It's one thing for a Brit and an American to debate whether the correct word is "elevator" or "lift," "boot" or "trunk," but would you have thought the linguistic disagreement could include numbers, as well?
Prior to 1974, the meaning of "billion" was drastically different on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In the United Kingdom, a billion meant a million million, or 1 followed by 12 zeros, while in the United States, it meant a thousand million, or 1 followed by 9 zeros. That's a big difference, and it didn't end there. The same problem plagued the lesser-used terms "trillion," "quadrillion," and "quintillion."
Luckily for everyone, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson decided to rid the British of the extra zeros and conform to the American -- and international -- definition. In response to a parliamentary question, Wilson wrote: "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."
Now, if we could just come to an agreement on whether The Office is better with Ricky Gervais or Steve Carell...
- The word "hundred" is derived from the Old Norse word hundrath, which means 120, not 100, thanks to the duodecimal system on which it was based.
- The Romans had no zero, which explains why every number can be written in Roman numerals except 0.
- 1 is not a prime number, but 2 is, and is the only even number among all primes.