billion / a thousand milllions

  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Indeed, this answers the original question.
    Is this phrase common?
    There are several "original questions" :)

    Having worked for years in a context where billion was the term of choice (and unambiguously 1,000,000,000) I'd have to say that "thousand million" is not a common phrase.

    Looking for more objective information ... in the British National Corpus (text from 1980s to 1993):
    billion: 4,735
    - a look through the first few pages show most of these are in relation to finance and clearly mean thousand million.
    thousand million: 101
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    It was in #1: The question is, whether British "milliard" or "a thousand million" is used for AE "billion" and now BE "billion".

    The answer is "Yes, it is used".

    The question was not what is the meaning, but are the words used - as far as I understand it.

    The indirect question may be what is the meaning.
    However many billions (your own definition will suffice) of times you may choose to ignore the many statements in this thread, and the many dictionary citations provided, the answer is that "milliard" is used, but very sparingly.

    Yet again,

    milliard


    noun Brit., dated one thousand million; a billion.
    Compact OED. Emphasis added.


    Many words are used. Some are used with little, and decreasing, frequency. They are perfectly good words. It is neither immoral nor against the law to use them. If the objective of the user is clear communication, uncommon words are used with purpose and with care.

    Way back at post #1, gaer told us that the Cambridge dictionary site did not list milliard. If you are curious, you might try to find it at the web site of the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. You might stumble across a duck.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    If I came across milliard in a serious context I would look it up to be sure I had the meaning right.
    I have never used it.

    George French said:
    PS.. This is rather a hackneyed subject in the English Forum any way. I'm surprised this thread wasn't closed long ago.
    Each time the thread is resurrected we get more opinions and reactions, and more research. I think this is valuable.

    (This thread is a concatenation of about five - hence there are at least five versions of "original question" :))
     

    jailer

    Banned
    English
    Hi all

    This thread seems to be lacking in specific examples and just uses dictionary quotes and peoples likes and dislikes.

    Referring specifically to the use of billion in British English, without comparisons with "milliard" in other languages or what it means to speakers of other English variants, which number is meant by "billion" is journalistic articles such as this one:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle4407512.ece ?

    A billion thanks in advance (however many that may be!)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    One thousand million. That's been the "official" meaning of billion for a number of years.

    See this 1974 answer by Harold Wilson to a written Parliamentary Question:
    Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop asked the Prime Minister whether he will make it the practice of his administration that when Ministers employ the word "billion" in any official speeches, documents, or answers to Parliamentary Questions, they will, to avoid confusion, only do so in its British meaning of 1 million million and not in the sense in which it is used in the United States of America, which uses the term "billion" to mean 1,000 million.
    The Prime Minister No. The word "billion" is now used internationally to mean 1,000 million and it would be confusing if British Ministers were to use it in any other sense. I accept that it could still be interpreted in this country as 1 million million and I shall ask my colleagues to ensure that, if they do use it, there should be no ambiguity as to its meaning.
    Source
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    According to this Wikipedia article, the entire budget for the UK in 2007-2008 was projected to be 700,000,000,000 (700 Billion in U.S. terms, or to be perfectly clear since this is the topic of discussion, 700 thousand million). I can't see how "billion" in the article could refer to "million millions" (trillions in AE) since that would make the tax error nearly four times the size of the annual budget. It seems to me that £2.8 billion in the article can only mean £2,800,000,000 (2.8 thousand million), not £2,800,000,000,000 (2.8 million million, which in AE terms would be "trillion").
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    According to this Wikipedia article, the entire budget for the UK in 2007-2008 was projected to be 700,000,000,000 (700 Billion in U.S. terms, or to be perfectly clear since this is the topic of discussion, 700 thousand million). I can't see how "billion" in the article could refer to "million millions" (trillions in AE) since that would make the tax error nearly four times the size of the annual budget. It seems to me that £2.8 billion in the article can only mean £2,800,000,000 (2.8 thousand million), not £2,800,000,000,000 (2.8 million million, which in AE terms would be "trillion").
    The UK Office for National Statistics and hence the UK government have used the short scale since 1974. There's no question of £700 billion in a recent UK official document being anything other than £700,000,000,000. Here's another article which talks at some length about the conventions:

    For most of the 19th and 20th centuries, the United Kingdom uniformly used the long scale, while the United States of America used the short scale, so that usage of the two systems was often referred to as "British" and "American" respectively. In 1974 the government of the UK abandoned the long scale, so that the UK now exclusively applies the short scale interpretation in mass media and official usage. Although some residual usage of the long scale continues in the UK, the phrases "British usage" and "American usage" are no longer accurate or helpful characterizations. The two systems can be a subject of misunderstanding or controversy and can arouse emotion. Usage changes can evoke resentment in adherents to the older system, while national differences of any kind can acquire patriotic overtones.
     

