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People here (Hong Kong) like to pronounce n0 ("n subscript zero") as "N-nor"; "N-zero" seems to be acceptable. I am wondering what's the most popular pronunciation in English.
I am actually a little confused by "N-nor". Where does it come from? Is it understood in America or England?

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I've never heard of "N-nor". Could it be "N-nought", pronounced in a Hong Kong accent? I have no idea what a Hong Kong accent is like, but "N-nought" (which would sound just like "N-nort" in many British accents) is a common term for N subscript 0. – Peter Shor Jul 18 '11 at 13:16
I think I've usually heard "n sub zero" for this (saying the "sub" makes it clear we're talking about a subscript and not an exponent). – aedia λ Jul 18 '11 at 14:59
Could you provide an alternate representation or description for those of us who see "n[little box with the numbers 20 and 92]"? – Marthaª Jul 18 '11 at 15:11
@Martha Do you see it correctly, in the question body? – kiamlaluno Jul 18 '11 at 15:25
@Kiamlaluno, yes, thank you. Unfortunately, I don't think that fix will work for the question title. :/ Not sure what (if anything) to do about that. – Marthaª Jul 18 '11 at 15:40
up vote 8 down vote accepted

If you were reading it out to somebody, eg. to write down in a lecture, I would say N-sub-zero. But if this is a particular mathematical term then it's probably N-nought, or N-null. Sometimes the term has a particular usage from history or convention (eg the original paper or a famous textbook) whatever the rules of regular English grammar might say.

eg. the set of cardinal numbers aleph-null is normally Aleph-nought or Aleph-null

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Pronounced Aleph-null only if your teacher was German. (Or his teacher, and so on...) Otherwise pronounced nought or zero just like other subscripts. – GEdgar Jul 18 '11 at 16:13
Or because it was invented by Georg Cantor – mgb Jul 18 '11 at 16:21
OK, I suppose Cantor would have said "Aleph-eins" but we don't do that in English. – GEdgar Jul 19 '11 at 0:27
Thanks a lot. That Aleph-nought is interesting. – LLS Jul 19 '11 at 10:03
I read about this in a book (probably Kasner & Newman's Mathematic and the imagination) long before I went to college, and have always called it aleph-null. – Colin Fine Nov 28 '12 at 16:14

From a native US English speaker:

As there don't seem to be any readily available pronunciation guidance resources on this subject, I am forced to be subjective. I believe "zero" is the most common, in the US, at least. Since I do not prefer to call "0" anything other than "zero" in any situation, I would say:

N-zero for nₒ

N-two for n₂


As to your last question, I confess I wouldn't understand someone who said "N-nor", without further enlightenment.

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In the US, we also say "N-nought". – Peter Shor Jul 18 '11 at 13:38
Yes. I have heard both "nought" and "zero" used on both sides of the Atlantic, but I think "zero" is more common on either side, in any usage. And if one calls 0 zero, one tends to call nₒ "N-zero". At least, so I infer. – Daniel Jul 18 '11 at 13:43
@Peter: Some in the US might use 'nought', but it is pretty rare. – Mitch Jul 18 '11 at 14:28
In my US college math courses, my prof read it as "N-sub-aught." – Kit Z. Fox Jul 18 '11 at 15:40
I guess there are some differences in different areas. Thank you very much. – LLS Jul 19 '11 at 10:00

Here in Canada we use 'N-nought'. I have NEVER heard N-zero or N-nor. This is solely from my experience, having taken many math courses in university.

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Thank you for your answer. – LLS Jul 19 '11 at 10:02

Aught is another word for "zero". So when you have y0, you would say "y aught".

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A wee archaic, no? The accepted answer suggests naught / nought. – coleopterist Nov 28 '12 at 6:54

It's definitely pronounced 'naught' (sounds almost like "not"... or the beginning of "naughty" without the "ty" on the end). At least this is true for American Engineering, Physics, and Mathematics. Naught, as a living word, is more British than American, however, and rarely would an American ever be heard saying the word naught (outside of a mathematics-based class). Why "n-naught" instead of "n-nor" or "n-zero"... I imagine there is a poetic/linguistic reason for holding strong to a pronunciation that is not really used anywhere else... I would say x-naught sounds better than the alternatives. Or perhaps pronunciation memes are stronger when positioned within a mathematical context than in a quotidian one? For instance there is little variance in how we pronounce words such as "sine" "π" or "logarithm". The first few numbers have accents, but that's likely because they are everyday words... and not intently focused upon by very serious individuals.

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