August 25, 2013


While preparing dinner tonight, I was listening to the broadcast of the Pirates-Giants game on the radio. For much of the game, the score was 1-0, described as “one-nothing” by the play-by-play announcer.

The score led me to a thought I had not had before, namely, that the use of “nothing” in this context is odd. “Nothing” is usually an answer to the question “how much?” rather than “how many?” But runs in a baseball game come in discrete units. Were we to ask how many runs the Pirates had scored, “nothing” would be an odd answer.

In place of “nothing,” there are more logical alternatives: “zero,” “nil,” “oh,” “zip,” or “love.” Of course, the convention of using “nothing” is well-established. I wonder how this came to be.


  1. Seeing Vogey (Ryan Vogelsong) pitch his guts out in that game, I was a *LOT* more comfortable when it became Four-Nothing! ;-)

    ...but your Buccos are going onto the play-offs, while my Giants have gone, literally, from First-to-Worst. The Baseball Gods, unlike the Most Holy Trinity, are very fickle. }-X

    [Can't otherwise answer your question. Does Google turn up, um, nothing?]

    1. I hadn’t thought of searching the Web for an explanation. I just did, however, and came up empty.

      I thought that Vogelsong was impressive, by the way. As for the Pirates, their pitching has been much more reliable than their hitting.

      After two decades of losing seasons, Pittsburghers will believe the Pirates will be in post-season play only when it actually happens.

  2. In tennis, of course, "love means nothing." In English football you'll often hear a score given, 2-nil." Nil an English derivation of the Latin nihil, "nothing." A recent Pirate shutout reported, "Bucs win, 2-zip."

    Bruce Robison


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