Does This Add Up?

Trevan writes – “The Brits have retreated from referring to one million million as a billion and have converted to a thousand million as being a billion.”
In SY-2401 R3 Q5 we said that what the British call “a billion” is what Americans call “a trillion.” While this may have been true in the UK for centuries it was actually altered in the 1970’s.
We found that the change was due to a combination of economic progress and inflation. As numbers were needed to define financial sums, a billion was no longer the benchmark.

According to BBC – The words billion and trillion, or variations on them, were first documented by French mathematicians in the 15th Century.

“A trillion was 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, or the third power of a million. The US later adopted what became known as the short scale, which reduced a trillion to 1,000,000,000,000 (and a billion to 1,000,000,000), but the British retained the old system until the 1970s.” 

Thanks Trevan! 

1 reply
  1. Rita Malenczyk
    Rita Malenczyk says:

    Hi–in listening to your show on November 23, I was surprised to hear you attribute the lines “I will not cease from mental fight/Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand” to Emerson. The lines are from William Blake’s “Jerusalem” (I’m an English professor, if it matters). I can’t find any such lines attributed to Emerson on the internet, though the musical group Emerson, Lake, and Palmer did set Blake’s “Jerusalem” to music…anyway, I’d love to be proved wrong!


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