Chapter 3: Millennial Angst
Editor’s Note: This item was misfiled on receipt and has finally emerged. It’s years out of date, but better late than never.
The advent of a new millennium may well have caused much rejoicing, but the glee is not quite universal. Some people have been disadvantaged, among them being those whose livings depend on work connected with Roman numerals. The abrupt change from nine letters to only two, identical at that, has obvious implications for these tradesmen – this being a largely male preserve – who are usually employed on a piecework basis. In Britain, not all the affected workers are represented by a single body. To date there has been no comment from the largest group, the Monumental Masons, which ironically has a monogram similar to the Roman letters for the year 2000. Despite its attempts to achieve unity, the industry remains fragmented.
Dick Spratt, spokesman for the Worshipful Order of Gravers (the WOGs), which claims to be the oldest guild in the UK, voiced his co-workers’ distress. “This is a calamity,” he said. “My members’ aspirations have been steam-rollered. It was bad enough at the end of the previous year, when we fell from MCMXCVIII to MCMXCIX. That was a drop to seven letters. Now, with the reduction to just MM, the bottom has fallen out. We are devastated.” His comments were endorsed by a representative of the Venerable Institute of Licensed Engravers (VILE).
A wider view was expressed by Stanley Nibb, head of the Fraternal Amalgamation of Romanic Technicians, which discourages use of an acronym. “It’s history repeating itself,” he moaned. “The same thing happened at the end of the first millennium, which came shortly after the incursion of Arabic numbers. There was unrest all over Europe, as people were thrown out of work. It’s a matter of record that this came to a head in Naples, where protesting craftsmen drenched the town hall floor with ninety gallons of ferret stew. Things improved a few centuries later, as we approached the mid-point, when we were able to make extensive use of the D, which like the C is a hard one to carve. Then we had our halcyon days in the run-up to MM, but now, as honorary Chief Chiseller of England, I am pessimisti