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De-note it right

The government wants a new symbol for the rupee. What’s wrong with the good old Rs?

india Updated: Mar 03, 2009 23:10 IST
Hindustan Times

Let’s call a silly idea silly, shall we? The government wants to play Chief Semiotician by giving a symbol to the rupee. If the dollar can be $, the sterling pound £ and the yen ¥, why not give the rupee a pretty tag? But hang on. Isn’t the precious rupee already represented by Rs? Not good enough, say our mandarins. The Finance Ministry wants an adequate symbol that represents “the historical and cultural ethos of the country as widely accepted across the country”.

The $ sign was a ‘corruption’ of ‘Ps’, the Spanish peso sign and was adopted as the US currency sign in 1785. The British pound sign has even earlier origins in being derived from the capitalised L, standing for 'librium' or scales, the basic Roman unit of weight corresponding to the value of one sterling pound. As for the Japanese yen sign (from which the Chinese yuan sign is borrowed), its origins lie in the mispronunciation of Portuguese merchants who added a ‘y’ to the currency called ‘en’, that led to its current symbol.

So what message can we glean from all this? The one about if the currency and its symbol have been prevalent for decades, don't rock the boat. So let the Rs stay.

First Published: Mar 03, 2009 23:08 IST