Talk:Long and short scales/Archive 1

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Minor error?

From the Fowler quote in History table: "[billion] for Americans it means a thousand multiplied by itself twice". This should be thrice, not twice, no? (I don't have the source, and this article seems well discussed, so I'm deferring to you to change it if appropriate.)

It might be better to put it differently, but it's not wrong. If you multiply x by itself (once), you have x*x. If you multiply again (so now it's twice), you get x*x*x. And an American billion is in fact 1000*1000*1000.--Niels Ø 21:45, 5 July 2006 (UTC)
So is there any mathematical notion that counts the number of multiplications * instead of the number of factors x so that 2 can be associated to x*x*x? The notion I know is which associates 3 to x*x*x. --Najro 07:12, 27 July 2006 (UTC)

2004 talk

Here is the top line of the table. I removed it because it consumes a large amount of vertical space, and is equally well covered (if not so concisely) by the text I have just merged from Billion.

  Used in:
  • all the world, except the Short Scale countries
Used predominantly in

English-speaking countries


and other countries

Smyth 15:24, 9 Oct 2004 (UTC)

To precise : is the english terms "long scale" and "short scale" a wikipedia invention? If yes I'd suggest moving the bit that talks about Wikipedia one paragraph up. If no, I'd suggest deleting the sentence about wp.


More importantly, the majority of people have no direct experience with manipulating numbers this large, so a significant proportion of lay readers will interpret "billion" as 1012, even if they are young enough to have been taught otherwise at school. Some even extrapolate "trillion" as a (long scale) billion billions (1024) rather than the actual long scale 1018 or the short scale 1012.

I don't see how this follows. Why would someone who didn't now what billion meant choose 1012 but not 109 (or 107 or any other number). Rmhermen 16:38, Dec 4, 2004 (UTC)

Because 1012 makes a billion "a million million", which is, if you don't know any better, a reasonable follow-up to a million being "a thousand thousand". [[User:Smyth|– Smyth]] 23:13, 12 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Restored, with some rewording. [[User:Smyth|– Smyth]] 15:12, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)


However, many English native speakers continue to believe that this decision – particularly affected by the financial journalism – is neither a good decision nor will be durable.

I don't think this is true. If you have references that support the existence of a mass long-scale movement gathering force, or that the short scale is likely to lose usage any time soon, please provide them.

Inserting sentences that begin "Some people say...." into even vaguely controversial articles is not a great idea. [[User:Smyth|– Smyth]] 23:33, 12 Dec 2004 (UTC)

This article REALLY needs a reference for the UK adoption of the short scale.


At best, this pair of terms skirts dangerously close to Neologism -- which would be "unencyclopedic", unsuitable for use in this project. It is a terribly thin thread upon which to hang a great deal of cloaked pro-Franco, anti-American bias.

I have not touched the bulk of this questionable content, but I have concentrated part of it within a standard project usage notice. I would like to say, politely, that my tolerance has been stretched to its limit. — Xiongtalk* 11:28, 2005 May 7 (UTC)
If you can tolerate it the articles with your notices, I for one think that's a good solution. I have no problem with the notices. I'm perfectly happy with them.
I do not agree that the use of these terms represents pro-French bias, any more than the use of actual French words such as "aileron" or "fuselage" or "role" or "envelope" or "disco" (as in discotheque).
I know of no succinct, accurate, neutral, customary English phrases that refer to the two usages. If I did I'd support using them in preference, but I don't. Fifty years ago "American" and "British" would have worked pretty well, but not any more.
On the other hand, the phrases "short scale" and "long scale" were originally introduced and used without explanation in these discussions, and everybody understood immediately what the phrases meant and began using them too. Most discussants just assumed they were perfectly good English phrases. I was the one who figured out that they were not and that they were translations of French phrases.
I would balk at replacing "long scale" with anything clumsy like "the system of numeric names that uses powers of a million" or "the system of names in which 'billion' means 1012" or "1950s British usage." And I would absolutely object to replacing them with something outright inaccurate like "European usage."
Of course if anyone has any alternatives to "short scale" and "long scale" that are short, clear, descriptive, accurate and not equally neologistic, by all means suggest them. Dpbsmith (talk) 11:59, 7 May 2005 (UTC)
Short and clear but, alas, no longer descriptive nor accurate: "American" verses "British", as far as I can tell, still is how the rest of the English speaking world would describe these. I would support a move to use these terms inspite of the fact that the the bulk of speakers of Commonwealth English have gone and Americanised their usage (against logic). Yes, I agree "long scale" and "short scale" are a pair of neologisms. Not quite sure how this is in any way "thin thread upon which to hang a great deal of cloaked pro-Franco, anti-American bias." Jimp 13Oct05
Here is my suggestion for avoiding the neologisms:
jnestorius(talk) 12:46, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
Right, in the face of overwhelming indifference, I propose to make the preceding changes after 72 hours if nobody objects in the interim. Except that milliard should be a straight redirect to 1000000000 (number), not a disambig. jnestorius(talk) 09:23, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
Objection:  Both entries "milliard" and "Long and short scales" are good like they are. Latter one is short, clear, descriptive, accurate and neutral.
-- Paul Martin 13:33, 11 May 2006 (UTC)
Ok, I can live with keeping the existing milliard. As regards "Long and short scales": the content of the article is good, it's just the name that needs to be changed. Revised proposal:

