Nothing and Nthing January 13, 2008 10:16 PM   Subscribe

Whence Nthing? Isn't the word "seconding" meant to include multiple votes of support? Is this something peculiar to Ask Metafilter?
posted by vacapinta to MetaFilter-Related at 10:16 PM (75 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Nthing cmpars to uyou by Siんにad おcoなor.
posted by jouke at 10:25 PM on January 13, 2008


That may be true in a formal context, such as in the parliamentary system, but colloquially most people use "seconding", "thirding", "fourthing", etc. to voice support. It's nonstandard, but harmless.

Since keeping track of who has supporting what and when in an ongoing BBS-style discussion (as opposed to IM or face-to-face) is a bit tough, most fall back on the generic "nthing" to avoid messing up the order. Probably more so online since it has a bit of a computer wonk vibe to it, and better suits the type of person who'd be likely to participate in internet debates.

As for it's prevalence on MeFi, I'd guess it's because the level of discussion is a bit higher than elsewhere. Can you imagine a conversation on YouTube or MySpace necessitating phrases like "Seconding X"? It's a bit too formal. I've seen it on other sites, though, so it's not like it's Metafilter's own or anything.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:29 PM on January 13, 2008


I've always thought of "seconding" as stemming primarily from parliamentary rules of order, in which a motion needs to be seconded before acted upon or put up for a vote. So it's not merely to say "I agree with this" but "I am, in speaking, doing the thing one does to allow this proposal to move forward."

So in that original context, there wouldn't be multiple people "seconding" (or, if there are, all but the first are completely superfluous).

And when the concept gets extended to a general sense of "I agree with this" and someone else wants to chime in with additional support, you get "thirding," "fourthing," and, eventually, to stop the silly counting already, "nth-ing." I'd be shocked if this originated on AskMe.
posted by nobody at 10:30 PM on January 13, 2008


I don't think it's peculiar to AskMe, no. I've heard things thirded, fourthed, and nthed in a lot of different contexts. But I've spent most of my life hanging out with nerds, so, hey, it might be an observation bias.

Interesting to look at the progression of google results:

Seconded - 3,960,000
Thirded - 78,700
Fourthed - 12,900
Fifthed - 4,390
Sixthed - 1,850
Seventhed - 881
Eighthed - 987
Ninthed - 221
Tenthed - 371
Twentiethed - 8
Hundredthed - 16
Thousandthed - 5
Millionthed - 69
...
nthed - 656

Seconding - 243,000
Thirding - 13,200
Fourthing - 2,930
Fifthing - 851
Sixthing - 184
Seventhing - 271
Eighthing - 97
Ninething - 26
Tenthing - 619
Twentiething - 3
Hundredthing - 8
Thousandthing - 5
Millionthing - 34
...
nthing - 55,100

So it gets generalized out a bit; "nthed" is a lot more rare than "nthing", but even at that only 9 of ~600 hits for "nthed" are on askme.

Paging Language Log. Myl to the courtsey phone. Breakfast experiment in the making.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:31 PM on January 13, 2008 [7 favorites]


Replacing an arbitrary natural number {1, 2, 3...} with N is standard math notation.
posted by empath at 10:34 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


nthing - 55,100

As jouke implies above, many/most of those are people mistyping "nothing."
posted by vacapinta at 10:37 PM on January 13, 2008


There are a lot of things that are peculiar to MetaFilter, and, sooner or later,a ll of them will have their own MetaTalk thread.

In fact, you could say that there are N things that are peculiar to MetaFilter. But I wouldn't. Really.
posted by wendell at 10:40 PM on January 13, 2008


Hmmph. I'm pretty sure I've used it and hear it used, both in text and when speaking, for decades. Seems unremarkable to me, and certainly not unique to Metafilter.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:41 PM on January 13, 2008


Interesting...I just realized for the first time that the language log person is the guy I had the pleasant back and forth with discussing Chang's genealogy model.
posted by vacapinta at 10:42 PM on January 13, 2008


Cortex to the rescue.

