The $1 “Trillion” Coin

I woke up, my first morning in São Paulo, to learn of the US Government’s genius plan to save our economy with the minting of a $1 Trillion coin. I did not think much of it, besides how crazy an idea it was, and chuckled (past tense of Chaz?) as I made my way to class.

Our first class was called “Surviving Portuguese”, and was a 3 hour crash course in the native language. Luckily, Portuguese is written and read nearly identical to Spanish, so it was a good refresher from my last study abroad in Cuernavaca. Things were going around normally, until someone mentioned cultural differences in numbers. This became important as i thought about the CNN story on our new special coin.

I have studied 4 languages, and never before has this been brought to my attention before: 1 Trillion is NOT a universal quantity, and can be quite culturally confusing. In the US, 1 Trillion is a 1 followed by 12 zeros. However…

  • In England and Australia, a 1 followed by 18 zeros is “Trillion”
  • In Central and South America (Spanish/Portuguese), a 1 followed by 12 zeros is “Billion”

Fifteen years studying foreign languages, and this has never come up. I guess most professors never thought we’d ever use a number that high … but then again, we never had a coin worth that much either. If the general US consensus about this $1 Trillion coin sounds a bit crazy (spelled “Cryze” by our lovely professor today), I can only imagine what the English think of it.

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