How To Say: "Web 2.0"?
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.
In 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 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.