I was watching the Wright Stuff this morning and the far-Left ex-soap actor Mark Little when reviewing the papers asked what a billion was, enquiring if it was a thousand million. Matt the Left-wing host, said it was a hundred million. Christine Hamilton said it was certainly a lot of money. A female Labour MP didn’t add anything to speak of (but may have muttered it’s a lot).
Would you expect these people to know what a billion is? At least the host who has been doing the job for 15 years and the politician.
My favorite illustration of a billion was in a line from Dennis Miller on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update:
“The People’s Republic of China has just announced that their population has reached one billion people. To give you an idea of how many people that is…if you’re a one-in-a-million kind of person, that means there’s a thousand of you walking around out there.”
Because of the “Billions and Billions” thing, my wife’s friends used to refer to any large number as a “Sagan”.
There’s a problem, though – Sagan himself says he never said that famous “billions and billions” line:
And, to continue the confusion, “10,000,000” would be written as “1,00,00,000” in the Indian system. Really confused the heck out of me the first few times I read the local English language papers there.
The only one I would expect to know - and here by “expect to know” I mean “it sure would be nice if they knew” - is the MP; it would be disconcerting to have someone in office tinkering with the economy of the nation without really understanding how big a billion pounds is compared to the average working person’s salary.
The others are actors and entertainers, so I’m not terribly shocked that they’re innumerate.