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What is up with the British and large numbers? Options
Epiphileon
Posted: Sunday, September 15, 2019 2:59:01 AM

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Posts: 4,219
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Maybe it's not only the British but British sources are the only places I've ever come across things like a thousand million. I get that one, it's a billion and that's actually pretty obvious; however, what is a thousand million million? Is that a billion millions?

I made this query at Google and it was the first time I recall getting confused responses from that site. Granted it may have been that I was using a mobile device so I didn’t pose the query in as many forms as I would here at my desktop, but still it was, I thought, a pretty straight forward question; “Okay Google; What is a thousand million million?” That just resulted in a lot of explanations of what a billion was.

This is as close as I got to an answer from Google using my desktop;
A million is equal to a thousand thousands (1,000 x 1,000).
A billion is equal to a thousand millions (1,000 x 1,000,000).
A trillion is equal to a thousand billions (1,000 x 1,000,000,000)
or a million millions (1,000,000 x 1,000,000).
So a thousand million million is a thousand trillion right? One quadrillion?

Regardless if that is the right answer or not, I would like to know why this is done. Does this terminology somehow make better sense than billion, trillion, quadrillion...?
BobShilling
Posted: Sunday, September 15, 2019 3:59:31 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 4/1/2018
Posts: 1,430
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Location: Beroun, Stredocesky, Czech Republic
Until 1974, the British system (by number of zeroes) was:

6 - million
9- thousand million (= milliard in some continental countries)
12- billion
15 - thousand billion
18 - trillion
21 - thousand trillion
24 - quadrillion
27 - thousand quadrillion
30 - quintillion.

Since 1974, the British system has been

6 - million
9 - billion
12 - trillion
15 - quadrillion
18 - quintillion
21 - sextillion
24 - septillion
27 - 0ctillion
30 - nonillion
thar
Posted: Sunday, September 15, 2019 5:41:04 AM

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Quote:
I get that one, it's a billion and that's actually pretty obvious

No it isn't! Obvious, I mean.


What Europe has (and the system British English used to have, even if the name is not used) but what Americans completely missed out on, is the milliard - a thousand million. The US, and modern British, billion. The short billion.
When you have a milliard you have the long scale of a billion being a million million.


Quote:

English
milliardFrom French milliard.

Numeral
milliard (plural milliards)

(now rare) 10^9, a thousand times a million. (Now generally replaced by the short scale billion.) [from 18th c.]


The name 'milliard' is not used in English, but the words 'a thousand million' are used in British English to make it clear, because a billion is something different to many people - a million million.

But most western European languages still use the milliard



eg Icelandic,
hundrað (2), þúsund (3), milljón (6), milljarður (9), billjón (12), then combine or, if you want, billjarður (15), trilljón(18), trilljarður (21). Then it just gets silly, but if you ever feel the need - kvaðrilljón (24), kvaðrilljarður (27) kvintilljón (30)
It is precise, a new name for every thousand times increase.
In between, use "a hundred million", or if you don't want to use a milliard, as in English, "a thousand million".



(It is labelled as 'mixed' in Canada because French Canadians use the French milliard system, so the long billion = million million).

There is a difference between what is used in internally, and what is used when dealing with American and British systems internationally - and the result is a lot of confusion, especially by those who don't realise there is another system. (Not to insult Americans in particular, but the education system there does tend to leave people with less awareness than some countries, that some other places do things differently - I think you will agree on that one?) !

Anything bigger than a hundred million is
1 impossible to comprehend anyway, so a few zeros make little difference to any visualisation
2 best given in scientific notation if you want to be clear

edit - some repetition of what Bob has said.





Romany
Posted: Sunday, September 15, 2019 2:23:02 PM
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Joined: 6/14/2009
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Neurons: 51,960
Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom

I knew the Americans used a different system because of my mother. If Mr X was described as a millionaire or billionaire, much to our (my father and I) chagrin she would ask "But are they American?" If the answer was yes, she would say airily "Oh, not a real millionair/billionaire then?"

Her logic? (Yep: she did think it was logic!) was that it was "easier" to be either of those things in America because "they count lower."

Now, with more hindsight, I guess I can get the gist of what she meant: but at the time I would go through agonies of embarrassment and earnest explanations.

(Though I rather think that, by the time I was a teenager, she only did it to wind me up!)

Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Saturday, December 21, 2019 11:13:53 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/12/2011
Posts: 33,430
Neurons: 211,138
Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
Romany wrote:
I knew the Americans used a different system because of my mother. If Mr X was described as a millionaire or billionaire, much to our (my father and I) chagrin she would ask "But are they American?" If the answer was yes, she would say airily "Oh, not a real millionaire/billionaire then?"

Haha! She was right for Billionaires, but only a little right for millionaires.

Look at the ACTUAL amount of money.
An English millionaire had (in 1960, say, just before you were born) liquid assets of 10⁶ or 1,000,000 POUNDS.
An American millionaire had 10⁶ dollars - 1,000,000 dollars or 333,000 pounds. A third of the money an English millionaire had, or less (when I was a lad a dollar was five bob - a quarter of a pound).

An English Billionaire had 1,000,000,000,000 pounds.
An American Billionaire had 1,000,000,000 dollars - or 333,000,000 pounds. That's a BIG difference.
An English person had to make three or four thousand times the wealth of an American, for the same "status".
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