You'd think so. But, like many of your assumptions, it's false.
American English, a billion means 1,000,000,000.
or 10 to
the 9th power in scientific terms.
In British English, a billion
means 1,000,000,000,000. That's
or 1,000x of the American version.
Shocking, I know... but
true. I first discovered this about 25 years ago, when I came to
the United States. Furthermore, the
British trillion is a million times of its American counterpart! The
wicked side of me is urging me to run for office, promising the
American public I have a secret weapon (of mass
deception) to shrink the U.S. budget and trade deficits
Somewhere: The "shame" of a nation.
Elsewhere: The "pride" of a nation.
As a bilingual, quad-accent speaker, I could easily switch to my British
accent and adopt the British term of "trillion." It'd instantly be sounding a
million times better, and I'd not even be doing anything worst than the
standard practices of my peers.
||thousand million (milliard)
||thousand billion (billiard)
||thousand trillion (trilliard)
||thousand quadrillion (quadrilliard)
||thousand quintillion (quintilliard)
"American" vs. "British"
Both systems were actually invented by the French. Americans
adopted the newer (1600s) short scale
(échelle courte) system,
while Britons adopted the older (1400s) long scale
(échelle longue) one 2 decays earlier. The French-based prefixes of bi, tri, quadr, quint, sext, sept, oct, non & dec;
correspond to 2 ... 10.
In the "American" system, the numeric names are assigned at intervals of
3 orders of magnitude, vs.
6 in the "British" system. In other words, at
intervals of thousands, as opposed to
millions. In the "British" system, interim names are created by
adding the prefix "thousand" to the name. e.g. Thousand
million, which is a thousand times of million, and a thousandth
of billion (British). Alternatively, it is known as milliard.
As you can see, thousand and million are equals
across the 2 systems. Beyond that, the corresponding units get exponentially out-of-sync,
hence cannot be compensated via a constant conversion factor.
The British namesake unit is 1,000 times of the American counterpart at
billion, and 1,000,000 times at trillion, and so on...
In the last two decades, there has been an effort in the British
government to start adopting the short scale system of numeric names in
their publications. With any luck, we should be seeing a unified system some
time... within the next decillion years?
So, next time before you sign that cross-pond billion-dollar contract, be
sure to spell out (numerically, not in English) exactly which "billion" you mean, or else you could
short-changing yourself by 1,000 folds. My condolences, if this warning came
too late for you.
Hey, cheer up! It's an easy mistake. If it helps making
you feel better...
George W. Bush is well-known for not comprehending even the difference
between millions and billions* within the American system.
He's been documented using those 2 words interchangeably on numerous
occasions. Tragically, this comedic fact exemplifies the wide-spread innumeracy in America.
When W. screws up, he could be
screwing America 1000 times over.
There should be absolutely no confusion between
million and billion. That is simply a case of innumeracy. The ambiguity
exists only between billion and trillion (and above). That's when one must
clarify whether it's meant to be "American" or "British" system.