Lesson #402: Combinations Locks in the Arab World

Hello, all five of you who are still subscribed to this blog! Glad you’re still here.

I’m at a bit of an intellectual standstill, so I’ve decided to return to this endeavour for 2018. Here’s a quick bite to tide you over until the new year — unless I decide to post again between now and then, in which case, you know, lucky you!

Every now and again, something will pop into my head for absolutely no reason, and it’ll be completely absurd and serve very little intellectual purpose. Not even as a question on Jeopardy!. This is one of those times.

Imagine this: it’s 11:30 pm on a weeknight. I’m getting ready to head in the direction of bed. And then this pops into my head: do combination locks in the Arab world use dial faces with the Hindi numerals on them? Do not ask me why I suddenly needed to know this at 11:30 on a weeknight. I’m as baffled by it as you are.

Now, to understand this question, it’s first important to clarify something you may not know. The numbers we use in Indo-European language (0, 1, 2, etc.) are Arabic numerals. The numbers used in Arabic are Hindi numerals. Answering this question should have been easy, but because of the subtleties of language, it was not. The internet was exactly zero help.

So I did the obvious thing and, at midnight, turned to a friend who spent years living in Jordan. We went back and forth about this for a little while. She wasn’t sure she’d ever seen a combination lock while in country. But in Jordan, they mostly use Arabic numerals in writing and signage, so she suggested it was likely that even if Master and similar companies do make locks with different dials, they wouldn’t be available in Jordan. But, she continued, Saudi Arabia is very strict in its usage of Hindi numerals. Obviously, the next person to ask was my Saudi friend. His response didn’t come in until the next morning because, seriously, who sends texts about lock dials at 12:30 in the morning?

In Arabic countries (and, by logical extension probably all other countries that do not use Arabic numerals), combination locks use the standard dial with Arabic numerals. Though this is as academically unreliable an answer as I’ve ever posted, it’s the best I can do with the failure of the internet to help in literally any way.

But now you know. For the zero times it will ever come up again.

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