    Sabapathy

    Member
    Tamil
    Here as under, is given, what has been agreed upon internationally the mathamatical units
    and are being used by banks all over the world for currency counting.

    10 to the power of 3 = 1000 ( thousand )
    10 to the power of 6 = 1000,000 ( thousand thousand = million )
    10 to the power of 9 = 1000,000,000 ( thousand million = billion )
    10 to the power of 12 = 1000,000,000,000 ( thousand billion = trillion )

    like wise it goes on to quadrillion etc., always increasing the power number by 3.

    I hope this explanation , even though mathamatically expressed , gives a definite understanding into the english term " million " ; " billion " etc. In my opinion, this is well with in the scope of this forum , that the above explanation is given.

    Thanks

    Sabapathy
    ----------
     

    fdk47

    Senior Member
    Tagalog
    How do you read out loud when you see "1000" on a table for profits of each division in a company? The table is in million dollars.

    Do AE speakers say “One thousand million” because you see "1000", or “One billion”?

    I think BE speakers say
    “One thousand million” because that is not one billion in BE.

    Thank you.
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    "I think BE speakers say “One thousand million” because that is not one billion in BE."

    No, a billion in current British English is 1,000,000,000.

     

    fdk47

    Senior Member
    Tagalog
    Oh, thank you Linkway, I got that wrong.

    Do both BE and AE speakers say “One thousand million” because you see "1000" on the table, or “One billion”?

    Thank you.
     

    PeterR

    New Member
    English - British
    fdk47 - the answer to your question cannot be given better than in the paragraph in red in Thomas Tompion's post above:
    "For most of the 19th and 20th centuries, the United Kingdom uniformly used the long scale, while the United States of America used the short scale, so that usage of the two systems was often referred to as "British" and "American" respectively. In 1974 the government of the UK abandoned the long scale, so that the UK now exclusively applies the short scale interpretation in mass media and official usage. Although some residual usage of the long scale continues in the UK, the phrases "British usage" and "American usage" are no longer accurate or helpful characterizations. The two systems can be a subject of misunderstanding or controversy and can arouse emotion. Usage changes can evoke resentment in adherents to the older system, while national differences of any kind can acquire patriotic overtones."

    Just because the UK government may have changed usage as long ago as when some of us were children (something I was totally unaware of, only knowing that the BBC now seems to use the INCORRECT AMERICAN form), those of us whose parents told us that in GREAT Britain a billion was A MILLION MILLION (1,000,000,000,000), and that anything else was American nonsense, may still have strong feelings about the matter! Please note that all capitals in the above are intended for humour not as bullying or shouting but that I am ENGLISH (despite having lived in Scotland most of my life and often finding ENGLISH people annoying), and so can't resist stirring the pot! I am also the son of wartime parents, none of your 1960s decadence here thank you very much. <<chatspeak>>.

    Best wishes

    Peter
     
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    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    The change to the definition of "billion" in British English was not imposed unilaterally by the government. For years before that decision, the term billion was used both ways in British society - the most obvious split was between the financial media on the one hand and government publications on the other, and created enormous ambiguity for readers and writers.

    The "official" change was not simply to bring BE into line with AE. It was to remedy an increasingly difficult contradiction in usage WITHIN British usage as well as international inconsistency.

    Billion is now used as 1,000,000,000 by all reputable media organisations, governmental, business, educational, financial, scientific, etc, bodies and writers in British English



    >>> Do both BE and
    AE speakers say “One thousand million” because you see "1000" on the table, or “One billion”?


    In general, when reading numbers we tend to use the largest applicable unit. Hence, 1,200,000,000 would be read as 1.2 billion.

    I am not aware of any AE/BE differences about that in mainstream current usage.

    But your precise question is impossible for anyone to answer completely reliably because:

    1. You are asking an empirical question about people's actual linguistic behaviour and there is likely to be some variation based on personal habits and billions of individual decisions. Even the same person will utter things differently from time to time.

    2, You said that the table's figures were expressed in millions. Some of the numbers in the table may be less than a billion and some more. A speaker reading from the table may opt to switch between billions and millions. However, if most of the numbers in the table were less than a billion, the speaker might choose to express them all consistently in millions for clarity especially if doing a verbal presentation such as an audiovisual presentation to a business meeting.


     
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