Is that m-m-billions or b-b-millions?
Many British journalists still say “2000 millions” rather than “two billion.” Something about the first way really sticks it to you that a billion is a lot more than a million. Yet one of the most common mistakes I hear from broadcast journalists is (mumble)-illions. My suspicion is that they are just not sure. My certainty is that the listener can’t possibly be sure from what they hear.
I asked a bright young employee once “how many millions are there in a billion?” Answer? “Ten… NO, a hundred million in billion.” When I stated that there is a thousand million in a billion, the employee was incredulous, clearly thinking I had slipped a cog.
Back to newscasters, you can frequently hear that sometimes they are more impressed with “87 million” than with “3.2 billion.”
Perhaps if every newscaster reported that we are spending “$3192 millions” every week in Iraq*, the actual dollar cost might be more widely appreciated.
*more or less