Today in the files of "ain't different cultures confusing", I'd like to discuss the curious case of the decimal point. It took me nearly 30 years to discover that not everybody uses "." for a decimal point. And I'll bet there's at least one person reading this blog post who has just heard this for the first time.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that if something costs nearly two Euros in many parts of Europe, it'll be marked 1,99. But wait, it gets worse: big numbers can be clarified by using what I think is a decimal point, so a million can be written 1.000.000. The same applies in South America where the Spanish and Portuguese speakers use a similar system.
If this is a suprise to you too, the good news is that most of the time the context reminds you of what the number really is. If we're talking about the population of a country and it's written as 5.000.000, it's pretty clear we're talking millions. Similarly, a price per kilo label for oranges that says 4,32 is obviously 4 Euros and 32 cents. If you're measuring a room, though, and it's 4,326 metres long, you might do a double-take when you see that on a plan.
Whoever I speak to, they always argue the point (no pun intended) that their version of using points or commas is the most logical. It's obviously just a case of "nobody's right": it's just how you were brought up. Well, that's my $0.02 worth anyway. Or is that my $0,02?
[Thanks to lms.photo for the pic, via Flickr CC]