numbers, numbers and more numbers

Eric in Chicago wrote to ask about some numbers, and there are other numbers that I've been meaning to write about too. So let's have a numberfest!

Let's start with Eric's question:
I just read that the term "billion" in AmE is different than BrE. In AmE it refers to a one with nine zeros following or 1,000,000,000 but in BrE it refers to a one with twelve zeros following or 1,000,000,000,000, or a "trillion" in AmE. Do they not have a trillion in BrE? and what do they say for 1,000,000,000? one thousand million?
Historically yes, Eric: AmE billion = BrE thousand million = 1,000,000,000. However, the effect of AmE and AmE media
is definitely beinghas been felt in BrE, and the use of billion to mean 1,000,000,000 is
becoming more prevalentnow widespread. For most people, these numbers are so hard to imagine that they probably just think of it as a one followed by lots and lots of zeros. Or, as one is more apt to say in BrE (than in AmE), a one followed by lots and lots of noughts.
About trillion, the OED says:
The third power of a million; a million billions, i.e. millions of millions. Also, orig. in France and local U.S., a thousand ‘billions’, or 1012 (i.e. the traditional English billion: see BILLION): this sense is now standard in the U.S. and is increasingly common in British usage.
Of the less definite -illions, OED lists zillion as 'chiefly U.S.' (although the Wikipedia article on such numbers uses a Terry Pratchett quotation in order to attest the word's existence). Squillion is not marked as U.S., although the OED's earliest citations for it are by Americans. Nevertheless, it sounds a little more BrE to me. Then there are lots of other variations (I tend to say kajillion, but that's not in the OED yet)--see the Wikipedia link for more on that subject.

Shifting to smaller numbers, there are (as we've seen before) differences in how BrE and AmE speakers express multi-digit numbers. It's definitely a more AmE trait to express four-digit numbers in hundreds:
2300 =
thousand, three hundred (BrE or AmE)
hundred (chiefly AmE)
Often, when I say things like 23 hundred, I can see the cogs turning behind my BrE-speaking interlocutors' eyes as they try to visuali{s/z}e what that expression means. Sometimes they ask for a translation. Sometimes they express annoyance! And other times, they marvel at the fact that American addresses sometimes involve four-digit house numbers. Meanwhile, my family used to think it curious that I used to live at number 7. You see, where I come from, there are no house numbers with fewer than three digits. The first house on the street is number 100. Don't ask me why. (Then, there's the fact that British streets sometimes, like in America, have odd house numbers on one side of the street and even numbers on the opposite side. But other times --like on my current street-- they start at 1, continue 2, 3, 4, up one side of the road, then when it gets to the end, the numbers continue down the other side of the road, so that a road with 50 houses would have number 50 directly across from number 1, and on the other end 25 across from 26. But I'm getting away from language, am I not?)

Another number difference that Better Half often remarks upon is the expression of the years of this decade. BrE speakers tend to include an and between the two thousand and the unit number, while AmE speakers tend not to:
2007 =
BrE typical: two thousand and seven
AmE typical: two thousand seven
Because these tend to be written as Arabic numerals instead of words, it's difficult to 'prove' the extent of these tendencies without access to a recent, well-transcribed spoken corpus of both dialects, which I don't have. However, it has been noted elsewhere. If anyone else has any facts and figures to back up these observations, by all means, let us know about them!

Postscript: I've now had the chance to discuss this on camera!


  1. I was specifically taught in elementary school (in Houston, Texas) that it was never correct to say "and" in the middle of a number -- "one hundred three", not "one hundred and three", or "two thousand seven", not "two thousand and seven". I think I was given a rationale at the time, but I don't remember it.

  2. Thanks for checking into this. I'm glad you didn't get into whether 1000 or 1,000 is the correct way to write it either.

    Liz, I think this logic comes from when checks used to be written. You only put the "and" right before the cents.

