Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

One thing I noticed recently when looking through some reports is that thousands are often abbreviated, in a similar way to scientific measurements are abbreviated.

E.g. $1,000,000 becomes $1m and £20,000 becomes £20K

I was curious about the capitalisation choices though, and the fact that they appear to be the opposite of what SI would specify for kilo- (k) and mega- (M).

Does anyone know where these monetary abbreviations came from and why they're capitalised in this way?

share|improve this question
    
These are power prefixes and they are capitalized as units of measurement. –  Gigili May 9 '11 at 11:56
    
This is also common in computing, where people use KB instead of kB. (At least that's clearer than when they confuse B and b, though.) –  Matthew Read May 9 '11 at 13:57
    
@Matthew Read: At least most people who talk about Kb and KB agree that the K part means 1024, not 1000. Although sellers of computing hardware invariably interpret Giga, Mega, and Kilo according to the lower value, so they can quote higher specs than more honest competitors. –  FumbleFingers May 9 '11 at 16:06
    
@FumbleFingers Yep, that's a whole other issue. I personally use KiB for 1024 bytes. Related: xkcd.com/394 –  Matthew Read May 9 '11 at 16:12
1  
@FumbleFingers: Not invariably... Sometimes when describing storage media the units are based on 1000, sometimes 1024. Especially interresting was the 1.44 MB floppy, where M neither ment 1000*1000 nor 1024*1024, but 1000*1024... –  Guffa May 9 '11 at 18:24
show 1 more comment

3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

When used for money, it seems like there are no rules at all for the capitalisation, at least no rules that are followed by a majority.

A quick search reveals that both M and m are used for millions, and both K and k are used for thousands.

The origin of the monetary units are most likely the same as for the SI units, but they have been adopted by the economic sphere and live their own lives.

share|improve this answer
1  
I also guess that, when speaking of money, you'd be very unlikely to use m as in milli-, so there is no confusion between m and M in this case. –  nico May 9 '11 at 15:45
add comment

Because prefixes such as k and M are common, and not reserved to scientists who know and understand the SI recommendations. If you look at results from this Google search, you'll see it has both lowercase and uppercase M in roughly equivalent amounts.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Because they aren't standards for money. Economists use 'M' for thousands and 'MM' for millions

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.