Hexadecimal Numeral Names


It occurred to me the other day, I don't really think of hexadecimal numerals as numbers. I think this is for the same reason I don't think of ID numbers or credit card numbers as numbers. When I read these, I say each digit.

Although both may be written 123, there is a clear difference between one, two, three and than one hundred, twenty-three. In the former I am thinking of an identifier. The digits are merely being used as symbols. In the latter, one hundred, twenty-three is an amount. I visualize some number of things.

What are hexadecimal numerals?

A hexadecimal numeral is usually described as a number's representation in base 16. That is, rather than writing a number with 10 possible digits, we use 16 possible digits. Usually these 16 digits are 0 through 9 and A through F.

Programmers and web designers see these an awful lot, as hexadecimal numerals are a way of specifying colors for the web.

How should we read hexadecimal numerals?

If a numeral represents a number, it should be read as a number. We cannot use the same names as we do for decimal numbers, though. For example, saying ten for 1016 could be confusing.

Instead, I propose an unambiguous system for naming hexadecimal numbers. I'm not the first person to suggest this, but I would like the names to be as similar to the words we are used to. For example, Jon Purdy's suggestion that 2016 be pronounced “twentex” is not ideal, because twenty has a hard and then a soft syllable, but twentex is two hard syllables.

I propose the following pronunciations for hexadecimal digits:

0 zero 1 one 2 two 3 three
4 four 5 five 6 six 7 seven
8 eight 9 nine A hey B bee
C see D dee E ee F eff

For two digits, we could use:

10 hexy
20 twexy
30 thrixy
40 fourxy (forks-ee)
50 fixy
60 sexy
70 senexy
80 eighxy (ache-see)
90 nixy
A0 haehexy (hey-hexy)
B0 baexy (bake-see)
C0 seehexy
D0 deexy
E0 eexy
F0 effexy (effects-see)

I'm sure these suggestions aren't perfect, either, but hopefully they will be easier to use than some of the other suggestions. Words continually evolve, even as I can make them up these neologisms. For example, my inital plan for AO (haehexy) as haexy wouldn't work with a southern accent. It would have been ambiguous with 10 (hexy).