Double Zero, Double Ought

The topic was ear gauging. The Resident Teen was telling me he intends to gauge his ears. What that means, in brief, is stretching out an ear piercing so that you can fit a piece of jewelry into the enlarged hole; one piece of jewelry inserted into a gauged ear is a colored plug. It’s a modest piece of body modification, really, and one that the Teen’s mom and dad can live with a little more easily at this point than a tattoo, say, or rings or spikes of various descriptions inserted into various vicariously painful body locales.

In talking about the size of earlobe hole that he desired to produce through gauging, the Teen described the largest diameter typically done as “double zero” and held up his fingers to indicate about a quarter-inch. Hearing “double zero,” I immediately thought of “double ought,” one of the largest sizes of buck shot (it turns out there is a larger size — “triple ought”). I wondered if the double-zero gauge for ear piercing was the same diameter as double-ought shot.

Not to keep anyone in suspense, I still don’t know. But I started looking for information on the size of double-ought shot. The non-precise answers I came up with suggested a range equivalent to .30-caliber to .38-caliber bullets — that is, .3 to .38 inches.

I didn’t hunt long, because one of the first references I consulted, with a page title of “Firearms Tutorial,” was a discourse on wound ballistics — the study of damage caused to human tissue by different types of gunshots. I was slow to realize the subject, because I was focusing on finding the diameter of buckshot. The Google entry for the page suggested I’d find the information there. When I hit the link, I searched forward to “double-ought,” and found the statement, “A 00 or ‘double ought’ pellet is essentially equivalent to a low velocity .38 handgun projectile.”

Then I considered the context. In the next paragraph, I encountered this:

“At close range, the pellets essentially act as one mass, and a typical shell would give the mass of pellets a muzzle velocity of 1300 fps (feet per second) and KE (kinetic energy) of 2100 ft/lb. At close range (less than 4 feet) an entrance wound would be about 1 inch diameter, and the wound cavity would contain wadding. At intermediate range (4 to 12 feet) the entrance wound is up to 2 inches diameter, but the borders may show individual pellet markings. Wadding may be found near the surface of the wound. Beyond 12 feet, choke, barrel length, and pellet size determine the wounding.”

It turns out the “Firearms Tutorial” is a resource for forensic pathologists, giving an introduction to the world of guns and everything they can do to the body, with special attention, it seems, on close-range effects. Living in a place where the number of people who die each year of gunshot wounds rivals the total of deaths during the entire Iraq war*, it’s good to have such a resource at the ready.

(*On the statistics: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control report, “Deaths: Final Data for 2002,” (PDF file) puts the total number of U.S. firearms deaths for the year — the most recent the CDC has covered — at 30,242. (I was surprised to see that more than half of those deaths — 17,108 — were suicides.) It’s hard to know the real toll in Iraq since our war began in March 2003, but the Iraq Body Count site, which bases its estimates on an analysis of press accounts, puts the number of Iraqi dead so far at a maximum of about 20,000. The Iraq Coalition Casualties site puts the number of U.S. and allied troops killed so far at 1,726, and notes that at least 210 foreign contract workers have died, too). The big unknown in the total Iraq numbers is how many Iraqi troops and insurgent fighters have died since the fighting started. Ten thousand? Twenty thousand?)

9 Replies to “Double Zero, Double Ought”

  1. I can’t even read about the buck shot et al. I just can’t. But re body ornament: The resident teen is of age, no? They are legally his ears…
    I remember being fascinated with the African women who originated body scarring and ear plugging (although the Maori of New Zealand also do it, so I’m not sure who was first). I saw them on some PBS show. Once I moved beyond wondering how much it hurt, I found it beautiful and was drawn to the rite of passage aspect. But even at the age of 8 or 10, on some level I sensed and now I still feel it’s a tough look for white folk to pull off without appearing derivative or appropriative or both.

  2. Yeah, well, that’s a concern of mine, too. But actually, the gauging is not the more extreme lobe stretching you’re thinking about, and Tom (and yes, he’s 18, which makes him of age in our book; and he had his ear pierced when he was about 10) says he intends a much smaller gauging than that double-zero size. I’m not in love with the idea, but then I’m not much for tattooing or much of the body piercing stuff I see going on either. There is one thing that eases my discomfort about it, I guess — the fact that, just like ear piercings, the holes will close up if they’re unused.
    As far as the derivative and appropriative aspects, well, yeah, that’s a potential issue. But as to the derivative side, what isn’t derivative in this world? Yes, we live in an age where our enterprise of mass culture tries to commercialize everything it touches; and the story of human culture is mostly about groups borrowing from others, adapting elements of others’ experience and world view and practices, even language, to synthesize something new and unique yet traceable to the parent influence. Exhibit A: Japan. Another is Ireland; of course, that’s partly a colonial story, but the truth is Ireland is such a melange of influences that it’s nearly impossible to untangle some of the individual strands and say, for instance, who the “original” Irish were. I’d argue that those processes don’t stop, haven”t stopped, simply because we live in a hyper-commercial age during which the purveyors (and many of the recipients) of culture have no concern what they uproot or transplant as long as there’s a buck in it.
    Appropriative? I don’t know. I mean, on one hand I can’t deny there’s an aspect of that. On the other hand, I believe that what’s in your heart really does count; and I’m inclined to cut kids (not just my own!) some slack because they really are experimenting with stuff.

  3. Ahh… I’ll never forget, not in a million years, the look on my mother’s face the day I walked in the door after school (I was 16) with a pierced ear. A (girl) friend had done it for me with a regulation piercing gun. My mother was ironing – she was absolutely furious. Still, she learned to love me all the same. Isn’t that sweet?
    Dan – my ex-punk rocker brother-in-law has a huge hole through his ear with a plug – it’ll be there forever. He’s well adjusted and even runs a big non-profit agency here in the south bay. He’s a respected professional and all-around great guy. And while I must admire the Teen’s guts and commitment to go through with the body modification, part of me can’t help but think about my BIL’s ear, and the fact that it really is quite ugly (at age 37).
    My two cents. Rock on.

  4. I am a 21 yr old female. I have my ears gauged at 5/8″. I think it is the most beautiful thing ever. It does hurt a little bit but it could be worse. i have had my ears done for about 4 years. My mom hates it but loves me anyway. Where i work they say i add character. So go ahead and let the kid do it. Tell him though to be VERY careful about it as not to jump gauges and watch for signs of infecton. it will be sore and bleed some…keep it clean and take a multi-vitamin…it helps the healing.

  5. I have had my ears gauged as large as one and a half inches, any size of a hole can close, I had to actually repierce my ear last ear, when I lost my gauges and had to wait for new gauges, by the time I got them it was too late. For me there is very little pain in the act of gauging. There is much more extreme modifications, such as implants (subdermal and transdermal)
    – Woody A. Wood

  6. im a teen, i have a double zero gauge, and it really is not that big the hole actually shrink when i take it out, and for the person below me….their is no legal age, it is considered body modification not piercing so there is no legal issue or parental consent on stretching your ear lobes anyone with an open mind can do it

  7. I’m sixteen, I’ve got size 2 gauges in my ears.
    It only stings but as far as it goes I love them.
    I love my lip piercing and my tongue piercing, which I also intend to gauge a little bit.
    It’s all very personal, my piercings are a part of me, and I know I’d miss them if they were gone.

  8. i’m sixteen years old and i have double zero gauges. i think that people look better with them. but only certain people can pull them off. but i think they are beautiful.

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