Artemy Lebedev

§ 116. There’s the rub

July 25, 2005

There are shorthand symbols for many world currencies. $ is the dollar sign, € is for the euro, £ is for the pound sterling, ¥ is for the yen. There’s even a TV antenna-like symbol for the Mongolian tugrik ().

World Currency Symbols

Housekeeping tip

The double stroke, which is a distinguishing feature of many currency symbols, originated from the common way European scribes had with abbreviations. You cannot confuse a letter crossed by horizontal or vertical lines, say, with one of a person’s initials.

We have seen designers line up and go about the problem of coming up with the ruble sign. The question big enough to lose sleep over has been how come character sets dare deny the great ruble the God-given right to being treated equally with the Korean won whose proxy is a double stroke W. But why fall into the same trap by designing a new sign that will bring about a host of changes to the existing fonts as it was when the euro was introduced? Given that the euro circulates in more than a dozen countries, the introduction of the sign was justified. The circulation of the ruble is, as it were, Russia’s internal affair; moreover, there’s some uncertainty about whether Russia needs the new currency sign at all. These two facts add up to a persuasive argument that we can get by without the graphic symbol.

Ruble Sign nationwide contest

I think that the acronym “rub”, whose roots run deep in Russia’s history and whose very sound is so evocative to a Russian ear, is the best sign for the ruble.

For one, this sign has potential in terms of further abbreviation as it can be truncated to “rb”.

For another, this sign is entirely easy to understand (100 rub), and there’s no need to learn it anew. Foreigners will have to get comfortable with the new symbol anyway.

Finally, as a simple three-letter combination rather than yet another arbitrary symbol, it will spread rapidly and be widely adopted as the sign of Russia’s currency.

Ruble sign in assorted fonts (in Russian)

The ruble sign should always be placed after the amount, with a space in between.

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