Wait, How Are You Supposed to Spell the 6ix, the Six, or the 6?
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Wait, How Are You Supposed to Spell the 6ix, the Six, or the 6?

Torontoist copy editors debate this all-important issue.

Drake Week celebrates all things Toronto and Drake in anticipation of the city hype man’s latest album, Views from the 6.

We certainly have many views on the 6ix. Get it? Get it? Photo by dayne black from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

We certainly have many views on the 6ix. Get it? Get it? Photo by dayne black from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Torontoist is in the midst of revamping its house style guide, and while most style decisions have been fairly clean cut, there remains one for which our team cannot come to a consensus: the spelling of the 6ix. Or is it 6? Six?

There has been a great deal of variation in our publication alone. We have long referred to @norm as the 6ix dad, but our twice-monthly music column Sound Advice columns use “The 6” in their subheadings.

To try to reach a unanimous decision about this highly important spelling debacle, we had a frank discussion about the 6ix/Six/6.

Amy Carlberg, Torontoist copy editor: A tweet from columnist Matt Elliot on April 5 lists off painfully obvious nicknames for Toronto, according to a City staff report: “The 6,” “T Dot,” and “T.O.” When is The Man gonna learn that trying to co-opt the inventions of the little guy is the kiss of death for trends? We couldn’t keep rockin’ in the T Dot forever. Cool is an indefinable, organic trait: copy editing might seem rigid, but it can embrace these qualities.

Because of course, the 6ix isn’t something that came about through a written process: it’s spoken, it’s sung, it’s screamed with woe in one’s voice. The 6ix isn’t something you write down. It’s something you run through.

Consistency is king in copy editing: for the sake of Torontoist, one version must be agreed upon, because a news outlet functions as one, like an interconnected body.

As for accuracy: forget it. The media will always be playing catch-up to slang, with eighth graders snickering at their phones in math class.

Isn’t there something fun and artsy about how that 6 kind of looks like an S, à la, say, Superman? Anything less mysterious, cheeky and confounding wouldn’t befit our 6ix God, or our city.

Erica Lenti, Torontoist deputy editor: Last night, I suddenly had a lot of feelings about this.

Here’s the thing: I’ve always been a fan of 6ix. It’s the way OVO spells it, and I can appreciate that. It’s kind of like how I call it a gif (pronounced “jiff”) now, because the creator said that’s how it’s pronounced. I just respect the artist, you know?

But I’m feeling very conflicted. Drake’s new album, Views from the 6, uses the numeral. In response, someone told me Drake contains multitudes. Sure.

Based on Torontoist‘s highly scientific research, most major publications—especially those in Toronto—have fiddled with this issue, using 6 and Six and 6ix without consistency. Even Torontoist has done it.

Outlet The 6ix The Six The 6
Toronto Star Yes Yes Yes
Globe and Mail Yes Yes Yes
National Post Yes Yes Yes
Metro Yes Yes Yes
Toronto Sun Yes Yes Yes
Toronto Life Yes Yes Yes
NOW Magazine Yes Yes Yes
CBC Yes Yes Yes
Torontoist Yes Yes Yes

This raises the question: Should the consistency matter? If Drake is so willing to mess about with his trademarked name, does this give us, the plebs, permission to do the same? Should our spelling of 6ix/6/Six just depend on our mood for the day?

Why is Drake doing this to me?

Amy Carlberg: No, it’s pronounced hard-g gif. Like gift, without the t. Because it’s a “G”raphic interchange format.

Erica Lenti: I hate this debate.

Simon Bredin, Torontoist contributor, and Toronto Life editorial assistant: I am pleased to learn that in his new album title, Drake will be reverting/switching to the numeral. I’m all for respecting the artist and so on, but a copy editor’s duty is to the reader, and to the average person, the alternatives to “The 6” are uniformly horrid.

First of all: 6ix. What? Is it pronounced “six-ix”? Other constructions of this nature (e.g., “h8” as in the NO H8 campaign) don’t have that same problem because there’s no repetition–you can just segue from the phonetic sound of the letter on to the sound of the numeral.


Amy Carlberg: I’ll always have a soft spot for that one permutation, “the 6ix” spelled with the number 6. It’s the very fact that one could fret, “But then it would be ‘six-ix’!” that delights me. Ultimately, causing this kind of bewilderment is what rap and writing are meant to do, and as a copy editor, beyond this I don’t get to decide what the intention of any author might be. The very fact that a number could replace a letter is so deliciously wrong, and cornily reminds us of the salad days of texting (“btw, where r u? Gr8, c u l8r”) and marks this writing style’s wider acceptance (“bb,” “bae,” the use of hashtags in professional journalism).

Simon Bredin: Or maybe it’s a clever sex joke, an Arabic numeral combined with a Roman numeral to make 69?

One of my first jobs out of journalism school was working as a copy editor for the Canadian Press, so I do have some sympathy for the argument that it should be spelled out as Six. After all, the CP rule is to write out the full word for single-digit numbers and use the numeral for anything more than that. My other trusted reference guide, the Chicago Manual of Style, says that whole numbers from zero through one hundred (and certain round multiples) should be spelled out. But both of these are surefire routes to looking like a total square. “How do you do, fellow kids? I’m here from the Six to teach you all about the proper treatment of numerals in copy editing.”

That’s why I’ve always been an advocate for consistently going with the 6. Depending on which origin story you’d like to believe, if the root of the nickname is our area code (416), it holds up in that sense. It’s also the fewest number of characters to type; it scans very sensibly to the average reader; it doesn’t make the publication look unhip (perish the thought); and now, it seems, it’s also Drake’s preferred option.

hotline bling
Illustration by Neville Park

Erica Lenti: Only you, Simon, would manage to see 6ix as a sex joke. Only you.

Do you truly believe that anyone—other than a total square, as you put it—would look at 6ix and read it as “six-ix”? I find that far-fetched. Anyone who lives in Toronto—that is, our core readership—would recognize 6ix for what it is.

Is 6ix worthy enough to gain symbol status, like Prince’s strange unicode symbol? As in, we know it isn’t pronounced “six-ix,” so 6ix is a not-so-phonetically-sound stand-in for “Toronto”?

On an even more basic level, though, 6ix is the perfect compromise. Six? 6? Nah, let’s just combine them both. Thus, 6ix.

Amy Carlberg: I had difficulty with the sex joke too. Ahem. Maybe it’s a gender thing. Is that misogynist to say? Oh right, that reminds me, we were talking about Drake…

As with my previous reference to GIF, (or gif, or .gif, WHAT) this goes way beyond Drake. I couldn’t give a damn what he prefers at this point, and reserve the right to still pretend as if I’m listening to his music ironically. My argument is for context and freedom of expression, and I tip my hat to language’s ability to elude even those who correct typos professionally. You just can’t nail down a catchphrase that’s mostly rapped or scribbled on a binder (or iPad or hoverboard or whatever high school kids use these days).

That said, I think you have a right to dictate whatever spelling is suitable for copy editing consistency. While this city may be wildly inconsistent, I gotta give love to the 6ix 0803.

The verdict: While we can appreciate Simon’s desire for simplicity—that sleek, single numeral—we can’t seem to get away from 6ix. There’s something so deliciously Toronto about it: we are the Centre of the Universe, and to plainly refer to our city as “The 6” doesn’t seem to do it justice.

6ix is not just a moniker. It’s a symbol for our city, and it deserves its own special spelling. Toronto should not be reduced to a digit. The city is not just a collection of six boroughs, or a common numeral in its area codes. It’s the 6ix.