Hi Joestynes,
I don't understand why you want to go back to a status quo ante. What you propose is about what we had before User:Dpbsmith created this entry in 2004, Sep. 1.
Even if your analysis is good, that the meaning of the numeral "billion" is the most important, however long and short scale numerals are conceptual.
It transcends the meaning of this or that numeral. This concept has to be exposed in a own and contiguous article, and not arbitrarly with this or another zillion.
--Paul Martin 15:11, 14 May 2006 (UTC)
  • "going back" is not always regressive; for example enclave and exclave were recently merged after a vote; they had been split a couple of years ago.
  • I agree that the concept needs its own article, the present article, which is a good one; the proposed change is only to the name of the article. While "billion (word)" is not a perfect name, I think it is preferable to have a little clumsiness, and to emphasise "billion" at the expense of "trillion", "quadrillion", etc., when the alternative is to use (and so give emphasis to) a made-up term. And a non-transparent term at that: the inlinks to the present article are mainly in the clumsy formulation "for more information, see long and short scales." And it is certainly too strong to call the connection between [the concept] and [the word billion] "arbitrary".
  • I agree that "billion" (unqualified) should not be the name of the present article, for this reason: most inlinks to "billion" assume the thousand-million meaning, so making it a disambig will encourage such links to be changed simply (e.g. "India has over a [[billion]] people" to "India has over a [[1000000000 (number)|billion]] people")
  • jnestorius(talk) 11:03, 15 May 2006 (UTC)
Does anyone have any further comments, or have I addressed the points of contention? I would still like to move this article. jnestorius(talk) 16:43, 23 May 2006 (UTC)

I strongly object. You have not addressed the chief point of contention, which is that "Billion (word)" is utterly undescriptive and, as an article title, its not better in any way than "Long and short scales."

As a name for the concept, "Billion (word)" is more of an invention. I don't think you can point to any example of anyone using that name to describe the concept.

"Long and short scales" is short, sweet, evocative, easily understood, and is at least a translation of established terminology rather than being a completely new creation.

This article is not about the word billion, but about two different systems for naming a large class of numbers.

I do not see how "Billion (word)" has any advantages at all over the present name. If think there are some better descriptive" names, like

  • Competing sets of definitions for English names of number ending in -illion
  • The systems of number names formerly known as "American" and "British" usage
  • Number naming systems with superbases of 1,000 and 1,000,000
  • Thousands-based and millions-based English number naming systems
  • Three-digit versus six-digit grouping systems for naming large numbers in English

then propose a few, and see whether people think any of them is clearer, or better-established usage, than "Long and short scales."

If there were an established name for this concept, we should use it. I don't think there is, and "Long and short scales" is, at least, a translation of well-known terminology rather than being a completely new invention like "Billion (word)." Dpbsmith (talk) 18:00, 23 May 2006 (UTC)

I can see I'm not going to get my way here. But nevertheless, some points:
  • I think we agree that an article-name may be either (ideally) a concept-name or (failing that) a concept-description. I think "long and short scales" purports to be a concept-name and as such is a neologism. "Billion (word)" attempts to be an concept-description; it may be vulnerable to charges of being an inadequate description, but it is bogus to call it an "invention" since (I believe) no reader could mistake it for a concept-name.
  • I dispute that "Long and short scales" is "easily understood". It is easily remembered once explained, but it is impossible to deduce its meaning from the name. It is "short sweet and evocative", but only once the context has been explained. I like the term and hope it catches on, but it's not Wikipedia's job to evangelise on its behalf.
  • If you think "billion (word)" is opaque as a description, fair enough. That's grounds for rejecting it. I concede that "billion (word)" is not a perfect name, just as you do for "long and short scales".
    • My thinking is that the central issue in the 2 scales is the difference in meaning of "billion"; all other differences flow from that. The word "milliard" is of lesser importance: plenty of English-speakers who have used or understood "billion" for "million million" would never have used or understood "milliard", preferring "thousand million". Words "trillion", "quadrillion", etc are of increasingly marginal practical relevance.
    • There are a fair number articles with (word) in their name: football (word), praxis (word), Soviet (word), democracy (word), etc.
  • As an aside, looking at your rhetorically-proposed alternative descriptive-names, can I point out:
jnestorius(talk) 10:16, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

