Oh zero, my hero

This is the place to post questions and discussions on usage and style. The members of the Wordwizard Clubhouse will also often be able to help you to formulate that difficult letter.

Oh zero, my hero

Post by Archived Topic » Tue Apr 06, 2004 8:53 am

A few months ago I realized that whenever I am reciting a number containing a zero (e.g., my zipcode) I say the letter name, "oh" instead of "zero." I've noticed others around here doing the same thing and was wondering if it is a regional thing or if people all over the States and/or world do it too. Any discussion re: why? --Mrs. Kowal
Submitted by Kerri Quinton (Wichita - U.S.A.)
Post actions:
Signature: Topic imported and archived

Oh zero, my hero

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Apr 06, 2004 9:08 am

We do it here too in Britain, usually in non-mathematical contexts such as when reciting phone numbers. I think the reason is that we take advantage of the orthographical similarity of 0 (zero) and the letter O to expend the minimum energy in speaking the number. All the other numbers from one to nine are just one syllable long, but 'zero' is two syllables. Two syllables is enough to be awkward when reading out strings of numbers, and the easily-uttered grunt 'oh' is usually precise enough in the context not to be confused with the letter O.

If there is any risk of being misunderstood, perhaps when reading out a reference number such as 30126/B27/OX which may contain both 0 and O, it is my observation that most people will revert to 'nought' or 'zero', and sometimes even specify 'the letter O' if they think it is necessary.

Where precision is always essential, such as in mathematics or maths-based sciences, 'zero' (sometimes 'nought', depending on the speaker's preference) is the norm, at least in Britain.

-- Mr Kowal
Reply from ( - )
Post actions:
Signature: Reply imported and archived

Oh zero, my hero

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Apr 06, 2004 9:22 am

Zero, no! (Oops, I mean "Oh, no!") I tried to post a response to Kerri's question, but I think my internet service went on the fritz just as I was posting it, so now I have to try to remember what I was going to say.

I, too, am guilty of saying "oh" for "zero," at least some of the time. Most of the people I know do it, too. So it's at least a Midwest thing (possibly world-wide, if Erik is also using it). I especially use it for "non-mathematical" purposes like addresses, ZIP Codes and phone numbers. For example, Springfield has multiple ZIP Codes, but they all begin with 627. When I give my address to a fellow Springfieldian, I usually just truncate the ZIP Code to "oh-seven," with the assumption that the 6-2-7 is understood. (By the way, Erik, I think "seven" has two syllables, but it is often slurred into something like one syllable.)

I also hear "oh" used instead of "zero" for phone numbers. In fact, there is a local radio commercial that has a jingle for the business's phone number: "six-nine-eight-five-oh-oh-oh." I think it's a pretty common practice, probably for some of the reasons Erik stated.

I do find myself, though, using "zero" when I give my credit card number or Social Security Number over the phone. I guess I think "zero" will be understood better on the other end.

And, by the way, I don't think I've EVER heard anyone here in the Midwest say "nought" instead of "zero." THAT must be a British thing. (Erik, you might want to stop using it before you're kicked out of Kansas!)
Reply from K Allen Griffy (Springfield, IL - U.S.A.)
Post actions:
Signature: Reply imported and archived

Oh zero, my hero

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Apr 06, 2004 9:37 am

K Allen has finally proved it: 7 = 2, except when 7 = 1. *G*

-- Erik Kowal
Reply from ( - )
Post actions:
Signature: Reply imported and archived

Oh zero, my hero

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Apr 06, 2004 9:51 am

What is this WooWooLand coming to. It can be commonly understood that newlyweds utter a lot of "oh, ooohs, etc.; but to further cause the cause harm you inflict your various indigenous, regional dialects upon the unsuspecting readers. Dispensing quickly with the thought that "o's" could be offspring of "uu's," I suggest that reference be made to that epitome of standards for the English language. In aid of busy worders, I have set forth what the Merriam-Webster's College Dictionary, 10th edition has to say, so to say, on the matter. In these two references you will not find a pronounciation of one exchanged for the other! "O" remains "O" and "0" remains "zero."

I suspect this whole matter came to a head (Kerri's in particular) that had nothing better to do while in Denmark! There is a possibility that it could have been a combination of low oxygen in the aircraft and looking out its "O-shaped" windows whilst coming and going -- to Denmark, of course!

On a further note of concern for this forum, I suggest that Mr. and Mrs. Kowal be enjoined not to gang up in any one discussion. It wouldn't be fair to the rest of the wizzes and, in time, could lead to disputatious discussions and marital strife.

In the Name of the Most High Wiz: I command you to go forth and use the language properly, forsaking the mixing of "nulls," "naughts," "Oh's, "zero's" and "O's!"


