Similarly, their systems of counting were traditionally many and varied, and rarely decimally based.
Foreigners seeking numerical answers from village elders to questions in "Tok Pisin", the lingua franca of PNG, sometimes elicit the response "sori mi sot long namba". ("sorry, I have run out of numbers")
This brings me to thinking that a whole lot of numbers might be surplus to my own requirements too.
Only rarely does my numerical vocabulary have practical use for numbers greater than one thousand.
For good things in life like good friends, sunsets and moon-rises, happy days and memories, my counting system goes something like this;
98, 99, 100, Sufficient. Be thankful.
For bad things like broken electoral promises, aggressive people, flat tyres, and bodily ailments, I count;
98, 99, 100, Too many. Automatic cutoff. Stop counting.
I certainly have no earthly use for the number One Million.
Once, together with some friends in Form 4 at school I tried to grasp the true magnitude of the number 1,000,000.
The corridor of our new school was 6 feet wide, and the ceiling was clad with perforated fibro sheeting. The holes were spaced 2 inches apart, so that every foot of corridor length had approximately 200 little holes in the ceiling.
It was quite sobering to understand that the corridor would have needed to be almost a mile long before we could have counted 1 million holes.
(There is also a remote possibility that my arithmetic is faulty given that I achieved 19% in my mathematics examination that year. I think I might have been too busy counting holes in the ceiling to be concerned with the real curriculum)
These days, whenever I read that someone has paid $1 million for a house, or has a mortgage of $500,000 I know that it represents an awful lot of $5 notes.
I understand five dollar notes best, because it is the hourly rate of pay I earned during my years of milking cows and doing other farm work.
And a BILLION of anything?
Well frankly it is just way too many.
You can have them. The whole lot.
The entire one thousand miles of corridor.