Excuse jnestorius, for not having replied for a long time.
Otherwise, at least one other opinion than the mine was usefull. That's done with Dpbsmith's contribution. I agree with his statements.  --Paul Martin 10:33, 27 May 2006 (UTC)

I dont think billion (word) is the optimal name but now I have created that page and redirected it here.
I dont think the present title is optimal either because the usage of the word scale disagrees with certain mathematical terminology. The mathematical scale is 1 for both long and short "scales". (a=1, short r=1000, long r=1000000). The title should rather be "Long and short common ratio", but that does not sound good either.
How about "American and European numeral systems"? --Najro 09:17, 27 July 2006 (UTC)
Just because a word is used in one way in Math, it does not rule out that it can be used in another way too, as long as the meaning is clear from context. "American" and "European" are incorrect, so why not keep "long and short"? Yes, if you think of the title of this article as a concept defined by this article, it's a neologisms, but we have lots of articles with descriptive titles that are not accused of being neologisms. We need this article, not to help users finding out what "Long and short scales" mean if they come across that somewhere outside of Wikipedia, but as a way of structuring the way information is presented in the Wikipedia, so that we do not need to repeat the same information on pages like billion, billiard, trillion, etc. I do not expect any user to type "Long and short scales" in the search box, but I expect users to follow links to this article from billion etc. --Noe 09:39, 27 July 2006 (UTC)
I would not say that "American" and "European" are incorrect, I would say they are approximate. I think the present title teaches the readers an incorrect meaning of the word scale, and that is not good. However, since I can not read "Histoire comparée des numérations écrites" I have missed the explanation to why the word scale was selected. Guessing again, it might have been that the decimal base in the book is supposed to be raised to the power of 1, 10 = 101, and then the exponent 1 is scaled by 3 or 6, creating "super"bases 103*1 and 106*1. Then the title could be "Long and short scaled base exponent" (which I do not suggest). New suggestion: "-illion numerals". --Najro 15:34, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

It's no neologism, anymore !

  • Many users already expressed their relative satisfaction with this title: "Unambiguous, short, neutral, easy to understand etc...." I don't think that it "teaches an incorrect meaning of the word scale", since this is one of the meanings of the word scale. In other contexts there can be other applicable definitions. That's usual, frequent and not damaging.

I don't think they do so without a real need for a good term and without their own reflections, themselves. So I think the article's name is consistent.
Paul Martin 16:18, 6 August 2006 (UTC)

Italian usage of "billion"

I never heard in my language the double use of term "billion" as in american or short scale meaning 109 and Long scale usage of 1012 also. Please re-check your fonts [sources] of information. It is currently used only in the Long Scale value and it stands for 1012.

Altough the spelling is clear: "Bilione", when it is pronunced in italian it could be mistakenly interpreted as the same as "bilione" or "biglione", an ancient word used to indicate big marble in child toys, so there is a minor acceptance in the spoken language of this ambiguous term.

Instead of "bilione" the common language (and jargons) both prefer more the use of the term "mille miliardi" ("one thousand milliards"), or also "diecimila milioni" ("ten thousand millions").

Also the term "biliardo" is used rarely, because it collides with the more common term for the ball game "biliardo" or "billiard". This double meaning of the word "biliardo" in italian language strongly disavantages the use of this word for numeric usage. Regarding the word "billiard", english language shares the same double meaning (and word joke) with italian language.


I've reverted the reference from the article to these pages. Either the discussion stands and should be promoted to the article or it is discussion. Ian Cairns 19:59, 18 May 2005 (UTC)
It's not just the Italians who do this. The Germans also use the long scale, and actively use the terms "Milliard" and "Billiard" to refer to 109 and 1015 respectively; the short scale is not used at all. That ball game is also called "Billiard" in German! (Another anon), 13:45, 29 August 2005 (UTC)

Long scale vs. short scale?

