Thursday, April 9, 2009

Does Los Angeles area need an $800 billion stadium complex?

As many of my readers no doubt know, a lot of Koreans (and Japanese and Chinese speakers) have trouble with numbers beyond 9,999. The reason is simple: East Asian numbering is based on 萬 (만, まん, man, 10K), while European-based numbering is based on 1000. So in America, a million is a thousand thousands, a billion is a thousand millions, and a trillion is a thousand billions, and so on.

After you hit man in East Asia, you start counting how many man there are, not up to one million (which is 100 man) but up to 100 million, which is 億 (ŏk or 억 in Korean; oku or おく in Japanese). Essentially 10,000 ten thousands.

So you get people thinking 100 million who say "billion," or think of ten ŏk/oku and say "ten million," or something like that. But at least they have an excuse. It can be cute when people struggle with these numbers, like when you hear kids say "a billion jillion kajillion million" when they wish to highlight the prodigious magnitude of some quantity, such as how many marbles they have in a box in their closet.

It's not cute when native English-speaking adults botch this, especially in a formal setting. Like this bit of news about "an $800,000 million, 75,000 seat, 600 acre complex" to be built in Diamond Bar, near where the 57 and the 60 meet (California State Highway 57 being the Orange Freeway and California State Highway 60 being the Pomona Freeway; the "Orange Freeway" is so named because its southern terminus is at the infamous "Orange Crush" in the City of Orange in the heart of Orange County; the highway itself is gray just like most other highways.)

So, um, just how much is this supposed to be? $800 million? I guess that might be reasonable if you're trying to attract an NFL franchise that could serve both L.A. and Orange County, as well as the Inland Empire. I just am baffled that an established news station would throw out the term "eight hundred thousand million." Might as well have called it 800 million kajillion jillion billion.

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