"zero" or "oh"?

"zero" or "oh"?

Nat
Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

December 29th, 2006, 5:52 pm #1

With a new year about to start- everyone will be talking about “2007”- but how will they say it? – Will they say “two-zero-zero-seven”? I bet not. Most everyone I hear says “two-oh-oh-seven” or just "oh-seven".

As you may know I recently changed phone companies- and phone numbers. My new phone number has a “0”(zero) in it.
I don’t really like that- because now when I tell someone my phone number I must choose between saying “oh” and “zero”.
Yes, I know- technically it is a number- "zero" – not the letter “O”, but I have notice that when speaking of years and phone-numbers most everyone says “oh” instead of “zero”. In fact it even sounds a bit pompous to say “zero” when a simple “Oh” will do. So I’m forced to choose between saying the easier and popular “oh” or the more technically correct “zero”.

Now in the case of years and phone numbers everybody knows that any “Oh” must be the number zero- but there are cases- such as stock-numbers and computer passwords where you can have both the letter “O” and the number “0” and it makes a big difference which is which. I think its a pity that we are stuck with such confusion as the number “0” looking too-much like the letter “O”- or for that matter the number “1” looking too much like the lower case “l” or the capital “I”. There just shouldn’t be such ambiguities in our language!
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John Bayko
John Bayko

December 29th, 2006, 11:52 pm #2

Actually, in telephone numbers the round character stood for both the digit 0 and the letter "O", as it was also what to dial to get the "Operator", so it's entirely correct to pronounce it "oh".
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Nat
Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

December 30th, 2006, 2:38 am #3

When we had word-named exchanges- the letters ran from "A" on "2" to "Z" on "9".
The letter "O" was on the number 6- so when you called "Oak 47350"- you dailed "6547350"

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Europeman
Europeman

December 30th, 2006, 8:33 am #4

With a new year about to start- everyone will be talking about “2007”- but how will they say it? – Will they say “two-zero-zero-seven”? I bet not. Most everyone I hear says “two-oh-oh-seven” or just "oh-seven".

As you may know I recently changed phone companies- and phone numbers. My new phone number has a “0”(zero) in it.
I don’t really like that- because now when I tell someone my phone number I must choose between saying “oh” and “zero”.
Yes, I know- technically it is a number- "zero" – not the letter “O”, but I have notice that when speaking of years and phone-numbers most everyone says “oh” instead of “zero”. In fact it even sounds a bit pompous to say “zero” when a simple “Oh” will do. So I’m forced to choose between saying the easier and popular “oh” or the more technically correct “zero”.

Now in the case of years and phone numbers everybody knows that any “Oh” must be the number zero- but there are cases- such as stock-numbers and computer passwords where you can have both the letter “O” and the number “0” and it makes a big difference which is which. I think its a pity that we are stuck with such confusion as the number “0” looking too-much like the letter “O”- or for that matter the number “1” looking too much like the lower case “l” or the capital “I”. There just shouldn’t be such ambiguities in our language!
I think there is a difference between saying a number and spelling it. If you want to tell somebody that something costs 325 $, you will probably say "three hundreds twenty five" and not "three two five".
Most of the time one refers to a year number, it will be contextual, so that one would probably say "two thousand and seven" (or is it two thousand seven?)

There is a risk of confusion in cases (such as 1915 and 1950) when the context might help.

It may be a bit different when giving a full date in six digits, so omitting the "20" so that I would expect "twenty nine twelve oh-six" (or in the US, twelve twenty nine oh-six).

In such cases, or with a telephone number, there is little contextual meaning...

And spelling 2007 might also be "two - double oh - seven". I wonder if the habit to spell "oh" or even "double oh" is not coming from the code name "double oh seven" of Ian Fleming's hero... or more generally of a military usage.

In French, there is no general habit to say "Ô" instead of zero. With the new standards in Europe, all numbers start with a 0, and I'll spell it zero when I happen to spell it in English.

Back to French, the habit is to write and spell the telephone numbers by two or three digits, so that
01-4926-1234 would be spelled (I translate) "zero one forty nine twenty six twelve thirty four.
In the Germanic languages, that method is not that practical as it makes it hard for foreigners, as they say "neun und fierzig sechs und zwanzig zwölf fier und dreizig" (not 100% sure of writing correctly).

But the French method still leads to confusions in France, since they spell the same "778014" and 601794" (this issue is not present in Belgium and Switzerland).
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Marseil
Marseil

December 30th, 2006, 9:03 am #5

When it comes to phone numbers, I find the English method more practical.... A phone number can be spelt as "oh-six-three-four-two-three-seven-seven" which is easier to catch and requires less thinking than "zero-six-thirty-four-twenty-three-seventy-seven".

I usually don't have any problem when givingh my phone number in English, as when I give it in English, I use to give it to a foreigner, so the innitial zero disappears and is repalced by a "plus-three-three".

when yu write "But the French method still leads to confusions in France, since they spell the same "778014" and 601794", I'm not sure any English speaker has caught the point.....

Marseil.
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Nat
Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

December 30th, 2006, 3:21 pm #6

I think there is a difference between saying a number and spelling it. If you want to tell somebody that something costs 325 $, you will probably say "three hundreds twenty five" and not "three two five".
Most of the time one refers to a year number, it will be contextual, so that one would probably say "two thousand and seven" (or is it two thousand seven?)

There is a risk of confusion in cases (such as 1915 and 1950) when the context might help.

It may be a bit different when giving a full date in six digits, so omitting the "20" so that I would expect "twenty nine twelve oh-six" (or in the US, twelve twenty nine oh-six).

In such cases, or with a telephone number, there is little contextual meaning...

