Re: Spelling of cm. in RDA records

Posting to Autocat

On 22/08/2011 19:22, Mark Ehlert wrote:

James Bowman wrote:

I enjoy browsing the catalog of my undergraduate college library, Knox College. Here is an OCLC RDA record which spells out the abbreviation “cm.”  Any comments?

It’s (re-)abbreviated in the master OCLC record. Could be a case where a cataloger skipped over the part in describing the use of “cm”, didn’t find “cm” listed in RDA’s Appendix B.7 (“Latin Alphabet Abbreviations”), and thought it should be spelled out. Since metric symbols (m, cm, kg) aren’t considered abbreviations under RDA, they’re not found in the B.7 list. Or the cataloger thought spelling it out would be more helpful to the catalog users. Though if this is a singular instance in Knox’s catalog (or WorldCat), it’s more likely than not a mistake.

This is one of those points that I have always called a “Gotcha!”, i.e. a tiny, little, picayune point in cataloging that somebody missed, but it makes no difference at all to anyone, except to people “in the know”! I used to love “correcting” periods or other punctuation like this, “correcting” an abbreviation, while I laughed evilly to myself! I’ve gotten over that, though.

I’ll divulge a secret: considering “cm” to be a symbol has never made any sense to me. A symbol is like $ for a dollar, or £ for a British pound. Another idea of a symbol is in definition 4 here:, but I think we can ignore them! An abbreviation is “a shortened form of a written word or phrase used in place of the whole <amt is an abbreviation for amount> That seems to me clearly to include m, cm, kg and all of those other “symbols-that-look-like-abbreviations-but-are-not-for-some-reason”. If “centimeters” would be rendered as § or ¶ or ¦, it would make more sense to me as a symbol. I remember reading a reason somewhere and still being completely bewildered, but I don’t feel like trying to understand it again, if I ever understood it at all.

If RDA is putting so much reliance on “cataloger judgment”, why can’t these things be included? It doesn’t make any difference if there is a period or not! I think the number of “Gotchas!” should be decreased significantly.