>s</sup> and <sup>e</sup> letters.
In this usage, it is quote common to also accept the same letters in normal (non-superscript) forms. All that is a matter of rich-text style (where superscript rendering is preferable for suffixes of abbreviations).
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