It’s possible I’ll regret using this title to make a pun about the degree symbol (°), instead of saving it for a pun about the weather, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I noticed, when copying a bunch of temperatures from a website into a CSV file into a Markdown table, that all but one of the degree symbols came out like º instead of like °. Now, depending what application is rendering those symbols, they might look the same. But, in Visual Studio Code, using the Fira Code font, the former has a little line underneath the circle.

I wondered what the difference was, and what was going on. According to the Wikipedia article on the degree symbol, it’s rendered without an underline. But the most-common lookalike symbol is (emphasis mine):

U+00BA º MASCULINE ORDINAL INDICATOR (HTML º · º) (superscript letter o used in abbreviating words; varies with the font and sometimes underlined)

A-ha. Whatever that symbol is for1, it doesn’t mean “degrees”. So, even though I could just leave those symbols in the table, because who gives a damn… I’m a nerd, and I did all of this research instead, before replacing the ordinal indicators with proper degree symbols. Like a gentleman. You’re welcome. 🤓

Update, 2020-03-15: My boss sent me a document which mistakenly contained the ordinal indicator, and I sent him this article because I knew he’d appreciate the explanation2. He mentioned that he’d written the document on his iPad using an external keyboard, and he’d typed ⌥ + 0 to produce the symbol, assuming that did the same thing as long-pressing the 0 on the iPad’s on-screen keyboard and selecting the degree symbol that appears.

Alas, no. It’s a matter of history: ⌥ + 0 on the Mac produces the ordinal indicator, and evidently the iPad external keyboard matches the Mac’s keyboard shortcuts, not the shortcuts that are available by long-pressing keys on the iOS on-screen keyboard! The keyboard shortcut for typing a degree symbol is ⌥ + Shift + 8. So there, iOS users: forewarned is forearmed.

  1. oh, it’s for declaring a numeral as ordinal rather than cardinal in certain languages; the way “1st” means “first” and not “one” in English, 1º means “first” in Italian… 

  2. Or I did it because I knew it would annoy him, you decide. 😏