The "short scale" is the name given to the system of giving very large numbers a new name for every power of 1,000. This is in contrast to the "long scale," which gives new names to large numbers only for each power of 1,000,000. Thus in the short scale, one "billion" equals 1,000,000,000, or 1x109, one "trillion" equals 1x1012, one "quadrillion" equals 1x1015, etc., whereas in the long scale, these terms equate to 1x1012, 1x1018, and 1x1024 respectively.

Today, the entire English speaking world uses the short scale, but the entire rest of the Western world uses the long scale. Oddly, the people who are to blame for this schism are actually the French, despite the fact that France currently uses the long scale, in line with most of the World.

You see, originally, everyone used the long scale system, which was invented by French mathemetician Nicolas Chuquet in the 1400s, and words like "million," "billion," and "trillion" only had one meaning throughout the Western world. But then in the 1800s, the French got the idea in their heads that it would be better to have a new word for every power of 1,000, since in the long scale the numbers quickly got so big they were virtually useless in daily life.

The French accordingly instilled the short scale into their school system, and the Americans, who bore a lot more love and admiration for the French back in those days than they do today, quickly followed suit in their own newly minted public schooling system (which was largely patterned on France's). Then for about 100 years, France and America were using the short scale, whereas everyone else was still using the long scale.

Finally, in 1961, the weak-willed French gave in and returned to conformity, re-adopting the long scale used by the rest of Europe. But America, just as it did with the Imperial system of weights and measures, continued doggedly on with the short scale in splendid isolation from the rest of the World.

But meanwhile, the spread of American cultural hegemony in the English-speaking world was spreading apace through American science, literature, and film, and this was causing a lot of confusion whenever numbers got mentioned. So at last, in 1974, Great Britain caved in and switched over to the American usage of the short scale for all official documents, and the rest of the Commonwealth countries quickly followed suit.

The short scale:

1 million = 1,000,000
1 billion = 1,000,000,000
1 trillion = 1,000,000,000,000
1 quadrillion = 1,000,000,000,000,000
1 quintillion = 1018
1 sextillion = 1021
1 septillion = 1024
1 octillion = 1027
1 nonillion = 1030
1 decillion = 1033
1 undecillion = 1036
1 duodecillion = 1039
1 tredecillion = 1042
1 quattuordecillion = 1045
1 quindecillion = 1048
1 sexdecillion = 1051
1 septendecillion = 1054
1 octodecillion = 1057
1 novemdecillion = 1060
1 vigintillion = 1063
1 centillion = 10303

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