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How To Say: "Web 2.0"?

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Catherine Sangster | 13:26 UK time, Friday, 1 February 2008

In general, the Pronunciation Unit concerns itself with names and places in foreign languages, but sometimes we are asked to research and recommend a pronunciation for something in English involving numbers.

These are often aircraft or weapons (Hawker P1081, Hercules C130, a .357 Magnum), and we are able to consult the manufacturers directly for the usual expert pronunciation. Most recently, we asked Boeing how their new 777 plane is referred to - the answer is "triple seven", which surprised some people, given the usual "seven forty-seven" pattern.

This sort of question might seem trivial. But imagine how unconvincing a character in, say, a BBC drama who is supposed to be a hitman referring to a "point three hundred and fifty seven" gun would sound. In all our research we try to come up with a single pronunciation which is acceptable and widely used in British English, so that BBC broadcasters can have an accurate and consistent recommendation, although in many cases more than one pronunciation is possible and acceptable. These recommendations are added to an in-house pronunciation database which all BBC staff can consult.

bbc2dot0.pngIn this spirit, yesterday we were asked to make a recommendation for the phrase "web 2.0".

There seem to be many possible ways of saying this - "two point oh", "two point zero", "two dot oh", two point nought", "two oh", "web two" - with a certain amount of variation according to nationality, company loyalties and other factors. Given the nature of the concept, we can't make the usual enquiries of the manufacturer to settle things. In this sort of case, our usual practice is to consult people who might through their own expertise be in a position to give us an informed opinion.

To this end, then, we set up a quick-and-dirty email button poll of all the staff in the BBC Future Media and Technology division, asking them to take a few seconds to tell us (if they felt equipped to do so) which pronunciation they usually heard or used themselves.

Results are still rolling in, but after a day and across a sample of >500 respondents, three-quarters have voted for "two point oh". In second place is "two point zero" (14%), followed by "two point nought" (<5%).

Stephen Fry. BBC RADIO 4 21.12.05 Book of the Week: Lost Worlds. Stephen Fry reads from Michael Bywater's compendium of things that have been lost.Stephen Fry has suggested that Tim Berners-Lee's preference of "two dot oh" ought to lead the way, but this is not the most widely-used version (nor even in the top three, at least in our internal poll) so it would seem a perverse choice.

We also understand that "two point oh" is the way that Tim O'Reilly, credited with coining the term, says it.

We've heard various arguments for the rightness or wrongness of one version or another ("you have to say 'zero' because 'oh' is the name of a letter only"; "just say two oh because the decimal point is irrelevant as there'll never be a minor release"), but these don't really persuade in the face of most people's usage. We're also encouraged that other polls seem to show broadly similar results to ours (in this one, "two point oh" also came out on top, with 62%).

With all this in mind, we will probably recommend "two point oh" as the most usual pronunciation. But I'd be interested in your views. How do you say it?

Catherine Sangster, BBC Pronunciation Unit.

Comments

  1. At 11:54 AM on 04 Feb 2008, Ryan Morrison wrote:

    I hear two point oh used much more than any of the others you suggest. Although that is mainly from the many American Tech podcasts I subscribe to.

  2. At 01:28 PM on 04 Feb 2008, peter willis wrote:

    I hear "two point oh" more than any other from techy friends, but the real users for the future-those between 11 and 21,say,will always shy from overly technical language that takes too long to say: you're not cool if everyone knows how your sentence finishes whilst you're still getting there (see death of Oh. My. God!). "Web two" will win it, eventually, probably shortened to "two", by the 'way coolest' (or whatever phrase gets that meaning across now).

  3. At 01:46 PM on 04 Feb 2008, Dave Rawson wrote:

    It seems to me that "Web Two" is more a statement of having moved away from the commercial, Web 1, use of the Internet to the social, Web 2 use. It is not to be read or pronounced, as you would a version number that documents software revisions.

  4. At 02:02 PM on 04 Feb 2008, James wrote:

    two point oh, no question.

  5. At 02:14 PM on 04 Feb 2008, Dave Rawson wrote:

    Simply web two, that's all

  6. At 02:33 PM on 04 Feb 2008, pdiddy wrote:

    I prefer "two point d'oh!"

  7. At 02:53 PM on 04 Feb 2008, Frankie Roberto wrote:

    'two point oh,' or just 'web two' for short.

  8. At 03:33 PM on 04 Feb 2008, Sean DALY wrote:

    I most often hear "two point oh", and my theory is that URLs are often described with "dot" (e.g. news dot bbc dot co dot uk) because the period is associated with text, whereas a software version, which "2.0" echoes, is usually considered a decimal point.

  9. At 03:39 PM on 04 Feb 2008, Alex wrote:

    It's blatantly Webtoo. By the time you've bothered enunciating the rest of the syllables it's out of fashion, even if the BBC homepage has fallen for it.

  10. At 04:47 PM on 04 Feb 2008, Tim Dennell wrote:

    Just as 'Web two'.
    Simple & to the point.

    But already the term 'Web three' is being bandied about, so maybe the 'point oh' would only really be relevant if there were developments resulting in Web 2.1, Web 2.2 and so on.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/12/business/12web.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

  11. At 05:29 PM on 04 Feb 2008, Wills wrote:

    its two point oh.

    When my lecturer at uni says "web two" I cringe.

  12. At 05:55 PM on 04 Feb 2008, Alan wrote:

    Web two point oh, of course.

    It's always written '2.0' so it should always be said thus, with the '.0' included, however you decide to verbalise them.

  13. At 06:11 PM on 04 Feb 2008, Daryl wrote:

    I am mostly hearing / using "webtwopointzero"; closely followed by "webtwopointoh"; and then by "Webtwo" - all depending on who I'm speaking to.

  14. At 06:27 PM on 04 Feb 2008, James wrote:

    It definatly is pronouced as "Web two point oh" and have heard it said like that from many of the people that made web 2.0. However i do get a feeling that the BBC's staff may have a little too much time on their hands to be debating the pronounciation of words! huh!

  15. At 06:52 PM on 04 Feb 2008, Alan wrote:

    I'd go for "two point oh" as well.

    In the spirit of 2.0 - it'd be interesting to see more example from the pronunciation database, or even open it up for users to look at & maybe vote on things like this ;-)

  16. At 12:12 AM on 05 Feb 2008, Kian Ryan wrote:

    It's pronounced "ARGH, Javascript! AJAX! Non-idexable content! Information overload! ARGH!".

  17. At 09:54 AM on 06 Feb 2008, Leyton Jay wrote:

    two point oh clearly!

    It sounds cool! It sounds appropriately techie too!

    I wasnt excited about Die Hard 4 until I heard it was going to be called Die Hard 4.0.

  18. At 07:00 PM on 07 Feb 2008, Mark wrote:

    "two point oh", definitely.

    Definitely not "dot". You don't say that a mile is "one dot six kilometres".

  19. At 11:15 PM on 07 Feb 2008, C McKee wrote:

    Way too much time and money on your hands obviously.

  20. At 03:32 PM on 16 Feb 2008, Robert wrote:

    In Germany we also say "two point oh"... but.. of course.. in german.

  21. At 07:56 AM on 18 Feb 2008, chrisp wrote:

    Simply " Web two". I don't say two point zero when I mean two!

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