I'm not a math peevologist, or whatever you'd call such a person, but I've been noticing the looseness in the gap between the BILLIONS of the bailout of AIG and the MILLIONS in bonuses to their execs. I'm noticing pretty regular speech errors in talking about the amounts from people who clearly know the amounts involved. In private conversations, I've been worried once or twice that some folks aren't clear on the numbers.
Good old xkcd is on the case (click through to see the rollover):
As a serious numbers guy, xkcd is taking it much more seriously than I had — I find it clunky to have to do that little transformation in my head during these discussions, but it doesn't set me off. Still, I appreciate the approach illustrated on the right; some folks find it confusing, though. I just caught a tiny bit of radio yesterday where someone (no idea who it was) actually used 'thousands of millions' and the person he was talking to — a politician, I think — didn't get it until the first speaker put it in 'billions'. What would it take to change how we talk about these numbers? Now that a billion is the new million and a trillion is the new billion, we probably need to get this right.
I won't even comment on the politics and spin on this topic.