And spelling 2007 might also be "two - double oh - seven". I wonder if the habit to spell "oh" or even "double oh" is not coming from the code name "double oh seven" of Ian Fleming's hero... or more generally of a military usage.

In French, there is no general habit to say "Ô" instead of zero. With the new standards in Europe, all numbers start with a 0, and I'll spell it zero when I happen to spell it in English.

Back to French, the habit is to write and spell the telephone numbers by two or three digits, so that
01-4926-1234 would be spelled (I translate) "zero one forty nine twenty six twelve thirty four.
In the Germanic languages, that method is not that practical as it makes it hard for foreigners, as they say "neun und fierzig sechs und zwanzig zwölf fier und dreizig" (not 100% sure of writing correctly).

But the French method still leads to confusions in France, since they spell the same "778014" and 601794" (this issue is not present in Belgium and Switzerland).
Interesting point about Fleming's Bond. Even the revered British Secret Service used improper terminology! I’m surprised that more of an issue isn’t made of this universal mis-use. I think what we need is a new word for “zero” that is as easy to say as “Oh” but doesn’t have the ambiguity of “Oh”. And this is true both in saying and writing since the letter “O” and number “0” can appear quite similar depending on fonts. For a while there seem to be a trend to putting a slash through zeros like “Ø” to insure they was not mistaken for a letter “O” but I don’t see this much now.

I sure liked it better back when the years started with “19”- it just seem so much easier and more natural to refer to a year as ‘19’-something. We’ve been dealing with years starting with “20” for seven years now but it still seems very strange and awkward to me. I think it always will.

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Europeman
Europeman

December 30th, 2006, 4:35 pm #7

When I started in computing (back in 1969) the habit was to write a slash through letter O... when later on that represented zero, the sign intended to avoid confusion was confusing by itself.

On mainframe terminals, the zeros were displayed with a dot in the middle. I still use that convention for my own handwriting.

On old typewrite here, there was no zero digit (nor 1, by the way) and letter O was commonly used for it. Some people who had only used typewriters till they recently started with a computer for e-mail still have that in their hands. No real problem as long as they write text, and don't use a spreadsheet.
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Europeman
Europeman

December 30th, 2006, 4:40 pm #8

When it comes to phone numbers, I find the English method more practical.... A phone number can be spelt as "oh-six-three-four-two-three-seven-seven" which is easier to catch and requires less thinking than "zero-six-thirty-four-twenty-three-seventy-seven".

I usually don't have any problem when givingh my phone number in English, as when I give it in English, I use to give it to a foreigner, so the innitial zero disappears and is repalced by a "plus-three-three".

when yu write "But the French method still leads to confusions in France, since they spell the same "778014" and 601794", I'm not sure any English speaker has caught the point.....

Marseil.
Marseil, I thought of that, but also that if they had learned a little french they could have a hint.... or they would ask for an explanation... and my post was already long enough...

But you catched the issue, of course. You may tell me that the French help themselves by pronouncing or not a "blank space" where appropriate.
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Marseil
Marseil

December 30th, 2006, 5:47 pm #9

With a new year about to start- everyone will be talking about “2007”- but how will they say it? – Will they say “two-zero-zero-seven”? I bet not. Most everyone I hear says “two-oh-oh-seven” or just "oh-seven".

As you may know I recently changed phone companies- and phone numbers. My new phone number has a “0”(zero) in it.
I don’t really like that- because now when I tell someone my phone number I must choose between saying “oh” and “zero”.
Yes, I know- technically it is a number- "zero" – not the letter “O”, but I have notice that when speaking of years and phone-numbers most everyone says “oh” instead of “zero”. In fact it even sounds a bit pompous to say “zero” when a simple “Oh” will do. So I’m forced to choose between saying the easier and popular “oh” or the more technically correct “zero”.

Now in the case of years and phone numbers everybody knows that any “Oh” must be the number zero- but there are cases- such as stock-numbers and computer passwords where you can have both the letter “O” and the number “0” and it makes a big difference which is which. I think its a pity that we are stuck with such confusion as the number “0” looking too-much like the letter “O”- or for that matter the number “1” looking too much like the lower case “l” or the capital “I”. There just shouldn’t be such ambiguities in our language!
So shall we soon be in:
. two oh oh seven
. oh seven
. seven

Marseil.
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John Bayko
John Bayko

December 31st, 2006, 7:13 pm #10

When it comes to phone numbers, I find the English method more practical.... A phone number can be spelt as "oh-six-three-four-two-three-seven-seven" which is easier to catch and requires less thinking than "zero-six-thirty-four-twenty-three-seventy-seven".

I usually don't have any problem when givingh my phone number in English, as when I give it in English, I use to give it to a foreigner, so the innitial zero disappears and is repalced by a "plus-three-three".

when yu write "But the French method still leads to confusions in France, since they spell the same "778014" and 601794", I'm not sure any English speaker has caught the point.....

Marseil.
"when yu write "But the French method still leads to confusions in France, since they spell the same "778014" and 601794", I'm not sure any English speaker has caught the point....."

I did - the French phobia to giving names to any number between "soixante" (60) and "cent" (100) means that "sepante" (70), "huitante" (80), and "neufante" (90) don't exist, so have to be described in other descriptive terms. Translated to English, 69, 70, and 71 would be "sixty-nine", "sixty-ten", and "sixty-eleven". Similarly, 79, 80, and 81 would be "sixty-nineteen", "four twenties", and "four twenties-one". The numbers 89, 90, and 91 are the even stranger "four twenties-nine", "four twenties-ten", and four twenties-eleven".

So this means that 77 (soixante-dix-sept) sounds the same as 6017 (soixante, dix-sept), and 8014 (quatre-vingt, quatorze) sounds like 94 (quatre-vingt-quatorze).

I actually enjoy French numbers for the oddity of them.
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