In addition to "nthing" searches obviously picking up a whole bunch of "nothing" misspellings, there are probably alternate spellings of "nthing." What does google do with punctuation within words? I'm surprised the results for nth-ing seconding are different from those for nthing seconding.
posted by nobody at 10:43 PM on January 13, 2008


And if you use an apostrophe instead of a hyphen the search results actually show up with the hyphenated variant.
posted by nobody at 10:44 PM on January 13, 2008


Looks like an apostrophe is in fact interpreted as any non alphanumeric character
posted by nobody at 10:46 PM on January 13, 2008


Arg. I hate it when people do that.
posted by koeselitz at 10:46 PM on January 13, 2008


How peculiar to find a usage on MetaFilter peculiar.
posted by Cranberry at 10:57 PM on January 13, 2008


languagehat is going to be really peeved about this, y'all.
posted by dhammond at 11:12 PM on January 13, 2008


vacapinta is right, the correct usage is "second" even if you're #1000. this reminds me of the old childhood joke where the punchline goes approx. "i seventhed it and you ate it."
posted by bruce at 11:24 PM on January 13, 2008


Well, technically, 'seconding' isn't the appropriate term at all. Unless we're actually making motions for consideration by some form of parliamentary body.
posted by empath at 11:29 PM on January 13, 2008


I agree.
posted by koeselitz at 11:38 PM on January 13, 2008


languagehat is going to be really peeved about this, y'all.

Yeah, he totally hates it when you take the christ out of nothing.
posted by sleepy pete at 11:39 PM on January 13, 2008


"N" as an indeterminate number larger than two has snuck out the maths lesson and into everyday colloquial Chinese, with younger people at least. E.g. - 他怎么还不明白?已经给他解释N多次了 ("How come he still doesn't get it? It's been explained to him umpteen [more-than-N] times"). Fairly recent loan word I think.
posted by Abiezer at 11:58 PM on January 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


Whither "whence"?
posted by The Deej at 12:04 AM on January 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


It has nthing to do with the cabal.

There is n cabal.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:18 AM on January 14, 2008


Deej, ask not for whom whence whithers, it whithers for thee.
posted by Abiezer at 12:28 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty disturbed that more things have been eighthed than seventhed on google.
posted by jacalata at 12:51 AM on January 14, 2008


Seventhing is traditionally done in thilenth. For obviouth rethons.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:57 AM on January 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


You have to remember that eighthed is also used as a cooking term, like quartered. It has even been used in that way right here on AskMe.
posted by Kattullus at 12:57 AM on January 14, 2008


It's been explained to him umpteen [more-than-N] times"). Fairly recent loan word I think.

Abiezer, that is so goddamn awesome.
posted by blasdelf at 1:23 AM on January 14, 2008


Seconding is a way of supporting someone.

Thirding, fourthing, and so on, are a way of supporting someone while acknowledging and imposing an order to the support. If twelve people say "I second that" you think nothing of it. But the moment people in the middle start getting into thirding and fourthing, the ones after are now out of the correct order. Maddening, isn't it?

Nthing conveniently circumvents that and is a way of supporting someone while reasserting that order does not matter.

It shows up frequently on MeFi because most people here have a thing about rules, logic, and order (else why so many callouts?), but they're also too lazy to read the whole thread and count.
posted by anaelith at 1:24 AM on January 14, 2008


> ...but they're also too lazy to read the whole thread and count.

Others will be posting their comments while you're composing yours. You can keep hitting preview and editing your comment appropriately to ensure ordinal propriety, and hit preview again when done in case nobody else has incremented in the meanwhile, and again and again and again. Alternately you can enter a numeric placeholder and avoid all that.
posted by ardgedee at 2:35 AM on January 14, 2008


Talking about origins is dangerous, comrade. Of course, "nthing" was invented here at MetaFilter, where else would it come from?
posted by Meatbomb at 2:47 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


You'll get nthing and like it!
posted by Dave Faris at 4:25 AM on January 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Nth and nth degree are used fairly commonly in the UK, derived from the mathematical term I assume, and its not that unusual to say nthing in informal language in the way highlighted here. The OED has this to say:

2. Used in more general contexts. Freq. in phrases to the nth (degree, power) and variants: to any extent, to the utmost degree, without limit; for the nth time: for the umpteenth time. Also occas. as n.: the utmost part, the highest level or degree.