  3. I also find differences in the US in how people express long numbers that are used to designate something rather than to count things. Like street addresses or the numbers that we use to designate research participants anonymously. When I would say "1742" as "one-seven-four-two", people here would say "seventeen forty-two" like the number is a year. I would naturally express my street number as "double seven double seven", or perhaps "seven-seven-seven-seven", here it is apparently "seventy-seven, seventy-seven". However, I think that American English does include the use of "double" followed by a repeated letter when spelling words.

    With street addresses starting at 100... I know in some US cities the street numbers should tell you which cross streets it is between if the streets are on a numbered grid by which 100 the address is in. But that is not always true I think... (guide books advise visitors to always find out the cross street in addition to the street number in New York city, for example). Not really sure how wide spread that idea is, seems like a reasonable one in practice for very long streets though.

    Is it generally thought to be the case that American English omits many "ands" that British English would include? I think I read that somewhere, but I can only think of "and" being dropped after "go" and "come" as an additional example.

  4. Tasmansea, if you hit on the 'as we've seen before' link in this post, you'll be taken to the discussion of 'double' in numbers.

    I can't think why your hypothesis about fewer ands in AmE would be true. I can think of one and in BrE that I was taught not to say in AmE (try and go versus try to go)--but that's still said lots in AmE. Other than that, I can't think of other missing ands. Your go and example is another thing that is said in AmE, but that is frowned upon in some prescriptivist circles, so maybe it is said less in AmE than in others... But--I'd rather not get into that here (I'm about to get strict again about not changing the subject too much in the comments section!) because I don't think that the and-in-verb-phrase issue is at all related to the and-in-numeral issue. So, if you want more discussion of this feel free to make a request by e-mail so that it gets its own entry!

  5. 'the use of billion to mean 1,000,000,000 is becoming more prevalent'

    I'd put it more strongly than that; if you ever see/hear a reference to a 'billion' in the British media, it always refers to a thousand million.

  6. Some years ago HM Treasury announced that it would use the American billion in its financial statments in future. The archaic word for it was the "milliard" but I've never seen it used. I've heard "go and see" in Scotland more often than in England. My daughter once shrieked disapproval when I made out a cheque for "fifteen hundred pounds" which I thought preposterous since her generation speaks bloody Californian.

  7. Or would you prefer, madam, "her generation speak bloody Californian"?

  8. Yes, as Harry says the old British Billion is thoroughly obsolete. It was right in the 1980s to say that the American Billion was "becoming more prevalent" in rightpondia but not much more recently than that.

    In non-English-speaking European countries, milliard and billion are still the words for 10^9 and 10^12 respectively.

  9. OK, I'm convinced. I'll make a note in the entry regarding the obsolescence of the old BrE billion.

  10. fanf is correct about the use of "milliard" 'on the continent' (or at least in Denmark). More generally an n-illion is 10^6n and and n-illiard is 10*6n+3 (and as such I find it more logical).

    The Wikipedia covers this under the tentative names "long form" and "short form", noting specifically that there is no standard name for the difference. (Or they used to back when I read the article.)

    I think though that the Danish use is under threat too. My impression is that many people are unaware of the difference between US and EU use, and I have little doubt that a great many newsstories are reported with the wrong terms.

    Personally, I'm more likely to say twenty-three hundred - I didn't even know this was an issue in UK English. I think there's free variation in Danish, too. My intuitions about "and"s is useless since Danish (like German) has a mandatory "and"s in, say, twenty-three (drei und zwanzig). I think the 'rule' is that we cannot have two "and"s straight after eachother.

  11. Concerning the "and" in numbers: in American English, the "and" represents the decimal point. It tells you that the next numbers you hear will be tenths or hundredths, etc. I aught it that way, and I think the main thing it does is train students to be more precise in speaking numbers.

  12. Not a numbers thing really, but the mention of how to say years reminded me of a minor BrE thing that still really sticks out for me. When BrE speakers talk about something that will happen in the future, they say 'in x years' time' or 'in y weeks' time'.

    Example from today's news: “[The Elders] is an organization that’s set up to be there in a hundred years’ time,” [Richard Branson ]said.

    To AmE ears, that just sounds redundant.

  13. Liz, Mopalia:

    That's what my math teacher said (Northeast US). "And" denotes (supposedly) the point where you go into decimals. It's definitely something I edit out of my speech, when I'm speaking carefully.

