Jump to content

So why is it "the Aughts"?


Recommended Posts

So there are various top ten of the decade posts at the moment and they (nearly) all seem to use the phrase "the aughts". So what's that about? Hitherto I've almost universally heard this decade referred to as "the noughties". That makes sense to me. Twenties, thirties, fourties, fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties... noughties kind of fits. Aughts is a whole other thing. What even is an aught?

Matt

Link to post
Share on other sites

Merriam-Webster says "aught" was first used to mean "zero" in 1872, as an "alteration (resulting from false division of a naught) of naught".

So I guess someone said "a naught" and someone else heard "an aught" and away we went.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites

According to the Oxford University Press blog, "Noughties" is a British/Aussie expression, whereas "Aughts" is the American term of choice--insofar as any single term has much favor. In 1999 the BBC said that

The "noughties" could be the one to head the - admittedly sorry - list of contenders.

And yet the "noughties" still sounds like a word East End villains might use to describe imprisonable activities - or even worse a polite, middle-class code for the reproductive organs.

I like "Noughties"--it has a certain cheekiness that seems somehow suitably British. However, I think for Americans the term lacks the self-explanatory quality coinages usually need to gain wide currency; "nought" just isn't used much here as a term for zero, and thus I don't think many Americans would intuitively know what is meant by "the Noughties." We would just hear it as "Naughties" and, after momentary confusion, take it as some sort of reference to lingerie or something, and move on.

I don't know if "Aught" will really catch on here due to being somewhat archaic. But it could spread like wildfire, in a retro craze, for aught I know.

Edited by du Garbandier
Link to post
Share on other sites

Matt Page wrote:

: So does everyone just use "zero" or "o" over there then?

Ordinarily, yes. "1901" would be pronounced "nineteen-oh-one", etc. Although there IS a scene in Kill Bill Vol 2 where Bill tells a story about something that happened in 1003 -- or, as he puts it, "one double-aught three".

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites

So does everyone just use "zero" or "o" over there then?

Matt

We usually don't say either one. American usage is odd in that way. For the first ten years of this decade we've said "two thousand," "two thousand three," "two thousand seven," etc. At some point we'll make the crossover to "twenty thirty-eight," or whatever. I'm not sure it will happen in 2010 (twenty-ten), because I think it's very possible that Americans will go on saying "two thousand ten." It will be interesting (mildly, during a particularly boring year) to see when that crossover occurs.

We never say zero, aught, naught, or anything of the kind, though. As Americans, we hate zero.

Edited by Andy Whitman
Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Petre and Andy, I was meaning more in everyday usuage - reading out a phone number for example. FWIW we also go with "two thousand," "two thousand three," , and have definitely made the transition to twenty-ten, not least because of the twenty -twelve olympics.

Matt

Link to post
Share on other sites
: So does everyone just use "zero" or "o" over there then?

Ordinarily, yes. "1901" would be pronounced "nineteen-oh-one", etc.

True -- but OTOH "2001" is "two thousand and one," with no need to pronounce any zeroes.

("2012" might be pronounced "twenty-twelve" (though Sony publicity was clear that the approved pronunciation of the film title was "two thousand twelve") but it would be rather odd to say "twenty oh one" for 2001.)

Thus, while there is some case for calling the first decade of the 1900s "the 0's" (whether pronounced "the ohs," "the naughts" or "the aughts"), it isn't quite as natural in the case of the first decade of the 2000s, where there is no pronounced 0/naught/aught.

Of course neither "aughties" nor "naughties" is really parallel to "thirties" or "eighties," etc., since no one says e.g., "aughty-five" or "naughty-six" the way we say "thirty-four" or "eighty-six."

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Link to post
Share on other sites

Although there IS a scene in Kill Bill Vol 2 where Bill tells a story about something that happened in 1003 -- or, as he puts it, "one double-aught three".

NPR reminded me yesterday of The Music Man, where Harold Hill graduated "Gary Conservatory, Gold Medal Class of Aught Five." That movie is so ingrained in my childhood memories, it's probably why I felt calling this decade the aughts has always just felt "right."

"It's a dangerous business going out your front door." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
"I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies." -- Josie
"I would never be dismissive of pop entertainment; it's much too serious a matter for that." -- NBooth

"If apologetics could prove God, I would lose all faith in Him." -- Josie

"What if--just what if--the very act of storytelling is itself redemptive? What if gathering up the scraps and fragments of a disordered life and binding them between the pages of a book in all of their fragmentary disorder is itself a gambit against that disorder?" -- NBooth

Link to post
Share on other sites

("2012" might be pronounced "twenty-twelve" (though Sony publicity was clear that the approved pronunciation of the film title was "two thousand twelve") but it would be rather odd to say "twenty oh one" for 2001.)

My contrariness has led me to be saying twenty-oh-x for the last several year. I'm now used to it.

I also note that Charles Osgood on CBS Sunday Morning says twenty-oh, so I feel validation.

Edited by Darrel Manson
A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

Link to post
Share on other sites
("2012" might be pronounced "twenty-twelve" (though Sony publicity was clear that the approved pronunciation of the film title was "two thousand twelve") but it would be rather odd to say "twenty oh one" for 2001.)

My contrariness has led me to be saying twenty-oh-x for the last several year. I'm now used to it.

I also note that Charles Osgood on CBS Sunday Morning says twenty-oh, so I feel validation.

I am comfortable integrating your usage, and Charles Osgood's, within my framework of considering this usage rather odd. :P

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...