Degrees in French: spaces before the degree sign or not

From: Alain LaBont\i\ (
Date: Thu Oct 15 1998 - 09:19:18 EDT

At 01:59 98-10-15 -0700, Michael Everson wrote:
>Ar 11:14 -0700 1998-10-14, scríobh Alain:
>>>>So you write "37 °" not "37°", as in "normal body temperature is 37°"?

[Michael] :
>>>Yes, they do, but they also write about 37° of arc (without a space).

[Alain] :
>>With a fine space. (;

[Michael] :
>The _Lexique des règles_ clearly differentiates 37 °C from 37° of arc, you
>you can't (as you have) say that a fine space is used for both of them.

[Alain] :
You got me. You're right, I just checked. I will have learned something today.

There is indeed a specific note to that effect.

It is true that I rarely wrote texts talking about 37° of arc, while
everybody writes and talks about "la pluie et le beau temps" ("talking
about rain and nice weather" is a French expression meaning that chatting
about everything, just to chat (; )

Interestingly enough, they also give an example with degrees of alcohol,
where the decimal part is separated from the integer part by the degree
sign (like the Portuguese do with monetary figures [the Portuguese write
1$25 for 1,25 escudos]):

"un vin de 10°, une liqueur titrant 50°5"

(this is conformant to speech, and very logical -- and in this case I am
less surprised by the absence of a leading space in this particular case --
as it stands for a number expression with a decimal separator while, for
me, words are separated by spaces [or a delimiter], and the degree sign so
far, for me, always stood for a word. So far that was the logical rule I
knew and which applied to monetary expressions and percentages too, in
addition to degrees of temperature [1,25 $ -- 98,5 % -- 25 ° -- and so on].
Btw some words in French also have imbedded spaces, to complicate matters.
(; )

Alain LaBonté

PS: The specific, clear and explicit note says (as Michael says):
"REMARQUE. -- On composera : Ce vin titre 12°,
              mais : la température est de 18 °C."

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