1827 R. H. FROUDE Remains (1838) I. 219 My notions about it have been..very fuddled and bewildered; and, I suppose, if I were to attempt to analyse and explain them, I might raise my fuddle to the nth power. 1852 F. E. SMEDLEY Lewis Arundel xxiii, Minerva was great upon the occasion; starched to the nth. 1873 Let. 13 Sept. in Lett. William Stubbs (1904) 166, I have just killed Henry II for the nth time. 1897 Edinb. Rev. July 4 The Neapolitan..is an Italian to the nth degree. 1924 J. GALSWORTHY White Monkey ix. 193 For the nth time it inspired in him a certain liking and confidence. 1948 C. PORTER Lyrics (1983) 271/3 You're as right as the nightingale's song. You're the nth of perfection. 1986 B. GELDOF Is that It? x. 136, I liked the people in Columbia, but I began to get irritated when the nth person told me how much they ‘believed in the project’. 2000 Internat. Jrnl. Advertising 19 16 Benetton takes this principle of ‘shock value’ to its nth degree.
posted by biffa at 4:46 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


troll counting just doesn't work as well.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:49 AM on January 14, 2008


Let me just nth this Uyotobe commetn form jouke's link:
one one of her concerts she burn or trash a photo of JP II.
that's why she didn't do the great career.


(nthing the great decline of human discourse.)
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:44 AM on January 14, 2008


languagehat is going to be really peeved about this, y'all.

I'm just peeved that cortex summoned myl. What am I, chopped liver? But I nth his analysis anyway.
posted by languagehat at 6:48 AM on January 14, 2008


Looks like an apostrophe is in fact interpreted as any non alphanumeric character

Whoa!

It's been explained to him umpteen [more-than-N] times"). Fairly recent loan word I think.

That is awesome. Also, some fun to be had on this front (and I feel silly not thinking about it last night):

umpteenth
umteenth
upteenth
upteeth
umteeth
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:53 AM on January 14, 2008


What am I, chopped liver?

See, (a) you're going to show up anyway, and (b) if you post about it, then Mark would have to see it and decide to post about your post about it to get us to the Maximum Eyeballs level that is LLog. So if he shows up and jumps in directly, we're cutting out some middlemanry. Is all.

i like your hat it is very nice we are friends now i love you okay good
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:55 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nah, just bustin' yer chops. I wish Mark would show up more often too—he hasn't been seen around these parts in months. (I saw LobsterMitten had added him as a contact and rushed to his userpage, thinking he must have posted something, but no, just cobwebs and silence.)
posted by languagehat at 6:57 AM on January 14, 2008


Pffft I was saying "xth" way back when.
posted by Mister_A at 7:06 AM on January 14, 2008


I recently started using it here because it seems more polite. I always worry that if I try to count, or rely on the last person's count, then I may miss someone and hurt their feelings.

No, really. Yeah, I know.
posted by occhiblu at 7:25 AM on January 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


I recently started using it here because it seems more polite.

Nther please. Have some attitude!
posted by cashman at 8:00 AM on January 14, 2008


I've used Nthing in AskMe, but henceforth, I'm switching to C'ing. Because my shit works at the speed of light, yo.
posted by quin at 8:21 AM on January 14, 2008


New line item for the Hobbies For People Who Lack Hobbies agenda:

- replacing the word "nothing" with the word "nthing" in lyrics and literature, and giggling at the new semantics.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:21 AM on January 14, 2008


If you knew the answer before the question was asked, have you zerothed it?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:31 AM on January 14, 2008


Nthing from nthing leaves nthing, Cortex.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:39 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


"languagehat is going to be really peeved about this, y'all."

If you'd said "ya'll", I'd have been peeved too.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:45 AM on January 14, 2008


Nthing is real, Dave. And nthing to get hung about.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:50 AM on January 14, 2008


I asked this question in a MeTa thread a little while ago and didn't get a response. 'Nth' is one of those words that comes up all the time in crosswords, Scrabble, etc., and when I was playing around with the wordlist I use to make puzzles, I noticed 'nthing' wasn't in there. I was about to put it in, but then thought I'd better google it to see how common it is.