    This reminded me of a number-related issue I once had with an English friend. She was talking on a cell phone so I missed a word, and she said a meeting was happening "mumble 10 to 12". I thought she meant it was a two-hour meeting, starting at 10, but she actually meant we were meeting at 11:50. Using the word "to" in that spot would have made sense if I'd heard the whole thing in context, but it's not what I'd say--I'd say "10 of 12", or just plain "eleven-fifty", either of which is less ambiguous.

  14. The unnatural omission of and from numbers greater than 100 was invented in the early part of the 20th century by American teachers, and has spread widely in America though not universally -- I was born in 1958, and always say one hundred and one. Fortunately, other anglophone nations have not been affected (except perhaps Canada).

  15. tchemgrll:

    That's funny; on my second visit to the US I had a similar thing happen in reverse. An American friend offered to pick me up at "a quarter of nine," which flummoxed me completely; as a BrE speaker I had no idea whether he meant "quarter to" or "quarter past."

  16. When the Dutch say half zeven, they mean 6:30, which I learned at the same time I was meeting lots of Brits who meant 7:30.

    What I am wondering is, now that ginormous is in the dictionary, how far off is gazillion?

  17. tchemgirl, ellarian, and steph: the telling (the) time issue has its own blog entry here. Remember, if you hit on the tags at the bottom of an entry, you'll usually be taken to related topics.

    I never learned (when growing up in NY state) that and signal(l)ed a decimal point. So two thousand and seven would be 2000.7? That seems weird to me...I'd think most people these days say point in that place.

    Steph, gazillion is in the OED online (2003 draft). I was looking up kajillion, which is how I tend to say it. But don't forget, there's no such thing as "the dictionary"! There are many, many dictionaries and some have gazillion and ginormous and some don't!

  18. Oops, sorry I spelled your names wrong, tchemgrrl and ellarien!

  19. I hear BrE speakers say [$/£]2.50 as 'two and fifty.' I would never think to say this. If I used an 'and,' it would be in 'two and a half {dollars/pounds],' else 'two fifty.' Could this be a remnant from when amounts in Britain were the triad: 'l s d' where one could signal an amount less than a pound because the 'and' was always between shillings and pence.

    I notice that the FT never uses 'trillion,' opting instead to write '£1,000 Billion' where AmE would write '$2 trillion.'

  20. If I could lower the tone for a moment, have you heard the one where Prsident Bush was told that 2 Brazilian soldiers had been killed in a bomb blast?
    He was extremely concerned and distressed and finally turned to one of his aides and whispered " now tell me, how many is a brazillion?"

  21. We use trillion (and 9 digit billion) in my publication. I haven't had occasion to use zillion, though.

  22. I was always taught, rather prescriptively, that and nominally represented a decimal point, as said above, but in reality it represented going into fractions. Thusly saying two thousand and seven did not mean 2000.7 or 2007, it was 'just plain wrong.' You had to say something like two thousand and seven tenths incorporating the denominator.

  23. "And other times, they marvel at the fact that American addresses sometimes involve four-digit house numbers."

    Five-digit house numbers are quite common in the west, where numbering has been rationalized to a single grid over a large metropolitan area. The 100 per street thing makes more explicit the relation to Cartesian coordinates.

    Skip counting (increasing the address number by 4 or more with each house on a block) allows for simpler address additions when a house is subdivided or a carriage house becomes a separate dwelling. (This avoids the "#19-5/8 Elm Street" sort of addresses.)

  24. JHM says: "I hear BrE speakers say [$/£]2.50 as 'two and fifty."

    Really? Are you sure they're not saying "pound" pronounced "pahn" and you're mishearing it? Because saying "two and fifty" for £2.50 strikes me as utterly alien to any BrEng dialect I know ...

    On the subject of billion and trillion, I quote from the current style guide of The Times in London:

    "billion one thousand million, not a million million ...

    trillion American for a thousand billion (or a million million, 1,000,000,000,000), and should be explained as such in stories about overseas budgets, for example. Try to avoid in stories about Britain."

