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Off topic: how many zeros are in a billion?
Thread poster: yolanda Speece
yolanda Speece  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Aug 8, 2008

Is it nine zeros or is it twelve zeros?

I always thought it was a million millions so that would be twelve zeros.

Some people say it is nine zeros or a thousand millions.

I know people bring up short scale and long scale but who is really right?

Is anyone really right?


And just for fun, how would you say it in another language?


For example, in Spanish would be un millón de millones or mil millones?




I thought this would be fun so hopefully the feedback will be fun!



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Kemal Mustajbegovic  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:55
English to Croatian
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Nine Aug 8, 2008

The progression is:
Hundred - 100
Thousand - 1,000
Million - 1,000,000
Billion - 1,000,000,000
Trillion - 1,000,000,000,000
Quadrillion - 1,000,000,000,000,000

And the question is how many zeros in Gazillion?

HTH

[Edited at 2008-08-08 04:29]


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Rossana Triaca  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 01:55
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
American vs. British English... Aug 8, 2008

In American English billion is used to mean a thousand millions (1,000,000,000), whereas in the UK it used to mean one million million (1,000,000,000,000), though nowadays I believe they stick to the American custom (at least the BBC does).

This is one of the most common mistranslations in Spanish, i.e., "billón" stands for "un millón de millones", so the proper translation of the American version is "mil millones".


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Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 23:55
Partial member
Spanish
+ ...
For god's sake, get together and set a standard! Aug 8, 2008

That's not for you Yolanda. Actually I don't even know who could make that kind of decision. An international definition of the 'billion' should be on the top of the to-do list in the next UN meeting.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 06:55
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Has the US adopted the metric system yet? Aug 8, 2008

Claudia Alvis wrote:
An international definition of the 'billion' should be on the top of the to-do list in the next UN meeting.


Even if they do make a ruling, how many Americans do you think will follow it? According to the Wikipedia, "Three nations have not officially adopted the International System of Units as their primary or sole system of measurement: Liberia, Myanmar and the United States."

As for standardisation... why should it be necessary? It's the translator's job to figure out what the source text means, just in any other translation. If the author of the original text wants his writing to be ambiguous, he'll eventually get what he deserves for his attitude.

In my country, the short scale is not officially accepted, and the use of the long scale in the public sector is mandated by law. Still, the English sector in my country uses the short scale extensively, even in the media.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:55
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
George W. Bush Aug 8, 2008

Two years ago the police shot a Brazilian student in the London tube, mistaking him for an Islamist terrorist. A tragic business, I know, but here's the story:

The President's press secretary received the news and immediately telephoned George W.
"Mr President, the London police have just shot a Brazilian".
"My God", replied George W., "that many?"

Jenny

P.S. I expect I'll be ticked off for telling a tasteless tale ...

[Edited at 2008-08-08 06:08]


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Simon Mountifield  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:55
French to English
What the Oxford Guide to Style has to say... Aug 8, 2008

Hi,

Just really echoing what Rossana has already said, namely that the difference used to be US vs. EN.

To quote from the latest edition of the Oxford Guide to Style: "In the USA and now in Britain, a billion is a thousand million (10 to the power 9), what in Britain was formerly called a milliard, or more commonly a thousand million.

So in answer to your question, it would appear to be 9 zeros.

Simon


[Edited at 2008-08-08 07:34]


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:55
English to Arabic
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Milliard in the UK? Aug 8, 2008

Not heard it once in my past 7 years here. It appears that the British have completely adopted the concept of billion from the US, as Supersim's Oxford reference indicates - a transition which must have been incredibly confusing!!
I see the same thing happening in the Arab world now (as described by Rossana), not least, I believe, because of the ignorance of translators who translate the English "billion" into "billion".
For us, it's all just a bunch of zeros, but imagine what impact this might have in circles where these zeros actually mean something!!

[Edited at 2008-08-08 07:48]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 06:55
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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How about splitting by subject? Aug 8, 2008

Nesrin wrote:
It appears that the British have completely adopted the concept of billion from the US, as Supersim's Oxford reference indicates - a transition which must have been incredibly confusing!!


Instead of saying "The British have adopted X", why not look more carefully at different subject fields to see if there are differences in usage? In my country, it is not uncommon to find the short form used in financial texts but the long form used in scientific texts, published by the same publisher.


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Mats Wiman  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 06:55
Member (2000)
German to Swedish
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MODERATOR
The world is not completely Anglo-Saxon Aug 8, 2008

In Sweden, Germany and France, a thousand million = milliard/e
Sweden: milliard
Germany: Milliarde
France: milliard
and a thousand of the= billion (in English: trillion)

[Edited at 2008-08-08 09:04]


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:55
English to Arabic
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That's what I meant Aug 8, 2008

Samuel Murray wrote:
Instead of saying "The British have adopted X", why not look more carefully at different subject fields to see if there are differences in usage?


I don't think the word "milliard" is used in any subject field in the UK anymore, financial or otherwise. I may be wrong, but that's my impression.


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Jean-Pierre Bergez Saretzki  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:55
English to Spanish
tabla de conversión inglés-español Aug 8, 2008

As it has been said, today a "billion" means "a thousand millions" and any other consideration has become obsolete.

And as Rossana said, this is a common error in Spanish.

Below you can find the conversion (translation?) I give to my Spanish students. I don’t know how to insert a superscript here, so I’m writing 10+No. of zeros, i. e., to the power of.

In Spain, the "mil millones" version is being discarded every day more by the term "millardo".


ENGLISH SPANISH

BILLION MILLARDO
TRILLION BILLÓN
QUINTILLION TRILLÓN


SPANISH
1 BILLÓN = UN MILLÓN DE MILLONES = 10+12
1 MILLARDO = MIL MILLONES = 10+9
1 TRILLÓN = UN MILLÓN DE BILLONES = 10+18

ENGLISH
1 BILLION = ONE THOUSAND MILLION = 10+9
1 TRILLION = A MILLION MILLION = 10+12
1 QUINTILLION = A THOUSAN RAISED TO THE SIXTH = 10+18


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Simon Mountifield  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:55
French to English
That's right Aug 8, 2008

Nesrin wrote:

I don't think the word "milliard" is used in any subject field in the UK anymore, financial or otherwise. I may be wrong, but that's my impression.



I agree, Nesrin. I thought it was rather odd when I quoted the style guide. I've just had a look in the dictionary and although the word apparently exists, it's no longer in technical use (surprise, surprise). I must admit that I'd never seen or heard the term in English until today... I suppose you learn something new every day (you never know, it might come in handy one day - such as one of the questions if I ever appear on "Who wants to be a millionaire")!

Simon


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:55
Member (2000)
Russian to English
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The combination game Aug 8, 2008

Combine the two words and you would get "billiard" - but playing billiards with a billiard balls would require a very big table!

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Celia Recarey  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not really Aug 8, 2008

Sorry, this is a bit off-topic but...

Jean-Pierre Bergez Saretzki wrote:

In Spain, the "mil millones" version is being discarded every day more by the term "millardo".



I don't know about Latin America, but in Spain the use of "millardo" is far from common. The introduction of the term in the DRAE caused some controversy back in 1996 www.elpais.com/articulo/opinion/REAL_ACADEMIA_ESPAnOLA_/RAE/millardo/elpepiopi/19960121elpepiopi_3/Tes/ and newspapers as widespread as El País don't use it www.estudiantes.elpais.es/LibroEstilo/dic_mi.asp


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