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I was reading the back cover of Donald Trump's book The Art Of The Deal and found these lines:

He isolates the common elements in his greatest deals; he shatters myths; he names names, spells out the zeros, and fully reveals the deal-maker's art.

So what does the phrase spells out the zeros mean? And is this phrase still in use or is it dated? Thanks.

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  • Have you tried to Google it?
    – user140086
    Nov 8, 2015 at 18:21
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    What do you consider dated? It's obviously used on the back of a book published in 2004?
    – Jim
    Nov 8, 2015 at 18:22
  • Sorry I sould have commented, "Have you tried to Google spell out"?
    – user140086
    Nov 8, 2015 at 18:50
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    Nope. "Spell out" which means "to make clear and explicit" :)
    – user140086
    Nov 8, 2015 at 18:55
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    @Jim: Just that I don't hear people either in the US or UK use this phrase & I cannot recall when was the last time I heard this phrase. BTW - The Art Of The Deal was published in 1987 not 2004 so it's possible that certain terms have become dated.
    – DSarkar
    Nov 8, 2015 at 19:07

2 Answers 2

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Not a common phrase, and to me, an American native English speaker, it's meaning is unclear. Possibly whoever wrote that thinks they worded something cleverly. I can only guess that the meaning is either that he gives the dollar amounts (how many zeros, as in how many millions or billions of dollars) for the deals he's made, or, since he "names names", he also tells ("spells out")what people were "zeroes", implying they were worthless or of no help to anyone in making good deals. But, again, the meaning is not clear at all to me, and the wording is strange.

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Since the rest of the sentence is trying to promote the author's ability to teach the chosen subject, spell out the zeroes could relate to being able to clarify ambiguous terms.

In particular, some people use(d) the word billion to mean a thousand million, and others, a million million (there are efforts to make the word consistent across the pond). By 'spelling out' (listing) the zeroes in the number, it becomes clear which number one means.

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  • the UK stopped using 10^12 as a billion about 50 years ago. Jun 11, 2020 at 19:47
  • @BlokeDownThePub do you have a source for that? I (an English native) was always taught it that way.
    – scubbo
    Jun 12, 2020 at 1:54

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