    Finally I'm surprised no pedant has written in to say that calling this year "two thousand seven" or "two thousand and seven" are BOTH wrong. It should be "twenty-oh-seven". You didn't refer to "one thousand nine hundred and seven", did you - you said "nineteen-oh-seven" ... (at least if you were British you did ...)

    1. The 'p' in 'pahn' in (I know no other way to say this, so sorry if it's elitist or offensive to anyone) working-class London speech tends to get tagged onto the 'two' and followed by a glottal stop, the effect being 'too(p) ahnd fifty', which is surely what jhm is hearing. 'Two and fifty' can only ever be archaic for 52.

  25. Terry, I (BrE) have no problem with nineteen-oh-seven, but twenty-oh-seven grates like nails on a blackboard. It just sounds wrong. To the extent that I heard a BBC newsreader using it one morning and it made me want to throw my radio out of the window. It is TWO THOUSAND AND SEVEN. Twenty Ten would be acceptable, just about, and above 2020 it starts sounding better as twenty twenty one etc.

    The company I work for gave out free desk calendars in January (cardboard, this year on one side, last/next year on the other). The calendar has the year at the top - in words. And it says "Two Thousand And Seven".

  26. Re: repeating things from previous posts in the comments. Sorry for not checking out the "as we have seen before link"! I guess I haven't fully accepted one of life's sad truths- just because something comes to one as a completely novel observation doesn't mean that it is.

    On the topic of how we say years- it is so interesting that there is a solid consensus that it is now "two thousand and seven" (at least it seems to me there is)... particularly given that there does not seem to be one about how we refer to the whole decade a la "the 90s", and given that it doesn't follow the logic of the 1907, as Neil pointed out

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.


    I thought I heard we are in the naughties (after nought)?

    I think terrycollmann is on to it: I noticed that "pound" can sound like "pan" and when rushed by the speaker sounds a lot like "and". Esp if the speaker is from "Sarf" of the river.

  29. > I hear BrE speakers say [$/£]2.50 as 'two and fifty.'

    Gosh, have never heard this in any part of Britain I have ever been in!

    'Two pounds and fifty' or 'Two pounds and fifty pence' are, I think, common everywhere in these isles.

    Lynne may wish to excise the following point since it is not 'on topic' (but she may want to resurrect it in another article), but Eric of Chicago's "is different than " sounds weird to BrE ears, and very American. We'd say "different from" or occasionally "different to", but never "different than". "Than" follows a comparative adjective or adverb like "faster" or "more slowly"; "different" is not to British ears a comparative adjective. It is simply an adjective.

  30. I get irritated when the BBC news’s reader states” The Bank of England have increased interest rates by a quarter of one percent”. What is wrong with “a quarter percent”?

  31. Howard: Do you say "other than" in BrE? There is no comparison there. "Different to" seems to be the norm in Australia, which I like. Both "different than" and "different from" are common in AmE, and I never felt quite comfortable with either of them.

    Regarding saying "and" in AmE numbers: As a child in California in the 70s, my parents taught me that it was wrong, but they couldn't explain why. It seemed ridiculous to me at the time. 30 years later, I'm a professional mathematician, and it seems no less ridiculous now. On the other hand, I think I would call the year "two thousand seven", but if I were counting things, I would use "two thousand and seven".

    When I lived in Chicago a few years ago, another non-local told me he had heard people use "forty hundred", for four thousand, when talking about address. I would never do that.

    Last, I would say "quarter to eight" or "quarter till eight" and never "quarter of eight", which has a very New York sound to my ears and which ought to mean simply two.

  32. One of the ways I hear prices stated here in the UK really irritates me. It's the use of "two-five-zero" rather than "two hundred (and) fifty Pounds". John (English husband) complains louder than I do when we hear it on a TV commercial, so maybe it's a fairly new speech pattern here?

    Also, John always laughed at American addresses which were in the 10,000s, 15,000s, etc. That's so common in cities like Houston, where streets can go for miles and miles with the same name. That's rare here in Britain, as I now know.

