duotrigintillion / sexdecilliard / triacontatrillion

Since I’m currently writing a program that deals with a lot of numbers, I’ve decided to write a post about some interesting numbers today. 🙂

Unbelievably enough, the words duotrigintillion, sexdecilliard, and triacontatrillion can actually all mean the exact same thing. They’re all words that mean this number: 1099 (that’s the same as a tenth of a googol)!

Why must we have a word for this specific number, when we could, much more simply, write 1099? I don’t know the answer to that, but I CAN tell you why there are three different words for the same value. 😛

In English, we name large numbers (n) with the suffix -illion. Billion and trillion use the Latin prefixes bi- (n = 2) and tri- (n = 3). Continuing this pattern, we build new words using the formula 103n+3.

In Europe, the same names are used, but for the pattern 106n.

The most common example of this difference is probably the number 109. In English, the word is billion, where as in European languages, it would be milliard (and billion would actually mean 1012).

This all rather put me in mind of another misunderstanding about numbers. George Bush was (allegedly) informed during the Iraq war that three Brazilian soldiers had been killed. “Oh my God!” he said “That’s terrible. Remind me again – just how many is a Brazilian?”

David Elliott, Sheffield, UK

Both of these systems actually stem from French. The “European” system was invented in the 15th century and the “American” system came approximately 200 years after that. In the 1600’s, the “American” system was prevalent in America as well as France, with Britain and Germany using the “European” system. Then, in 1948, France reverted back to the “European” system and America stayed where it was. Furthermore, in 1974, Britain decided to move to the “American” system. The result is now pure confusion for all parties involved.

It’s been suggested that instead of using the Latin-based systems, we use a Greek-based system instead, which is how the word triacontatrillion is derived. I don’t know about anyone else, but it seems like this would just makes things even worse. 😛

Want to read more about other uncommon words? 🙂 See the Interesting Words page.

Sources:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The Guardian

thaumaturgy

Thaumaturgy is the capability of a magician or a saint to work magic or miracles. I guess that’s technically shorter than saying “the ability to do magic,” but I can’t imagine that that phrase comes up very often if ever, unless maybe, if you’re the Pope.

On a related note, a practitioner of thaumaturgy is a thaumaturge or thaumaturgist. But… but… but… didn’t we just get a definition saying that those people are called magicians or saints?

Want to read more about other uncommon words? 🙂 See the Interesting Words page.

Sources:
Wikipedia (English)

skueomorph

Skueomorph sounds like an object that’s bent out of shape, doesn’t it? It actually means something that’s decorated to look like what it used to be, but isn’t anymore.

The definition can be pretty confusing, so here are a few examples:
– The little folder icon on your computer. It’s not really a folder, so why are we still using that image?

– A rotary phone that’s actually digital and can’t be spun at all.

– Hotdogs that look like they were made from the finest meats but are actually mostly sugar.

– Peaches that aren’t fruits (hint: they’re cookies).

I suppose the existence of this word is not too mind blowing, since there are a lot of things in the world that are made to resemble other objects.

Want to read more about other uncommon words? 🙂 See the Interesting Words page.

Sources:
bon appétit