Re: Too narrowly defined: DIVISION SIGN

From: Leif Halvard Silli <>
Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2012 03:42:42 +0200

Mark E. Shoulson on Tue, 10 Jul 2012 21:22:36 -0400:
> I'd not heard of using it as a subtraction symbol before, but it feels
> to me like someone thought that the normal minus sign was too confusable
> with an ordinary hyphen or something, maybe in a mixed presentation with
> ordinary text and mathematical signs and negative numbers mixed
> together, and was looking for something hyphen-looking but distinctive,
> and used the ÷ since it looks hyphen-y and nobody seriously uses it for
> division.

From my speculatorium: The wikipedia articles about the obelis (÷) says
that it was first used to signify "questionable source" for text
critical edition of the Bible, back in the middle ages. (Sorry, if this
sounded like the Hollywood version.) From negative/questionable to
minus is a short way, no? It is also said that the + developed from a
deformed & (et ligature). So may be the ÷ is a deformation of the +,

When it come to the Russian/Polish/Italian usage to use ÷ to denote
range, then - verbally, when I/we don't use "subtract" or "minus" as a
verb, then we say [in Norwegian] "take (away) from". In other words:
There is some kind of link between "minus" and "range", I feel. Thus,
the usage as a range symobol, in my view is congruent with with the use
as minus. As it has developed, however, the ÷ is used, both in the
"range" usage and in the "minus" usage, as a more distinct signal. It
separates the sign from characters it could be confused with.

Leif H Silli
Received on Tue Jul 10 2012 - 20:42:42 CDT

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