    Sorry for being a little behind on my reading. Nice to catch up with you!


  33. Here on the East Coast (US), I have family with addresses of two-, three-, four-, and five-digit numbers. They are all in different cities, though, so I imagine it has something to do with the geography of each area.

    From what I've observed, areas that are flat and tend to be patterned in a grid have longer address numbers. Areas like mine that have curvy maps (streets follow the shapes of rivers, lakes, inlets, swamps, etc.) also have shorter streets, thus shorter numbers.

  34. "What is wrong with “a quarter percent”?" It would be wrong, though I'm not sure that the Beeb's version is much better. The best - in the sense of precise, unambiguous - terminolgy is that a rise in interest rate from 5% to 6% is a rise of "one percentage point". It is obviously equal to a rise of 20% in this instance. P.S. why do we British tend to say "a rise from 5% to 6%" whereas I see that American journalists often reverse it to "a rise to 6% from 5%"?

  35. Like Liz in the first comment, my second-grade teacher was MOST particular in how we pronounced numbers (when reading out math problems to be copied down, for example); by her rule, 'and' is the marker for the decimal place when talking about money, so 'two thousand and seven' would be $2000.07 by her lights. She used to deliberately write things on the board 'the way they were said' and then insist we'd produced the wrong answer through reading out the problem wrong. Of course, she didn't like 'twenty-three hundred four' any better than 'two thousand, three hundred AND four;' she considered both very wrong and the One True Way of speaking 2304, to her, was 'two thousand, three hundred four.'

    Also, in Chicago, there are quite a few street addresses that use FIVE digits (as with 10162 S. Crawford, which is on Crawford near 101st street), not even counting the odd suburban addresses that look like 125w68 or however they write those. From deep in the Land of No Sidewalks, that, which is a far more foreign country to me than, say, Edinburgh was. :->

    In reply to tamansea: Chicago is one of the grid cities, in that given a street address and the 'number' of the street the house is on, you can find it from scratch without reference to any guide or map; more than that, you can calculate distances with fair accuracy just through the differences of the addresses, as in most of the city proper, 800 house numbers is a mile, near enough.

    This rule does most emphatically NOT hold in Boston. Or in most cities older than 1850, really, plus some newer than that. Boston and Toronto both start their street-numbering from 'the beginning of the street,' where Chicago has a grand Cartesian grid, with 0N and 0W coexisting in the middle of the pavement at the intersection of Madison and State streets, downtown. Everything in the city is numbered north, south, east, or west from that point, sequentially.

    To ellarien: I had the same trouble, in reverse, while visiting Edinburgh. People would blithely say that the meeting was at 'half nine,' leaving me to wonder if they meant 8:30 or 9:30. I love the phrase, I think it most euphonious, but I think I needed to have grown up with it to get the reflexive translation built firmly into my brain.

  36. Naughty Howard, why do you put in things you think I'll want to excise when you could just e-mail me about them and I'd dedicate their own entry to them--with credit to you for the observation, as always?

    - o

    (That's my attempt at a new emoticon. Can you tell what it is?)

  37. I have relatives with house numbers of over 20000. They live a few miles outside a town of 800 in South Dakota, USA. In South Dakota, the statewide grid of mile roads is numbered (so that there are around 300 roads running east-west and 500 running north-south). Then people who live outside of towns with denser numberings can have house numbers based on the mile roads (e.g. 23403 will be near a cross street of 234).

  38. Is it a variant of ;p - winking while sticking your tongue out?

  39. Try telling someone you live at 20060 X Street...If you say two hundred sixty, they think 260... so you have to "spell it out" every time.

  40. You've not mentioned the Indians who use lakh (a hundred thousand) and crore (ten millions) instead of millions and billions.

    So a million would be a ten lakh (10,00,000) and a billion would be a hundred crore (100,00,00,000).

  41. Sorry, Lynne!

    James makes a good point with 'other than', though, and if you start a new topic about 'different than', I'll post an answer of sorts to it there!

  42. Even if I heard "two pound fifty" incorrectly [terrycollmann], I don't know any AmE speaker who would say "two dollar(s) fifty."

