Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 13:39:58 -0500

From: Ronald Butters amspeech[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]ACPUB.DUKE.EDU

Subject: Re: Zero or "o"?

On Mon, 27 Nov 1995, Larry Horn wrote:

Of course the Operator position was originally keyed to O because the latter

was referred to as "oh", or so I assume. Anyway, the one position we NEVER get

'zero' is in referring to years like 1903--yet there's no possibility of

analyzing that as '19-operator-3'. I have a feeling the full range of labels

is complicated and pretty interesting. In sports scores, for instance, the

losing score is "nothing" (never "oh" and rarely "zero") if it's baseball or

football, "nil" if it's soccer, and "love" if it's tennis. Otherwise, 0 is

usually "oh" for reasons of least effort in house addresses, dates, etc., but

as Marla points out this may change in computer addresses, as it already has

to some extent in other contexts where the value of a particular alphanumeric

symbol is otherwise unrecoverable (as between letter "O" and number "0") and

where the distinction matters--license plates, vehicle IDs,...

Let me further complicate the matter: my grandfather (and other Iowans of

his generation--and maybe my father as well [b. 1912]) said "nineteen

aught three" for 1903. "Aught" was pretty poplular, at least in Iowa, in

the earlier part of this century.