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Today in my mathematics class my lecturer used a phrase I am very familiar with, and I suspect many others may be familiar with too. However, when thinking about how one would write a particular word in this phrase I became perplexed, and am wondering if anyone else knows how to write it.

The phrase is:

"We'll do the final few steps in a one-ner."

The final word is written as it is pronounced. Are others familiar with this word, and does anyone know how it would be written? I doubt it's in the dictionary (I've checked under multiple potential spellings), but it seems to be a common word (I am Scottish, so perhaps this is a regional question).

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Wiktionary has the following entry:

in a one-er (not comparable)
(informal) in one attempt
You can probably empty your glass in a one-er, there's not much left.

In a oner is given as an alternative form, and Oxford Dictionaries Online has oner. I would tend to go with oner, since (1) it looks more authentic, (2) it's in the Oxford Dictionary, and (3) one-er reminds me of an uninformed person's attempt at translating it from spoken to written English.

It appears to be a British term, which is probably why I wasn't familiar with it.

The only way I can possibly make a stab at guessing which is more popular is by Google, so the rest of this answer isn't worth all that much... "in a oner" has 448 results and "in a one-er" has 356.

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Many thanks, were you previously familiar with this term? – dplanet Mar 7 '12 at 23:36
Nope, but I am now. You've taught me at least as much as I taught you. – Daniel Mar 7 '12 at 23:38
I am surprised. You didn't know the expression before, you quote a highly restrictive (and therefore misleading) definition from Wiktionary, and it gets accepted with the highest number of upvotes. Chambers, for example, (also British) gives a person or thing unique or outstanding in any way: an expert: a heavy blow: a big lie. All of which I as a Brit am familiar with. The only usage I know where it has any sense of "attempt" is exactly your example - to down a drink in one go, without taking the glass/cup from your lips. – FumbleFingers Mar 9 '12 at 22:47

From OED:

oner - 2 colloq. Something consisting of, denoted by, or in some way characterized by the number one. spec. one pound; one hundred pounds.

I suppose in your context, the lecturer either meant a one-liner (he'd write a one-line expression implementing the final few steps/calculations on the blackboard), or that he'd go through the final steps in a single uninterrupted section of his presentation, without pausing to allow questions, etc.

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The last time I heard oner it referred to a conker (that had defeated precisely one other), so I wouldn't say it's common. – TimLymington Mar 8 '12 at 14:09
@TimLymington: haha - that was the first usage that came to mind for me too, so I'm going back half a century there. But in later years I did sometimes hear/use it myself to mean one hundred pounds, in respect of a "moonlighting" job where one might give up a day at the weekend to do something relatively well paid. "Can you give me a hand next Saturday to fit a recon engine in so-and-so's Mini Cooper? It's worth a oner." – FumbleFingers Mar 8 '12 at 14:29

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