    I'm not sure if it all adds up to a general rule, it is curious that I would feel uncomfortable placing anything in between the dollars and the cents without I specifically said "fifty cents."

    "two fifty" --good
    "two and fifty" --bad
    "two dollars fifty" --bad
    "two dollars and fifty cents" --good
    "two and a half dollars" --good

    I add that I too was taught to only use 'and' in place of the decimal point, but this was only with monetary figures and always followed by "cents." This was mostly, in my mind at least, to avoid utterances like: 'one thousand and two hundred and ten dollars and ten cents.'

  43. Oh I am sure I have heard a Dollar Fifty on my various visites to the states - as well as two dollars fifty, three dollars fifty etc.

    Not sure which part of the states specifically, although I suspect PA is most likely. (As that is where my wife's family is from, so that is where most of the recent visits have been)

  44. I agree with jhm's list. Regarding johnb's good point, things are different when it's just one dollar. So, for me:

    "a dollar fifty" - good
    "one dollar fifty" - bad
    "one fifty" - good
    "one dollar and fifty cents" - good

    To my ears (Western US), "a dollar ten" doesn't sound as good as "one ten" or "a dollar and ten cents". But maybe I'm slowly losing my AmE ear.

    When I used to live in the US, I was talking with a guy from Pittsburg, and he said that, unlike me, he would never say something costs "a buck". I think he said he would only use it in the plural. I can't remember if he said anything about "a buck fifty" or similar phrases.

  45. To Stephen (on Indian counting):

    A hundred crore is equal to one arab (1,00,00,00,000).


  46. Quote: "I get irritated when the BBC news’s reader states” The Bank of England have increased interest rates by a quarter of one percent”. What is wrong with “a quarter percent”?"

    Because "per cent" means "of a hundred" or "in a hundred" and "a quarter percent" is either meaningless or means 25, depending on how you want to interpret it.

    Neil - "The calendar has the year at the top - in words. And it says "Two Thousand And Seven".

    Well, I'm sorry, but so what? What would you have thought of a calendar from 1907 that said "One Thousand Nine Hundred and Seven" on it? You'd have thought, correctly, that it was wrong - so why the difference for 2007?

    Personally I blame Arthur C Clarke and Stanley Kubrick - fantastic mover, 2001, but dreadfull error in not making sure everybody called it "Twenty Oh One" ...

  47. I'm not sure whether this is off topic (I can't find any other post on adresses) but where I live in Bayswater you can find roads that are different street names on each side. You get this where you have two adjacent garden squares. If each has a block of houses giving directly on to one side of the gardens, and the two blocks are on opposite sides of the same street, then they have different names. Examples are Princes Square and Leinster Square and Gloucester Terrace and Prochester Square. Unfortunately neither nor the Google map show this accurately.

  48. Janet:

    "Two-five-zero" is a sales technique. I was first taught to quote prices in this way by the (American) Sales Manager of an American company that I worked for in the UK.

    "Two hundred (and) fifty" is a large amount of money, and the customer may be reluctant to spend this amount.

    "Two-five-zero", on the other hand, is a small amount of money, and the customer will be delighted to make such a wise investment in order to own the product.

    The "zero" is probably best avoided. "Two-five-one" is an even smaller amount of money than "two-five-zero", and an even better investment.

  49. Recently, I bought a magazine (I think it was probably the marvellous Scientific American Mind) which had a quiz in it. One of the questions was "What is the lowest whole number that contains the letter A?" Knowing it was a US publication, I was able to work out that the answer they wanted was "One Thousand". To my BrE mind and ear, however, the correct answer is "One Hundred and One". Or even, possibly, "A Hundred".

  50. Other number differences:
    * zero vs nought
    * zero vs nil (sport{s})
    * "oh": Do americans use this for "zero" in phone numbers as brits do?
    * minus seven vs negative seven
    * minus seven vs seven below (temperature)
    * two to the power of three vs two to the third
    * one-third vs a third
    * three-fourths vs three-quarters
    * half-an-hour vs a half-hour

    Re "two and fifty": prior to decimalisation, "two and six" meant 2 shillings and 6 old pence. Since there are 12 old pence in a shilling, fifty would be impossible; "two and elevenpence halfpenny" would be the highest.