Main Entry: o
Pronunciation: 'O
Function: noun
Date: before 12th century
Inflected Form(s): plural o's or os /'Oz/
Usage: often capitalized, often attributive
1 a : the 15th letter of the English alphabet b : a graphic representation of this letter c : a speech counterpart of orthographic o
2 : a graphic device for reproducing the letter o
3 : one designated o especially as the 15th in order or class
4 : something shaped like the letter O; especially : ZERO

Main Entry: 1ze.ro
Pronunciation: 'zE-(")rO, 'zir-(")O
Function: noun
Etymology: French or Italian; French zero, from Italian zero, from Medieval Latin zephirum, from Arabic sifr
Date: 1604
Inflected Form(s): plural zeros also zeroes
1 a : the arithmetical symbol 0 or denoting the absence of all magnitude or quantity b : ADDITIVE IDENTITY; specifically : the number between the set of all negative numbers and the set of all positive numbers c : a value of an independent variable that makes a function equal to zero <+2 and -2 are zeros of f(x)=x[^2]-4>
2 -- see NUMBER table
3 a (1) : the point of departure in reckoning; specifically : the point from which the graduation of a scale (as of a thermometer) begins (2) : the temperature represented by the zero mark on a thermometer b : the setting or adjustment of the sights of a firearm that causes it to shoot to point of aim at a desired range
4 : an insignificant person or thing : NONENTITY
5 a : a state of total absence or neutrality b : the lowest point : NADIR
6 : something arbitrarily or conveniently designated zero
Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)
Post actions:
Signature: Reply imported and archived

Oh zero, my hero

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Apr 06, 2004 10:05 am

So, Leif... let me understand you... you always say "zero" when referring to 0? Never "oh?" Interesting! Being a military type, I suppose you say things like one-niner, and alpha cat edward?
Reply from Kerri Quinton (Wichita - U.S.A.)
Post actions:
Signature: Reply imported and archived

Oh zero, my hero

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Apr 06, 2004 10:20 am

That's a big one zero four, Mrs. K! I always try to speak correctly. As to being a military "type," one of the reasons I retired early from the USAF was that the PC contingent was forcing the change of saying zero to "oh! From there I could see the demise of "fiver" and "niner" and decided it was inevitable and the time of the warrior was over! *SIGH*

"Say not the struggle zero availeth . . . !"
Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)
Post actions:
Signature: Reply imported and archived

Oh zero, my hero

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Apr 06, 2004 10:34 am

"Alpha Cat Edward?"
Reply from Shay Simmons (Colfax - U.S.A.)
Post actions:
Signature: Reply imported and archived

Oh zero, my hero

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Apr 06, 2004 10:49 am

Aces, baby! (My apologies to those of you who know the real words for "spelling" out things... I always make up my own, like they do in the Magic Kingdom.)
Reply from Kerri Quinton (Wichita - U.S.A.)
Post actions:
Signature: Reply imported and archived

Oh zero, my hero

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Apr 06, 2004 11:03 am

Nil desperandum, Kerri! Neologism (or in this case, nilologism) and free invention both have a long and more or less honourable tradition in all languages. I exhale vigorously, even odoriferously on your mildewy military mockers!

Meanwhile, yourdictionary.com has this to say about the 'nought' or 'naught' disparaged by K A and Leif:

Main Entry: naught
Pronunciation: 'not, 'nät
Function: pronoun
Etymology: Middle English nought, from Old English nAwiht, from nA no + wiht creature, thing -- more at NO, WIGHT
Date: before 12th century
: NOTHING

-- Erik Kowal
Reply from ( - )
Post actions:
Signature: Reply imported and archived

Oh zero, my hero

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Apr 06, 2004 11:17 am

"Say not the struggle "oh" availeth???

Titanic's Captain to his lookout,"Do you see anything ahead?"

Lookout, "Oh, oh"

Captain, "Good! Full speed ahead!"
Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)
Post actions:
Signature: Reply imported and archived

Oh zero, my hero

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Apr 06, 2004 11:32 am

The moderator of the annual town meeting in my small New England village called the meeting to order, gavel in hand, announcing the year as "twenty-ought-one", not "twenty-nought-one" or "twenty-zero-one". I liked the sound of it and plan to use the "ought" myself until 2010, if it passes muster here in W W Land.

Reply from Catherine Dart (Ashburnham - U.S.A.)
Post actions:
Signature: Reply imported and archived

Oh zero, my hero

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Apr 06, 2004 11:46 am

I, myself, am rather partial to two thousand and one. But in Woowooland, I'll probably just use the Arabic numerals and silently mouth the words. *G*
Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)
Post actions:
Signature: Reply imported and archived

Oh zero, my hero

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Apr 06, 2004 12:01 pm

In Britain there is no consensus on whether the years 2000-2009 should be known collectively as the 'oughties', the 'noughts' or the 'noughties'. I favour 'the years zero', but no doubt this is the minority view.

Comments, anyone?

-- Erik Kowal
Reply from ( - )
Post actions:
Signature: Reply imported and archived

Oh zero, my hero

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Apr 06, 2004 12:15 pm

The naughty noughties has a nice ring to it.
Reply from christine Gilpatrick (New Windsor - U.S.A.)
Post actions:
Signature: Reply imported and archived

Post Reply