Rudolf Ondrejka, Renaming the Numbers, 1968
Following is the article Renaming the Numbers from pages 89-92 of Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics, published in 1968.
This article refers to:
W. D. Henkle, Names of the Periods in Numeration, 1860.
Dmitri A. Borgmann, Naming the Numbers, 1968.
Renaming the Numbers
In our first issue, we presented the existing names for very large numbers, pointed out the many inconsistencies and imperfections in those names, and suggested that readers attempt to devise an improved system of number names.
Mr. Rudolf Ondrejka of Linwood, New Jersey has submitted his version of an improved nomenclature to us, and we are publishing it here for consideration by other readers. Mr. Ondrejka's revision meets only some of the objections to the existing set of number names, but it is a debatable question whether the remaining objections can or ought to be overcome.
To begin with, Mr. Ondrejka has reasoned that the number names for the first 20 periods, from the THOUSAND to the VIGINTILLION, are so well established, appearing in most of the major dictionaries of the English language, that it would not be expedient to try replacing them with a more logical series of names. We must accept them, he argues, building on top of them as best we can.
Secondly, Mr. Ondrejka decided to confine himself to prefixes of Latin origin, based on the Latin cardinals and ordinals up to the 1000th period. Beyond that point, he introduced prefixes based on the Latin multiplicative adverbials, used with or without the ordinals as combining forms. All of the prefixes are based on the number names given in the 1892 Edition of Cassells' Latin Dictionary (revised by J. R. V. Marchant and J. F. Charles) and in the 1957 Edition of the Collins Latin Gem Dictionary by D. A. Kidd.
Thirdly, Mr. Ondrejka has extended the scheme of number names all the way to the one billionth period, instead of stopping at the one millionth period, as did Professor Henkle. He has also listed the number names by periods, giving the number of zeroes for each number name in both the American-French and in the British-German systems of notation.
The result has been to change 23 of the number names originally proposed by Professor Henkle, expanding Henkle's list a thousandfold.
Mr. Ondrejka's "Numeration Table" follows, for your critical inspection. The table is so presented that any number name not specifically listed in it can easily be deduced. The names toward the end of the list are awkwardly long, but then, we are dealing here wilh huge numbers. Mr. Ondrejka believes
that it will be difficult to produce any ambiguous names or inconsistencies in his list.
Comments from readers are invited.
The last number on the list — the milli-millimillillion — is an enormous one, by all reasonable standards. Yet, we must remember that it is almost infinitesimal when compared to other finite numbers that have been named: the GOOGOLPLEX, and SKEWES' NUMBER, and the MEGA, and the MEGISTON, and the MOSER. But those incredibly larger numbers are another story.
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