The New Illions

Times were when everyone counted the same way; one thousand, one million, one billion, and so on. But this is no longer the case. In fact, it has not been for quite some time, though few people noticed. Depending on where you are, a billion can be a billion, or one thousand times as much.

Coming with the never-ending loss of purchasing power of most currencies, due to governments “printing money” ad libitum, many numbers have gone from millions to billions, to trillions, and beyond, all over the world. But that is the problem. Not everyone counts the same. In European and most other countries, the system of nomenclature is different than in North America, though some of the identical words are being used. It is best described with a table, as follows:

Number, or Value………………Name in Europe……Name in USA……….Proposed new names

1,000…………………………………….Thousand……………..Thousand………………

1,000,000………………………………Million…………………..Million……………………

1,000,000,000……………………….Milliard…………………..Billion……………………Illion-9

1,000,000,000,000………………..Billion……………………Trillion……………………Illion-12

1,000,000,000,000,000…………Billiard…………………..Quadrillion…………….Illion-15

1,000,000,000,000,000,000….Trillion…………………..Quintillion………………Illion-18

As you can see in this short table, the terms billion and trillion occur twice, but with different meanings in Europe and the US. Obviously, such different meanings of identical terms can (and will) lead to confusion, misunderstandings, and consequently to problems in commerce, science, etc.

With both systems heavily entrenched over a long time, there is no easy way to come to common definitions now, even if the world desired that. So, what is the path forward? I can see only one solution, in principle, namely the creation of new words, which could be adopted by everyone without problem. As we all have become familiar with “..illions” of some sort, a new term should incorporate that part of these words for numbers, at least. A numerical term, describing unequivocally the number could be the count of zeros. For example, an US billion could be called an “Illion-9”, an European billion could be called an “Illion-12”, and so on, as shown in the last column of the table. This proposal is just one of many possibilities.

The time has come when universally accepted and clearly defined terms are needed to describe the “gadzillions” of currency units floating about in the world, not to mention astronomical distances and other values of the multi-illion type.