101 = "One 'oh' One" / "One 'no' One"? [saying '0': oh/not/naught/no]

ReContraMil

New Member
American English and Argentine Spanish
I am from California, where we pronounce the number zero as "oh" when used in long strings of numbers. However, I am now living in Kerala, India, and everyone here pronounces it "no"! They say that "oh" is incorrect. I would love to tell them that they are all wrong, but I want to humbly look into this first.

Neither Google searches nor the wonderfully trustworthy Wikipedia have given me any sign of the existence of this usage of "no" for zero. Is it some silly Indian mistake that somehow spread and became ubiquitous? Or is this perhaps only said in the state of Kerala?

I would appreciate any help you can offer in clearing this up for me.
 
  • Day Dreamer

    New Member
    Canadian English
    pickarooney beat me to it. As India was an English possession, I'm sure they were introduced to the word 'nought' or 'nil' for zero. And so it morphed
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    The words are "one-oh-one". When spoken quickly in casual conversation it sounds like "wuh-noh-wun", as if the "n" in the first "one" had been moved over to the "oh" in the same way that French uses liaison between words.

    "Oh" is very common for "zero" in casual conversation. For example, the cleaning product Formula 409 is pronounced "four-oh-nine", not "four-zero-nine" or "four hundred (and) nine". All the freeways with a zero in the middle that pass through Los Angeles are pronounced with "oh" rather than "zero": 605 (six-oh-five), 105 (one-oh-five), 405 (four-oh-five). This is also common when reading telephone numbers. I work in the 805 area code which is pronounced "eight-oh-five". It is also used for pronouncing street addresses; "10160 Franklin Ave." would be typically pronounced as "one-oh-one-six-oh".

    If strict accuracy is required "zero" is used but only if there is any possibility of confusion between the letter O (oh) and the number 0 (zero). For example, I would read a product code of LOH5901 over the phone as "ell-oh-aitch-five-nine-zero-one".

    Even the military, who are usually quite particular about such things, say "oh-eight-hundred" for "0800" (8 a.m.) rather than "zero-eight-hundred".
     
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    ReContraMil

    New Member
    American English and Argentine Spanish
    It could be a shortened form of 'nought'?
    That could totally be it! As I asked my eighth-grade students this morning about it, they told me it should be said "one not one", which may be this "nought" you're speaking of. Is that commonly used in England?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Do you mean that they would pronounce "508" as "five-no-eight"? That seems very unusual. Or is it just with the number "101"?
    James's question seems to me to be crucial.

    Also:
    if Indian English pronounces "0" as "no" in certain contexts, then that's surely fair enough.

    The fact that AmE/BrE doesn't is irrelevant.
     

    wonderwhy

    Banned
    English - NaE
    Also: if Indian English pronounces "0" as "no" in certain contexts, then that's surely fair enough.

    The fact that AmE/BrE doesn't is irrelevant.
    I agree, Loob. The irony of AmE speakers remarking on other dialects' changes to the English language seems to have escaped some.

    EDIT: My remark was in no way intended as a slight to speakers of AmE. It is/was simply a reflection upon the fact that AmE is probably responsible for more changes to English [from their BrE origins] than any other dialect.
     
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    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Actually, many of the so-called "changes" are actually words preserved from British English at the time of colonization. I think it's arguable that as many changes have been introduced to British English by the British since the founding of the U.S. as have been introduced into English by the U.S., if not more.

    Nevertheless, Loob's point is a good one. It may be common and correct in Indian English to use naught/nought for zero.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    It may be common and correct in Indian English to use naught/nought for zero.
    Slightly different issue, James. It's common in BrE to use naught/nought for zero.

    The suggestion here is that it's common in Indian English to use no for zero.

    That may well be right: I don't know.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    As I understood it, Loob, that got modified by this post from the original poster:

    That could totally be it! As I asked my eighth-grade students this morning about it, they told me it should be said "one not one", which may be this "nought" you're speaking of. Is that commonly used in England?

    Loob, would it be common to say "six-naught-nine" for "609" in British English?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    ...
    Loob, would it be common to say "six-naught-nine" for "609" in British English?
    I'm not Loob, but I would say no.
    The word nought is common, but I would say more often for 0 by itself.
    It would seem very strange to use it as part of saying a multi-digit number such as 609, but I might well tell you that Amy got nought out of ten in her test today.
     
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    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I agree, Loob. The irony of AmE speakers remarking on other dialects' changes to the English language seems to have escaped some.

    EDIT: My remark was in no way intended as a slight to speakers of AmE. It is/was simply a reflection upon the fact that AmE is probably responsible for more changes to English [from their BrE origins] than any other dialect.
    There are enough differences between AE and CaE ~ some of them surprising ~ to make it useful to know which variety of North American English a poster represents.

    At present, you are obscuring the distinction by giving NaE as your native language. As you have made the distinction an issue in this post, it is not unreasonable for people to ask which variety you grew up speaking.
     

    ReContraMil

    New Member
    American English and Argentine Spanish
    Do you mean that they would pronounce "508" as "five-no-eight"? That seems very unusual. Or is it just with the number "101"?
    Yes, they use that pronunciation with all numbers that have zeroes in them. When I go down the street to buy minutes for my phone, the gentleman gives me a deal if I buy 202 rupees worth -- "two no two rupees". At first I thought only he said it this way, but I'm finding it to be ubiquitous!

    I agree, it is very unusual to me, too. But before I start teaching all my English students that this is incorrect, I want to get a more global opinion, especially because my English is from the USA and not from England, as theirs is. (I've already come across some surprises, like the letter 'z' being pronounced "zed".)
     

    ReContraMil

    New Member
    American English and Argentine Spanish
    James's question seems to me to be crucial.

