Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Synthesizing a word for a set of zero

I felt like making up a word for when you have zero of something. Like if three is a triple, and two is a double, then one is a single, but what is zero?

There's a good generic term for such a word: a tuple. For n=4 and above, all the tuples end in "-uple" (quandruple, quintuple, sextuple,...). Maybe they should be called the "uples". And Wikipedia has an entry for n=0. It looks like this:
0: Empty tuple; Unit
I don't like it much. Since all the other prefixes come from some variant of the Latin word for the number, I decided to start with the Latin word for zero. Of course, the Romans didn't have a symbol for zero. Some hold that the Babylonians were the first to come up with one and that this idea propagated around and eventually the Latin alphabet picked up words for zero in the Middle Ages: cifra and zephyrum. (The English cognate would be cipher.) Therefore, I propose zephle as the zero-tuple. Or else zerple. "Zephle" is probably a more genunine fake tuple, but "zerple" (pronounced as ZEER-pul) is more self-explanatory and fun to say. Zerpledecker bus. Zerple cheesburger. Zerple date. Identical zerplets. See?

Word most likely to be confused for zero-tuple: nonuple. It's when you have nine of something. There's a really long list of such words here.

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