Why do some Europeans use a comma instead of a decimal point?

The title pretty well covers it, but I’ve noticed that a lot of European countries use commas instead of decimal points when dealing with numbers- especially firearm calibres.

For example, the calibre 7.62x51 NATO (as written in English speaking countries) often seems to be written as 7,62x51 in places like Scandinavia and France

I’ve seen it done with other numbers, too: say, a statistic might state that 4,3% of people with cars also like to put interesting things on the aerial. (instead of the 4.3% way we’d usually write it)

Now, to me, the use of a comma in place of a decimal point just looks wrong- like a combination of a typo and a wilful desire to be different, without really effectively being either.

Any ideas why some of the Europeans are using commas instead of decimal points, or is it just “one of those things”? :confused:

Presumably Europeans think exactly the same thing when they see a decimal point.

The Wikipedia article here gives some background to the comma/point difference.

It’s not that “European countries” do it; it’s that the punctuation usage in languages other than English is not always the same as it is in English. To me, it’s no different than the Spanish writing ¡Olvídalo! with an inverted exclamation mark and an accented I, or the Germans with Er sagte: „Mir ist heiß.“ The exception here is South Africa, which speaks (largely) English and uses the comma as a decimal separator.

In Wiki’s article on decimal separators, you can find a list of countries which use each convention, and the comma is by no means limited to Europe.

I don’t know the historical reasons, but I doubt it’s due to any desire to be willfully different, any more so than you were trying to when you wrote “wilful” with one L. Rather, it’s just a difference between languages and regions.

I came across a sort-of-related issue that caused a bit of confusion; in Denmark, the minus sign is written like an English division sign - that is to say, a dash with two dots, one above and one below (Like…ummm… this ¸ if it displays properly). Actually, I can’t remember how they write a division symbol on a single line - maybe it’s just a forward slash.

Yep, it’s just one of those things. Specifically, it’s one of those (many) things that makes Excel break out in a fit of explosive diaorrhea.
In many european countries, 10,123.89 is written 10.213,89. It’s ALWAYS written like this. Excel set up for Germany or wherever will format the numbers like this by default, because it’s how it’s ALWAYS done in that country.
But what happens when a german sends a spreadsheet to a brit or a yank? Why, of course it goes “aha! this must be text, because numbers would NEVER be formatted like that. Under no circumstances will I EVER let you turn this text into numbers without a manual search and replace”. Worthless shitty application.

But anyhow, foreigners sometimes use commas as decimal separators and full stops as thousand separators. They also talk and dress funny, and eat foreign food. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be foreigners, and then where would we be?

Don’t even get me started on the Americans and the way they write dates :smack:

**Why do some Australians use ‘aerial’ instead of ‘antenna’? **

Because they stick up in the air. Duh.

:wink: :smiley:

Ah, because petulance is the only reason not to do things the American way. :dubious:

It’s not just Australians. I bet most people in the UK would call that thing on their roof a “TV aerial” and not “TV antenna”.

On a message board I subscribe to that deals with radio and TV it’s surprising how many people spell it “Ariel”. So when they complain that they cannot receive a decent signal with their ariel , back comes the reply " try changing to Persil instead".

And once again, unless I’ve been whooshed, I have to remind people I’m not an American…

Exactly ! A decimal instead of a full stop in a long number just looks wrong. :wink:

When I see a date in an English tekst, I always have to look for give-aways how I should interpret it. I know what system is used if I see if I see 14-2-02. But 02-03-03 ? Keep guessing! Is this tekst written by an American? By a Dutch person trying to conform to what he thinks are American standards? By a Dutch person who doesn’t know about the American system?

Fortunately, a description like “August 1, 2005” is clear enough in any language.

And, while I remember (or rather, because I didn’t remember and there’s no smegging edit function! :smack: ), I’ve always thought of “Aerial” referred to the things on top of your house or car for receiving TV/Radio transmissions, but is totally interchangeable with “Antenna”.

I prefer “Aerial”, though- as cazzle says, they stick up in the air! :smiley:

But that’s merely a detail. Replace “the American way” with “the way we do things over here.” The sentiment is the same.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying the tenor of your entire OP expressed this sentiment, but I do suggest that that little bit might have been better thought out.

As an American, I totally agree with you.

Which version of Excel are you using? Because the recent versions let you specify how the thousands and decimals should be separated, so you can tell it to use commas, periods or whatever else you want. And you can also specify the date format.

Yes, but if there are actual full stops and commas in the values, not in the formatting, it just goes nuts. In Office XP, at any rate.

What is this “August” thing? :slight_smile:

I use the ISO 8601 standard date format, YYYY-MM-DD, 2005-08-01. It’s Y2K compliant, sortable, and language independent.

If the data are stored in cells as numbers, there are no full stops or commas “in the values.” You can only store text with those values in them, so it’s no surprise that it remains formatted that way.

The only time that it can cause problems is at data entry time, where typing “1,999.23” into a German-locale spreadsheet will cause Excel to assume you mean text.

Bah, I grew up in Russia with the whole 10.000.000,00 nonsense and it never made sense to me. It looks retarded and even sovient made calculators used the decimal point as far as I remember. This whole comma business is confusing because it’s exactly opposite of how commas and periods are used in language. You use commas to link two or more similar things be it a list, or several clauses. You use periods to delimit complete thoughts. 10,000,000.00, has two very distinct mathematical parts 10,000,000 and 0.00 and a couple of logical parts that’s convinient to use punctuation to separate (10, 000, 000). I’ve gotten in trouble at school for using decimal points instead of commas too many times to count. When I was in 6th grade it got so bad that my parents decided to go through my homework and “fix” all my decimals because they just didn’t want to argue anymore.


The same reason some loonies insist on writing calibre when they mean caliber. :wink: