(With Saviour Ekpe)
Actually, I would not have picked my golden pen to write on things that bother on numbers and letters this week edition while there are millions to write on politics, health, education, environment, corruption, flood, disaster and many other areas.
Since it is incumbent on the people living on the planet earth in this twenty first century to be well armed with information and especially Nigerians that are seen as people in the third world country (so we are), the Second language speakers and indeed, the original language owners (the British), I have to come into this matter. I have a lot to write here but the space allocation is very limited, however, I will try to apply the technique of brevity and summarization to logically handle this issue.
Over the radio, television and even on the street, I hear people read phone numbers aloud and whenever I hear, my mind takes me back to the primary school days where we were thought on spellings for example, the spelling of the word, ‘book’ that is spelt B-O-O-O-K, book; O-N-E, one; H-O-U-S-E, house and so on and so forth.
Others include the reading of numbers such as 1000 which is read in digit form as one-zero-zero-zero or one and triple zero or one thousand. Similarly, 100, in digital form is read one-zero-zero, one double zero or one hundred. For God sake, it is not and will never be read as 1-o-o-o or 1-o-o, these sound odd. This brings to fore that o (small letter) or O (capital letter) is a letter while zero (0) is a number. Aside that, o is a round letter while 0 is written as eclipse. The letter o is the fifteenth letter and a vowel in the basic modern Latin alphabet. The letter was derived from the Semitic Ayn (eye), which represented a consonant. The sound represented by an Arabic letter U called ayn. Its graphics form has also remained fairly constant from Phoenician times until today. Letter o is the fourth most common vowel letter in English language. It is most commonly associated with close mid back rounded vowel (0) in many languages.
In the same vein, zero (0) pronounced as zero or zeer-oh is both a numerical digit used to represent that number in numerical. It plays a central role in mathematics as the additive identity of integers, real numbers and may alter algebraic structures. 0 is the integer immediately preceding 1. In most cultures, 0 was identified before the idea of negative things that go lower than zero was accepted. Zero in itself is an even number, why? Because it is divisible by two, it is neither positive nor negative.
It is a number which qualifies a count or an amount of null size. It could be recalled that in 976 AD, the Persian encyclopedist, Muhammad Ibn Ahmad al-Kharizmi in his “keys of science” remarked that if in a calculation, no number appears in the place of tens, then, a little circle should be used “to keep the rows”. This circle, the Arabs called, OYN Sifr, “empty”. That was the earliest mention of the name Sifr that eventually became zero. Traditionally, many print typefaces made the capital letter O more rounded than the narrower, elliptical digit 0. Typewriters originally made no distinction in shape between o and 0; some models did not even have a separate key for the digit 0. The distinction came into prominence on modern character displays, thanks to the introduction of computers. A further distinction is made in falsification – hindering typeface as used on German car number plates by slitting open the digit 0 on the upper right side. Sometimes the digit 0 is used either exclusive or not at all. It is practically clear that the distinction between o and 0 is very conspicuous and cannot be denied.
From the foregoing, it is therefore improper to read cell phone numbers, for instance my phone number as o-eight-o-two-four-one-seven-nine-one-one-nine (08024179119) rather should be read as zero-eight-zero-two-four-one-seven-nine-one-one-nine, bearing in mind that one is reading numbers and not letters.
Ordinarily, one may not be able to write both words and letters on the number dialer soft screen mode to make any call successfully but whenever it is manipulated upon to type a combination of words and letters for instance, o8o242939oo and copied to the dialer screen environment if using a smart phone, when attempting to dial, the resultant effect will be 68624293966 if smart phone is used or 8242939 if a small phone is used respectively also depending on the class of phone. If you attempt dialing it, you will receive a respond machine error message, “the number dialed is not valid, please check the number and dial again” or “sorry, you are not allowed to call this number” or “the number you are calling is not correct, please check the number and dial again” etc.
In a truest point of view, we cannot validate whatever is invalid and vice versa. Therefore, going by the multitude to mutilate and mix words with letters to form a phone number is actually in invalid exercise and indeed, exercise in futility and it is not accepted by us the main users of English language.
(Being an updated version of Striking Point published August 15, 2011, Vol. 6 No. 13)