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Re: Measurements

Posted by Barney on April 09, 2001

In Reply to: Re: Measurements posted by Q on April 09, 2001

: : : : : : : : : : Here in Britain were are slowly, oh so slowly, changing to the Metric system of measurement. The old system of lengths and weights is often termed 'Imperial'. What sort of collective noun is used in other parts of the world? I bet they don't call it 'Imperial' in the US!

: : : : : : : : : My first impulse was to say that in the U.S., when we need to emphasize the difference between the two systems, we speak of British units: "I have a hard time thinking in centimeters. I was brought up on the British units." But, looking in a dictionary (American Heritage), I find these statements: "There are three major systems of measurement units in wide use: the U.S. Customary System, the British Imperial System, and the International (Metric) System. . . . The U.S. System has its origins in the British System, but they are not identical. . . . In the British System the units of dry measure (capacity) are the same as those of liquid measure. In the U.S. System they are not."

: : : : : : : : I've never heard an American speak of the "U.S. Customary System" and about the only time we use Imperial is to refer to an Imperial gallon, which is apparently a different measure from a U.S. gallon. Mostly we just put our blinders on and wish for the metric system to go away. Part of this, I believe, has to do with American economy of speech. We abbreviate everything. We nickname everyone (whether they like it or not.) We compress. In this hyper-efficient atmosphere comes the metric system. Consider "inch" "yard" "mile" versus "centimeter" "meter" "kilometer" and so on. One syllable, one syllable, one syllable versus versus four, two, and four. It's downright un-American, by gum.

: : : : : : :
: : : : : : : I think that the metric system here in the U.S. found its way to only small select corners of certain industries like the entire medical industry and auto mechanic tools. Other than that, we use what we have always used--which most people refer to as "Standard". We still can only comprehend Fahrenheit over Celsius. Mile over kilometer. Cups/ounces/pounds/gallons/inches/feet ...... except the two liter bottle of coke. Why "liter" for soda when we buy a gallon of milk, a pint of half &half and a 12 ounce can of beer-somehow the metric system slipped into the American Champagne and laid rest. Go figure (in standard only please).

: : : : : : All I know about it is "they" kept threatening to change to the metric system in the U.S. and it never happened.

: : : : : Veering back to the question of what we call inches and ounces: I looked at some print sources. Manuals for writers and editors discuss the systems of measurement in giving guidelines for typographic treatment.

: : : : : From "A Manual of Style" (12th ed., rev., University of Chicago Press, 1969): "ENGLISH MEASURE [heading]: Abbreviations for the English units of measure find very little use in straight text except for technical work. . . . INTERNATIONAL MEASURE [heading]: The international metric system of measurement employs three basic units. . . . Time [subheading]. The international system employs the same basic units of time as the English system . . . but to these are added two small units: . . . millisecond . . . microsecond . . ."

: : : : : The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (3rd ed., Washington, D.C., 1983) doesn't use the term "British system" or "English system" in its parallel discussion. Instead it talks about the metric and nonmetric systems. Its conversion table has the column headings "Traditional U.S. unit" and "SI equivalent."

: : : : : In short, we call the traditional system of measures by different names.

: : : : For those of you who have difficulty in converting from Celsius to Farenheight and vice versa, here's a little trick I worked out decades ago
: : : : 16C=61F; 28C=82F; 40C=104F. ie all are the reverse of the other with the requirement to stick a '1'in 104.

: : : : for miles to Km then
: : : : 'Six', 'Ten', 'Six-ten'
: : : : 6 miles=10km; 10miles=16km

: : : : All very easy. Wake up USA!
: : : : (I'll get some stick for that!!)

: : : Not from me; some of my ancestors (admittedly, fewer than a quarter) were English. From time to time on this site, one or another person raises the issue "Our side of the Atlantic is better than yours." I don't understand why. If anyone wonders why Americans are so hard to draw into nationalistic rivalries, well, it's just a quirky trait of ours, like driving on the wrong side of the road.

: : I'm German-Scottish-English (in that order) American with a dash of Cherokee. And I say "pooh" to the metric system. American miles are good enough for me. Especially since I'm math-challenged anyway. (It's been a while since a fight broke out on this site so I'll help things along.)

: Interesting way to convert James, ie: 28c=82F, 16c=61f.....but what if it's 22c? would it be 22F?
: Or today in NY (Mon 04-09-01) it's 74F so is it 47c? No-- wait a minute 47c would be 174F?
: I think the only way to learn the metric system is the way we learned standard....."just learn it"!---If it pleases you.

There really is no easy little trick to convert between Centigrade and Fahrenheit - it's bloody difficult and it goes like this:

C to F - first divide by 5 then multiply by 9 and then add 32

F to C - first subtract 32 then divide by 9 and then multiply by 5.

Now I ask you, is that an easy little trick - I think not.

Here in the UK we are compelled by law to measure road distances in Miles, Beer in Imperial Pints, all food are sold by the Kilogram except for milk which is sold by the pint for doorstep deliveries and by the Litre for supermarket sales. If you, as a trader, break these rules the penalty is a fine of £1,000 or about $1,423.50 US.

I hold the view that if country markets in Europe can still sell goods by the pound without penalty after the better part of 200 years of exposure to the Kilogram then we British are just plain stupid in our slavish adherence to this bizarre application of the continental system and should be ashamed of ourselves.

My advice to the good citizens of the USA is to stick with your quirky system of weights and measures it sets you apart as a civilized and interesting nation. I still remember with great pleasure driving a 400 cubic inch Chevvy down Lombard street in San Francisco - a 6.5548256
Litre engine simply would not have been the same.