Would it be better to move this article to Long scale vs. short scale or something similar, since the article covers both? --taestell 19:04, Jun 10, 2005 (UTC)

Perhaps Numerical scale? - Lucky13pjn July 3, 2005 11:49 (UTC)

I suggest Long scale and short scale. "vs" makes it sound too much like a competition, while "Numerical scale" is yet another neologism, and not even one that was translated from French. – Smyth\talk 3 July 2005 12:16 (UTC)

Good idea Ian Cairns 3 July 2005 12:48 (UTC)

My entry is 'Long and short scale numbers'. If mine's selected, do I get a prize? Felix the Cassowary 3 July 2005 15:36 (UTC)

The numbers themselves aren't long or short scale; that title would imply that it was on a par with prime number or normal number. – Smyth\talk 3 July 2005 16:15 (UTC)

Long and short scales maybe? --taestell July 3, 2005 17:58 (UTC)

Concise yet complete. I think we have a winner. :) – Smyth\talk 3 July 2005 21:30 (UTC)
I'm okay with it too. For my suggestion I obviously came across it and rejected it because I didn't think it specified what they were the long and short scales of, but if I'm odd with that complaint I'm happy to go for the ... err ... short scale title. Felix the Cassowary 4 July 2005 00:45 (UTC)


Re: SI prefixes. There is a mention that the prefixes are sometimes used as binary (K=1024) instead of decimal (K=1000). It is true, even sometimes it is a hybrid (¡¡¡M=1024000!!!) but there is currently an attempt at disambiguation, creating the Binary prefixes Ki, Mi, Gi, Ti.... I will try to edit that last paragraph, introducing no false information but at the same time trying to educate our readers... Mencial 03:52, 3 September 2005 (UTC)

Knuth's -yllion

Does Knuth's -yllion have any real use?? I think it is just something he proposed as an alternate way to name large numbers, but where is there evidence that it will be adopted by general language?? Georgia guy 14:36, 26 November 2005 (UTC)

It is not in general use. But I find your revert unnecessary. It is an "unambiguous way of identifying large numbers", and I think that readers of this page would find the Knuth -yllion interesting to read about. It would've been better instead to add a sentence saying it is not in wide use, or move it to a "See also"-link. Eighty 21:47, 26 November 2005 (UTC)

Did Harold Wilson really say that?

I've been looking through all of Harold Wilson's speeches in 1974. Whilst a number of them were about economics (he was an economist), I could not find any suggesting that he wanted Great Britain to change its numbering system. It seemed that he was under constant pressure with relation to his economic policies, and was accused of corruption and embezzlement. I found all of that stuff. Surely if he had declared that Britain was to change its numbering system, it would be sufficiently notable for me to be able to easily find it. All that I was able to find were the 2 references that I linked - one US university student who stated it, and The Scotsman stating it. Indeed, I could not find anywhere that suggested that this was currently official UK policy. It may well be, but I think that there's enough doubt to put it in to question. If it wasn't listed in Harold Wilson's 30 most famous 1974 speeches, then I wonder why not. Its also not talked about in his article.

I think perhaps that its just been a gradual thing, that wasn't related to any one incident, and just happened because of a gradual Americanisation, especially with regards to economics, and was a reaction to the US dollar being the standard currency to which all other currencies were compared, and thus other countries which floated their dollar (which Australia did in 1990, and Britain did sometime earlier) adopted the policy because of that - as opposed to a specific incident in 1974. 1974 is certainly a hugely long time ago and I am sure that people would have noticed if it was true.

And I'd like some reference that it is actually taught in schools. I found a lot of references that said that it wasn't, but I couldn't find any that say that it is. As stated elsewhere, it seems that it is SOLELY used for finance in UK, Australia et al, and is not used in mathematics generally. In other words, we say "I have a billion dollars" to mean a thousand million, whereas we would say "there's a billion grains of sand here" to mean a million million.

The whole AusInfo hoax was of interest to me too. AusInfo was never a printing press. It was the name given to the Australian Finance Department, and was solely in charge of financial policy. Even currently they explain that they choose to describe their statements using short scale, but make a point to explain what that means, which I am sure they wouldn't do if it was in general usage, and I am sure that they would have mentioned it somewhere if it was official policy. I had a check on their web site here: [1] and there is not a single article that talks about them setting any policy at all about numbering.

That's not to say that they haven't. But I am not convinced that they have the power to set such a policy anyway. All that they are able to do is to decide how they as a department will count. And, from 1997, they have counted using the short system for financial reports. That's it. There is no evidence that this has been adopted beyond financial systems. Zordrac (talk) Wishy Washy Darwikinian Eventualist 17:32, 16 December 2005 (UTC)

Demonstrative arguments for the long scale

The best I read on this topo is this Excursus. A conscious polemic, but an excellent one. Nothing to subjoin. All's ruled. Limping John 07:41, 30 December 2005 (UTC)

At the same site, now, one can read something about hexadeciamal zillion names and universal hexadecimal number names through the million. If anyone is interested to study it...