Ever seen that sign, "Good is nothing without God"? Nothing is nothing without nthing.
posted by painquale at 8:54 AM on January 14, 2008


It took me the longest time, when reading whichever Asimov novel that was that had the Zeroth Law of Robotics, to figure out that Zeroth wasn't the name of some roboticist or mathematician who had popped into the book when I wasn't paying attention, coined his law, and popped back out again.
posted by ook at 9:25 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Let's say that our wildest dreams came true, and it turned out that the word "nthing" is was coined on Metafilter. We should not be so proud. It's simply a reworking of a certain phrase associated with AOL that was actually coined (if you can call it that) more than 20 years ago. I think it's a mistake to grab onto an empty and meaningless (re)construction like "nthing $name" and hold it up into the air as something that MeFi created and should be proud of.
posted by Plutor at 9:41 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


languagehat: nope; I saw his nick listed in this thread, and thought "I will forget that he's here. I'll mark a contact so I remember."
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:45 AM on January 14, 2008


Summoning!
posted by Rumple at 9:50 AM on January 14, 2008


they're also too lazy well-balanced to read the whole thread and count.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:57 AM on January 14, 2008


Talking about the "Nth" or "Ith" (pronounced eyeth) element in an ordered list is common computer science terminology.
posted by delmoi at 10:27 AM on January 14, 2008


'Nth' is a great word to remember for Scrabble, too--three letters and no vowels.

(As a bonus, here are a couple (SOWPODS) 4-letter no-vowel words: BRRR PFFT
PSST)
posted by box at 10:27 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


See also +1, Something++, <AOL/> (Have to be XHTML compliant Plutor)
posted by Skorgu at 10:40 AM on January 14, 2008


Nth Man.
posted by speedo at 11:54 AM on January 14, 2008


If you knew the answer before the question was asked, have you zerothed it?

I zeroth every question on Ask Me. Every one I don't answer, of course. Those are onethed.

("Onethed" is too a word, Firefox spell checker.)
posted by smackfu at 11:57 AM on January 14, 2008


I'll make a conscious effort to use "seconding" instead of "nthing" from now on.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 2:24 PM on January 14, 2008


Not being one who likes following crowds, I'll keep my comments to "FIRST!-ing"...
posted by wendell at 2:28 PM on January 14, 2008


Lasting wendell.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:01 PM on January 14, 2008


Perhaps we should say "cosponsoring."
posted by The World Famous at 4:16 PM on January 14, 2008


Everlasting wendell. I never end. Well?
posted by wendell at 6:19 PM on January 14, 2008


Nothing is o without nthing.
posted by ooga_booga at 7:06 PM on January 14, 2008


I think "nth'ing" is a horrible construction. "nthing" is a little better. Both of them sound bad, though.
posted by blacklite at 7:54 PM on January 14, 2008


I'm pretty sure I'd seen (and possibly used) "nthing" before AskMe was created. (And possibly before AOL, Plutor.) It is, as everyone else has said, an obvious generalization of thirding, fourthing, etc., to anyone who's studied any math or CS. (Thirding and fourthing are jokes as well, but making jokes-within-jokes is another staple of geek culture.)
posted by hattifattener at 11:10 PM on January 14, 2008


nthposition
posted by homunculus at 9:48 AM on January 15, 2008


Nthing else matters.
posted by owtytrof at 10:10 AM on January 15, 2008


"Ve're nhilists. Ve belief in nthing."
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:13 AM on January 15, 2008


nthing really matters
anyone can see
nthing really matters
nthing really matters to me
posted by Kattullus at 10:49 AM on January 15, 2008


i smashed myself to pieces
i am gonna fuck myself up
i'm sifting through the ashes
oh what i have become
i gave myself away now i'm nthing
i let it slip away now i'm nthing
all that i can do is break myself in two
i fucked it all away now i'm nthing
posted by empath at 5:33 PM on January 15, 2008


Whence did nthing come and whither will it go?

Did we come to a conclusion? Or was this thread all about the road and not about the destination?
posted by jouke at 4:36 AM on January 16, 2008


It's a 21st Century Seinfeld. A show about nthing.
posted by wendell at 12:48 PM on January 16, 2008


This thread has a wholelotta nthing.
posted by brownpau at 11:25 AM on January 24, 2008


^dork
posted by Stynxno at 11:30 AM on January 24, 2008


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