We used to have to write out the word "billion" whenever it was used in a headline.
By "we" I mean anybody writing by the style guidelines of the Associated Press.
It's true. The idea of a billion ... anything ... was so insurmountably large that the style directors at the Associated Press (a light hearted and charming bunch, I'm sure) decreed that it there was to be no truncating of the word "billion."
Also they decreed that all men of women born were to be conscripted to fight the invading Huns, but fortunately they reconsidered.
That all changed in 2008, during what we then called "The Financial Crisis" and years from now will be called "The Second Depression."
The numbers being discussed were astronomical. $800 billion payouts, $1 trillion deficits, TARP money, my ever increasing student loan debt; all numbers far too large for any normal person to comprehend.
And all numbers far too large to fit into a headline.
So the Style Masters of AP Castle decided to relent and allow their landed gentry to start shortening such words to a mere capital B or T; and in only a few years this is so commonplace it doesn't even register as being strange.
So when I read that arch-conservative octogenarian and close, personal friend Rupert "Big Murdy" Murdoch recently tried to buy Time-Warner for $80 billion.
What's $80 billion? We guarantee open-ended loans to companies for hundreds of billions of dollars, so what's the big deal about a measly $80 billion?
Even Time-Warner themselves had seen bigger numbers. Does anybody else remember the AOL/Time-Warner boondoggle? That deal was worth $146 billion; and that was in 2000-era dollars, not these weak 2014 dollars it takes hundreds of just to pay my satellite bill.
Yes, I?get ALL the channels. How else do you expect me to keep up to date on professional cricket without the optional Willow Cricket package? And obviously I'm going to need it in HD!
So Big Murdy got rejected by Time-Warner, who said that they didn't want to sell to Murdoch because they thought he "looked weird" and "smelled funny."
Direct quotes. All of them. Fact check away, if you dare!
Normally, I would feel bad for my favorite James-Bond-supervillain-come-to-life (its getting harder and harder to tell people I even KNOW Putin) as I'm sure he would have loved to expand his available movie and television content and reach another 3 billion customers with Time-Warner's extensive holdings in China and South America all while further tightening his iron grip around every piece of information and entertainment consumed the world over ... but then I thought, wait, its time to spend some money!
Murdy, you're sitting on $80 billion cold. OK, so Cowboy Ted and Peter Case's leftovers from the AOL days won't let you buy Batman. Fine. $80 billion can still buy a lot of nice, weird rich guy stuff.
Like what, I'm certain you're asking while having this column read to you by an bevy of private courtiers on a yacht in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?
How about your own army? With $80 billion you could build 69 stealth bombers. Your own bomber fleet! Just think about it Murdy; one day there is a small island that won't sell you mineral right, the next day there is no island. How is that not better than buying Time-Warner?
Private army of invisible war planes not your style? What about buying NASA? Yeah, those guys. With $80 billion you could launch 62 space shuttle missions, if we still used the thing. You could own space ... or at least the little bit of it around our planet.
Maybe some old-school, J.D. Rockefeller style philanthropism is more your style? You know the type, where you donate an egregious amount of money to buy a lot of people one really fun night before they return to the drudgery of working for some disconnected, eccentric billionaire, such as yourself. Well, for $80 billion you can send 6 million families of four to their local Major League Baseball team's home games, all of them, for an entire season! And not just seats, but hot dogs, beers, soda, programs, those stupid 2-foot long tacos they sell at Rangers' games, all of it!
$80 billion could buy a cup of coffee and a bagel,WITH schmear, for every adult in New York City for the next 20 years. Ever want to be mayor of NYC, Murdy?
There is so much you can do with $80 billion Big M, just ask the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud; they're the guys that told me all the other things you can buy for $80 billion because insurance fraud in the United States costs about $80 billion every year.
How about that? You could just pay for all the insurance fraud for an entire year! Sure, you wouldn't make any more money, but since you can just drop $80 billion like it was nothing maybe you don't need to make any more money.
HAHAHAHA! "Don't need to make more money!" I know, right? Like that would ever happen! Don't worry Big Murdy, you just keep stacking reprehensible amounts of cash and we'll keep chopping it down to only the first letter so that nobody notices just how deplorable this whole thing has become.
Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.