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AUGHT

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AUGHT

Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri Jul 08, 2005 12:02 am

• aught •

Pronunciation: awt or ôt • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass & Adverb

Meaning: 1. [Noun] Anything, all, everything 2. [Noun] Nothing, zero 3. [Adverb] At all.
Notes: English has a peculiar way of expressing years, e.g. 1923 = nineteen (hundred) twenty-three. All other non-Germanic Indo-European languages use thousand, i.e. one thousand nine hundred and twenty-three. This presents English with a problem for the first decade of a millennium, since "twenty hundred" is unacceptable and to refer to a year as simply "one", "two", or "three" would be incomprehensible. The solution has always been to use the term aught, e.g. we are now living in "aught five" ('05). This word has a negative variant, naught, which is the actual source of this sense of today's word (see Word History).

In Play: Be careful not to confuse this Good Word with the auxiliary verb, ought: "I ought to have naught to say to him since his release back in aught one ('01)." In a more positive vein, we may also say, "Has she aught to offer a poor lonely fellow like me?" when me mean "anything".

Word History: Today's is as authentic an English word as ever there was. It comes from Old English á "ever" + with (wight) "creature, thing," literally "ever a thing", pretty close to "everything". The word's meaning migrated to its antonym (from "all" to "nothing") via reanalysis, when some people mistook "a naught" for "an aught", drawing the line between the two words where it shouldn't be. Which leaves us with naughty. Its original meaning was "having naught, poor", back when poor folk were assumed to be bad. (We have naught but gratitude for Leonard Pelletier for aught he lent us in suggesting this Good Word.)
Last edited by Dr. Goodword on Sun Jul 10, 2005 6:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Garzo » Fri Jul 08, 2005 7:34 am

In northern British English dialects this is usually spelled owt, and is pronounced as out. The corresponding naught is refigured as nowt. It is very common in these dialects, but less so in southern and standard British English. It's only in the south that someone would confuse aught and naught: we got so confused that we gave up!

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Postby Brazilian dude » Fri Jul 08, 2005 2:44 pm

All other languages use thousand, i.e. one thousand nine hundred and twenty-three.

That's not true. The other Germanic languages do the same thing. French can say it in that way or can use the other Romance languages' way of saying it, that is, expressing the thousands, the hundreds, the tens, and the units.

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Postby Stargzer » Fri Jul 08, 2005 9:52 pm

"Aught" is used in the pronunciation of the .30-06 cartridge ("Thirty aught six") used in the 1903 Springfield rifle of WWI and the M1 Garand and the BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) during WWII. It is also a popular hunting cartridge for large game such as deer and moose.
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Postby anders » Sat Jul 09, 2005 9:58 am

"You can't get owt for nowt" is true philosophy.

And on years, BD is of course correct. In Swedish 1923 is nittonhundratjugotre, nineteen-hundred-twenty-three. This way is not restricted to Germanic languages. Hindi uses the three words <nineteen> <hundred> <twentythree>. In Chinese, you normally read the digits one by one: one nine two three.

Finnish and Persian start with <thousand>.
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Jul 10, 2005 6:06 pm

True enough--not enough thought on that one. I have precised the comment now in the archive.

Thanks for pointing out the error.
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Re: AUGHT

Postby Stargzer » Sun Jul 10, 2005 9:06 pm

Dr. Goodword wrote: . . . The solution has always been to use the term aught, e.g. we are now living in "aught five" ('05). . . .


Sometimes a simple "Oh" (as in the letter "O") is used instead of aught, as in "Back in nineteen-oh-three" or "Back in oh-three."
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Postby Brazilian dude » Sun Jul 10, 2005 9:08 pm

True enough--not enough thought on that one. I have precised the comment now in the archive.

Thanks for pointing out the error.

That's what we're for, Doc.

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