Billions upon billions

“Billions upon billion”…to “quote” the late, great Carl Sagan. Of course, he meant lots of 1 000 000 000. But, the billion ain’t what it used to be as a child of the 60s dragged up in Britland, a billion used to mean a million, million, so that was a lot more. A thousand million (what Amercuns call a billion) used to be known as a milliard, although I don’t think I ever heard anyone use that archaic term.

But.

billions-upon-billions

We now talk of deficits and public debt amounting to trillions, which the BBC helpfully call “thousand billions”…no, no, no, no, no. Even if we accept that a billion is one thousand million, a trillion is not a thousand billion, it’s a million million. Trouble is there are people brought up on the old billion who still perceive it as being that quantity. Moreover, the Spanish word bill√≥n still means one million million. They’re unimaginably large numbers however you look at them…next time you’re worrying about the national debt, take a look up at a clear night sky…

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