Man Sues Au Bon Pain for 2 Undecillian Dollars

Why not?

Although, surprisingly, the complaint appears to be frivolous, Mr. Purisma does seem to have gotten his math right, although he could have simplified the demand a little. According to this very helpful big-number page, a “decillion” in American usage means a 1 followed by 33 zeroes. “$2,000 decillion” therefore could of course be written as a 2 followed by 36 zeroes, which is in fact what Anton has in parentheses. So good work there.

But it turns out that a 1 followed by 36 zeroes is an “undecillion.” (This is a little embarrassing, since I’ve been going around using that term to refer to any number that is not a decillion, but I guess that was causing a lot of confusion anyway.) So he could have simply demanded “two undecillion dollars,” and (after a little research) everybody would still have known what he was talking about. Sure, it would be more fun to call it “two octillion gigadollars,” but that’s getting a little ridiculous.

Okay, it’s a lot more fun to call it “two octillion gigadollars,” as confirmed by an ongoing experiment in which I say that out loud in my office and then laugh at it.

Not that it matters, because these demands have long since outstripped the total amount of money in the world. That was already the case back in 2008, when we were only talking about quadrillions. See “Katrina Victim Sues for Three Quadrillion Dollars,” Lowering the Bar (Jan. 12, 2008). At that time, I calculated that the plaintiff was essentially demanding the entire U.S. gross domestic product for the next 228 years (give or take), and that if he were paid in pennies (as he should have been) it would take 301 stacks of pennies, each stack high enough to reach Saturn, to satisfy the judgment.