Is a billionaire richer in Bucharest or Philly?

I was just code-reviewing a Romanian's code.   We got into a bit of an argument when we were looking at the query plan and saw that some operation was running this many times (sorry, no screenshot):


In the US (I think in most regions of India too), to make that easier to read we would write it as


…and most of us probably know that in most countries the decimal separator is actually the comma.  So in Romania the above number would be written as


...I think we all knew that.  But the interesting thing in the argument is how we would all “say” the number:

Me:  “about 2 trillion”

Alin (when speaking English):  “about 2 billion”

UK (in 1996):  “about 2 billion”

UK (present):  “about 2 trillion”

India:  (not sure)

This always confuses me when speaking to someone from Europe because they (mostly) use Long Scale notation and US (UK too for like 15 years now) uses Short Scale notation. 

Long Scale:  every term over a million = a million times the previous term (billion means a million million)

Short Scale:  every term over a million = a thousand times the previous term (billion means a thousand million). 

So for us short scalers…how would a Romanian say this number (in English of course):


Short scalers say “one billion”  and I *think* most long scalers would say “one thousand millions” ( or maybe “milliard” like in France).

The numbers are still the same it’s just how we say them. 

Side note:  I can guarantee you that Zimbabwe uses the Short Scale system.  The largest denomination currency bill ever produced was the Zimbabwe One Hundred Trillion Dollar note a few years back. They had a bit of a problem with hyperinflation...that note is now worth about 5 cents (actually about five bucks on eBay due to its historical and novelty value...I own a few).  Note the number of ZEROS.  Definitely short scale.  


So how do you make this less ambiguous when we are talking?  No clue. Use power notation?  Stop talking to each other and always work from home?

I find this fascinating.  It's a shame that something that is so scientific and should be a priori knowledge is in fact confusing and cumbersome when we try to communicate it verbally.  So, a billionaire is richer in Bucharest.  I guess.