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How many dollars is $14 trillion?

I’m not really keen on reading news about economic affairs but this headline has attracted my attention today:

Congressional battle looms as U.S. national debt exceeds $14 trillion

The word trillion has immediately made me try to calculate the enourmous amount of money it means. I also thought about the confusion it can cause since for us, Spanish speakers, a trillion is much more than for English-speaking people. According to the Oxford Online Dictionary:

In British English, a billion used to be equivalent to a million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000), while in American English it has always equated to a thousand million (i.e. 1,000,000,000). British English has now adopted the American figure, though, so that a billion equals a thousand million in both varieties of English.

The same sort of change has taken place with the meaning of trillion. In British English, a trillion used to mean a million million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000,000,000). Nowadays, it’s generally held to be equivalent to a million million (1,000,000,000,000), as it is in American English.

Well, I’ve thought that even though the amount of money is still tremendously high, it’s better for the Americans -and I suppose for the rest of the countries- that the number trillion has not the same meaning as in the Spanish trillón.

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January 15, 2011 - Posted by | MISCELLANEOUS

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