    Also:
    if Indian English pronounces "0" as "no" in certain contexts, then that's surely fair enough.

    The fact that AmE/BrE doesn't is irrelevant.
    You know, I have a hard time accepting that India has its own mutations of English that are perfectly acceptable. But you're absolutely right: American English has numerous mutations from the British that are globally considered "correct".

    It just seems to me that some Indian fellow misheard a British man saying "one oh one" and thought it was "one no one" and started saying "no" for "oh" in all contexts. Maybe some other Indian guy heard the first Indian and thought, "Hmm... This guy must have bad pronunciation and must mean to be saying naught, which I've heard British people use for zero at times. I'll start saying 'one naught one' and teach that in my English classes." And there you go, it spread like wildfire.

    I should add, the pronunciation of "not" or "naught" here is most often identical to that of "note", which is why I confuse it for "no" most of the time. Also, the t's most people say here also aren't as plosive (is that the right word?) as ours. I have a hard time telling t's from d's in a Malayalam accent of English. (Malayalam is the official language of the state of Kerala, where I am living now.)

    I don't know the real story of how this "one naught one" thing got started, but I'm trying to "fix" this for future generations with the English classes I'm teaching here. ;) Is that wrong of me?
     
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    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, they use that pronunciation with all numbers that have zeroes in them. When I go down the street to buy minutes for my phone, the gentleman gives me a deal if I buy 202 rupees worth -- "two no two rupees". At first I thought only he said it this way, but I'm finding it to be ubiquitous!
    Having some familiarity with the Indian accent (because India is nearer us, and there is a kind of common history), I would venture to say that Indian speakers are aiming at 'nought', and this sounds like 'no' to American ears.

    There are variants of this elsewhere. If anyone is familiar with V S Naipaul's (1961) A House for Mr Biswas, set in Trinidad, where he learns that “Ought oughts are ought, ought twos are ought.”

    As panj has indicated, 'nought' is not normally used in giving prices. Something costing £202, would be 'two hundred and two', or at a pinch 'two oh two' pounds. 'Nought' is more common on its own, or before a decimal (0.4 = nought point four).

    So, I don't think Indian students should be told that they are wrong, but might perhaps be encouraged to enunciate carefully.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I have a hard time accepting that India has its own mutations of English that are perfectly acceptable.[...]
    I don't know the real story of how this "one naught one" thing got started, but I'm trying to "fix" this for future generations with the English classes I'm teaching here. ;) Is that wrong of me?
    I don't know why you find it hard to accept that there are many "Englishes".

    Is it wrong to try to "fix" something which is accepted in Indian English, but not in AmE or BrE?
    Yes... /no... /maybe....
    Perhaps the best you can do is explain that X is not used in other varieties of English: that will give your students a choice.
     
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    pickarooney

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I don't know the real story of how this "one naught one" thing got started, but I'm trying to "fix" this for future generations with the English classes I'm teaching here. ;) Is that wrong of me?
    Considering that your job is to teach English to non-native speakers I would say that it's quite normal that you teach your own brand of English to your students, allowing for the fact that there are regional variations. To this extent, you should lead by example and encourage them to be consistent in their dialect. If they mix and match local variations with the English you're teaching them, it would be fair to point out the inconsistency rather than label the local words and pronunciations as wrong, in my opinion.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    ...

    I don't know the real story of how this "one naught one" thing got started, but I'm trying to "fix" this for future generations with the English classes I'm teaching here. ;) Is that wrong of me?
    Perhaps as you find examples of the many natural individualities of Indian English you should check with an authority on Indian English before deciding to rub them out. Then, taking Loob's advice, you can teach them Indian English properly as well as teaching them AE and explaining the differences.

    According to my Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992), India is "the third largest English-speaking country in the world." Realising that 1992 is quite some time ago, though it feels like only yesterday, I went hunting for some more recent information.
    According to NationMaster, India is now second in the table, the US being top, UK third, Canada fourth, Australia fifth.
     

    envie de voyager

    Senior Member
    english-canadian
    You know, I have a hard time accepting that India has its own mutations of English that are perfectly acceptable.


    I don't know the real story of how this "one naught one" thing got started, but I'm trying to "fix" this for future generations with the English classes I'm teaching here. ;) Is that wrong of me?
    If your students were talking about a lorry, would you try to "fix" this for future generations by telling them that they must use the word truck? To be honest, I find this to be somewhat arrogant. Saying the name of the letter O in place of the word zero is no more correct (in a world-wide context) than their use of the word naught.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Perhaps as you find examples of the many natural individualities of Indian English you should check with an authority on Indian English before deciding to rub them out. Then, taking Loob's advice, you can teach them Indian English properly as well as teaching them AE and explaining the differences.
    Failing that, you could start with an approach similar to: "I am not in a position to say whether it is correct in Indian English; I can only say that in American English we say..."
     

    ReContraMil

    New Member
    American English and Argentine Spanish
    Thanks for the advice, everyone.

    I have come to accept that there are myriad variations from Indian English and AmE. They say "FILL-im" for "film" and "MAN-oor" for "manure". Instead of telling them that they're 'wrong', I tell them how things are said in AmE.

    I agree; AmE has an incredible amount of deviations from British English and we consider both of them to be 'correct'. I have no place treating my brand of English as superior to theirs.

    Whenever I see a variation in things that seems ubiquitous, I let it go, unless it is grammatical. When I begin class and the children ask me, "Sir! Today paper give?" I make sure to tell them that what they just said was not proper English, and I work on fixing it with them. If they ask me about a "fill-im", I don't mention the difference in pronunciation. I just pronounce it my way, and let them pronounce it their way.

    Thanks for helping me mature in this process. You all make very good points. I appreciate your help.
     
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