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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. Jul 18, 2011 at 13:16
  • 6
    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, 2011 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, 2011 at 15:11
  • @Martha Do you see it correctly, in the question body?
    – apaderno
    Jul 18, 2011 at 15:25
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    @kiamlaluno: why did you change 'sub' to 'subscript'? The OP was stating his pronunciation, not giving some description. If you want to give a description of the thing (that is, not typeset) then give it separately.
    – Mitch
    Jul 18, 2011 at 22:17

8 Answers 8

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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, 2011 at 16:13
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    Or because it was invented by Georg Cantor
    – mgb
    Jul 18, 2011 at 16:21
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    OK, I suppose Cantor would have said "Aleph-eins" but we don't do that in English.
    – GEdgar
    Jul 19, 2011 at 0:27
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    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, 2012 at 16:14
  • Yeah, my Physics teacher says "nought." Nov 10, 2016 at 2:25
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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

Etc.

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". Jul 18, 2011 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, 2011 at 13:43
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    @Peter: Some in the US might use 'nought', but it is pretty rare.
    – Mitch
    Jul 18, 2011 at 14:28
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    In my US college math courses, my prof read it as "N-sub-aught."
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jul 18, 2011 at 15:40
  • I guess there are some differences in different areas. Thank you very much.
    – LLS
    Jul 19, 2011 at 10:00
4

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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1

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. Nov 28, 2012 at 6:54
  • I've not heard "aught" used like that on either side of the Atlantic. Definitely poetic/archaic to use "aught" to mean zero. The current use seems to be only of "aughts" plural meaning the ten year period from 2000 through 2009. Jul 6, 2022 at 9:16
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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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In American English, N0 is usually pronounced "N-naught" or "N-sub-zero," with "sub" short for "subscript." In any of my math or physics classes, I've never heard it pronounced "N-nor" or "N-zero" as many people are saying here.

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My physics, chemistry and mathematics teachers used to call it n-suffix-zero sometimes, but mostly just n-zero or n-naught.

I studied in private English-medium Indian schools, in the Middle East.

-4

I’m in America and have never heard any of those; my teacher says “N-Oh” as in the letter.

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    But nₒ is very different from n₀, even if it does look similar.
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 18, 2017 at 16:38
  • Yeah, but Americans are notorious for saying “oh” when they mean “zero”. Oct 19, 2017 at 1:16

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