    I was making a date with an American.
    I said "let's meet at half four".
    She said "let's meet at quarter of eight".
    We met at two.

  51. In Scottish English (and I suspect in Welsh too) house numbering can be even more complicated. I'm retirng in a few years' time to the Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland. Our new house will be numbered 4 1/2 (four and a half) Achachork, because there's already a number four and a number five. And there are no road names, just a string of houses.

  52. Americans do indeed say oh for zero in telephone numbers.

  53. I live with a house address of 2400, and I always think "twenty-four hundred," but I often spell it out when giving directions over the phone. "That's twenty-four hundred, two-four-zero-zero." My previous addresses were 1130 and 4031, always said as eleven-thirty, and forty-thirty-one.
    I also think that "twenty-number" will feel more comfortable when we're at about 2012.
    I think it's all about the change to the new millennium and the prior anticipation of "In the year TWO THOUSAND such and such will be the case." No one ever said "in the year twenty-hundred."(And don't get persnickety about whether it was 2000 or 2001 for the millennium--perception is everything, and it was the big "2" rolling around that caught everyone's mind.)

  54. Here's one that really drives me mental - 3.45 being read as "three point forty-five".

    I have heard this quite often here in the US but NEVER in the UK. Although I must point out that I moved from UK to US 15 years ago, so things might have changed since then...

  55. My housenumbe ris is no on a long street but in a suburb of Jeffreys Bay in South Africa with a lot of little winding streets. and canals. Rosemarie

  56. In the Dutch language, the order of the million magnitudes is: miljoen (^6), miljard (^9), biljoen(^12), biljard(^15), triljoen(^18), triljard (^21). Anything above 'miljard' is extremely rare though.

    There's two things that made me run into to this blog when googling:

    1. Why does the decimal system have 12 unique numbers (not counting zero)? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve.
    This same thing happens in Dutch and German as well.

    2. Why does the English numeral system stop reversing the last two digits after 20? Why is 19 "nineteen" ("nine (and) ten") and 99 "ninety nine"?
    In Dutch it's pronounced as "negen_en_negentig" or "nine_and_ninty". (Germans pronounce 99 in a similar way, as "neun_und_neunzig")

  57. I remember, in one of my children's books, in "a list of question nobody will get right", the following question:

    write "Eleven Thousand Eleven Hundred Eleven" using numerals.


    I think it was even a UK book, though I can't be sure.

  58. Oh dear very late comment! I blame in on a recent blog by Lynne wherein she posted a lot of links to old blogs...

    So I am a BrE speaker & work in pensions/ finance & I would say two spot five zero for what I would colloquially refer to as two pound fifty or even two bob fifty!

    I would never & never come across in finance in the UK or at school the expression two and fifty to describe two point fifty. Although I should think that would be two and five zero although I would normally say two point five or two spot five unless it's money then the aforementioned applies.

  59. Aussie here: We keep the 'and' here like the british. Though in colloquial speech its more like an 'an' or a 'n'.

    The thousand numbers are more interesting. Ive noticed if its a model of something the american usage occurs. Numbers are always in the british style.

    Of course colloquially there is more room for creativity:
    Two thousand five hundred
    Twenty-five hundred
    Two point five K
    two and a half (thousand, by context)
    two and a half thou-
    and so on...

    As for house adresses, Ive seen quite a few 5 digit addresses on some rural roads here. (Rural addresses are based upon their distance from one end of the road) 82 = 820m, 743 = 7.43km, 13595 = 130.48km. Makes it very easy to find any rural address. Numbers are usually grouped. the middle example would be said as seven forty three.
    To make things simpler the numbers start over once the road gets to 1000km (if not sooner).

  60. Here I am, posting way late because I decided to read all the posts from the beginning. Has anyone else noticed that we in AmE will say 900 (nine hundred) and 1100 (eleven hundred) but 1000 can only be one thousand, never ten hundred?


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)