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.



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…