How many different ways can you say ZERO?
Zip. Zero. Zilch.
Nil. Nothing. Nada.
Oh. Scratch. Naught.
And of course, our favorite:
These words are all slang terms for the number zero. If you’re playing tennis, you’ll say “love” instead of zero. That comes from the French word l'oeuf, which means “egg.” And if you’re playing cricket, you’ll say “duck” instead of zero.
Why all the playful egg words for zero? It’s because zero is mostly egg-shaped.
Except, of course, sometimes zero isn’t shaped like an egg at all. Sometimes, you’ll see zero printed more as a little round “o.”
For phone numbers, we might even say “oh” instead of “zero.” And if we’re using zero as a placeholder number, like in “James Bond, 007” — you might pronounce zero as “double o” instead of “zero zero.”
If you’re playing with Uncle Goose Perpetual Calendar Blocks, do you use the zero block as a placeholder in your dates?
Take the date June 2, for example. Do you just use the 2 block to display the date — or do you use both the 0 and the 2 block?
Many people use the 0 as a placeholder number in dates. Using zero as a placeholder is an important numerical concept. It can help you learn and understand math concepts like addition, subtraction, multiplying, and dividing.
Consider the ancient Romans. They didn’t have zero, and their numeric system didn’t use placeholders. Instead: I is 1, V is 5, X is 10, L is 50, C is 100, D is 500, and M is 1,000.
Now, try adding CCIX and MD. That’s confusing! Did it take you some time? Did you need to take out a pen and paper, or maybe even use a calculator?
But try adding 209 and 1500 right now. They’re the same numbers, expressed with zero placeholders. Zero makes math so much easier! You can probably say “1709” within a few seconds.
You didn’t even need pen and paper or a calculator. When you get accustomed to using zero as a placeholder, you’ll get better at math. You'll be quicker to calculate.
Using the leading zero helps when you are filling out online forms, too. Computers often want to see that leading zero as a placeholder.
And if someone asks to pronounce the date, they might say “June second.” Or they might say “oh six, oh two.”
As you get older, you’ll know that those two dates are the same thing, expressed differently. You won’t even have to do the math. Through repetition and familiarity, it will become imprinted on your brain.
Other times, you might see zero with a line crossed through it. People will do that so that you don’t confuse zero with the letter o.
But why? Why on earth do we have so many ways to express the number zero?
As a number, zero holds a special place in our imagination. That’s because zero as a concept doesn’t come naturally to humans.
There’s no zero in nature. Zero is a mathematical concept. Humans first began expressing zero about 5,000 years ago, in ancient Mesopotamia.
Since zero doesn’t exist except as a concept: we have to teach it. And we need to learn it.
As humans, we create playful ways to talk about zero. This makes it more friendly and approachable. We need to keep creating ways to make the concept of “nothing” more concrete and familiar.
Giving zero fun nicknames can help make it easier to learn. How many different ways can you say “zero?”