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0 to the ton

Posted by David FG on October 14, 2004

In Reply to: 0 to the ton posted by Lotg on October 14, 2004

: : : : As I child I grew up using Pounds Sterling as currency (errr.... well no as a child, I was more likely to have threepence - pronounced throopence with a short 'oo' - I never had more than 2 shillings on me at any one time - and if I did, I was filthy rich), and I had to learn Imperial measurements at school.

: : : : In 1966 (when I was 9), our currency was converted to decimal. And much later, in the early 70's I think (not sure about the date), our Imperial measurements were converted to metric.

: : : : But there were many sayings and slang terms that evolved based on the old currency and measurements. Some have lingered and some haven't.

: : : : eg. Yesterday it was really hot. It reached 38deg Celsius (thank goodness I live in the Mountains, only 28C here). Hottest day on record for that date in Spring. My 11 year-old stepdaughter phoned for a chat and I said to her "it reached the ton in Sydney today" and she had no idea what I was talking about. Because in the 'old speak', 38C was 100F. We also used to say things like, "the Holden can do 0 to the ton in 60 seconds" (highly unlikely probably) - which meant 0 to 100 mph. But now because we're metric, it would be no achievement to reach 100kph.

: : : : Use of the word 'ton' like that seems to have dropped away here, because for a start we don't have 'tons' any more, we have 'tonnes' and secondly most metric measurements do seem to end that tidily. We also used to say, if we had 2 shillings, that we had 2 bob. Some of us older people still say that when we're holding a 20c coin, because the coins are pretty much the same size and feel the same. But again, my stepdaughter has no idea what a Bob is. She'd probably say it was Bob the Builder.

: : : : But other sayings like "the penny dropped", still linger.

: : : : I was wondering if anyone can offer any other legacies like these of bygone currencies, measurement standards and eras?

: : : : And what other countries have undergone such currency conversions within the last 50 years?

: : : In a previous paragraph I said "most metric measurements do seem to end that tidily". That was an early morning - pre coffee typo. It should have read "most metric measurements do NOT seem to end that tidily"

: : I can't even remember when decimalisation of currency took place in the UK - 1971 maybe? However, we didn't switch to dollars, but stuck with pounds and (new) pence - we just lost the shillings aka the bobs, the tanners, the thruppenies and the half-crowns. We did briefly retain the ha'pennies.

: : The process of going metric has taken a lot longer, and although there's now a law requiring shops and supermarkets to display weights in kilos, and although all schools now teach maths and the sciences in metric, everyday life in the UK is still happily dominated by things like "miles per hour" on speed limit signs, and friends will smile happily at you if you ask them whether they've shed a few pounds. Everyone in the UK will know their weight in stones and pounds, and I remain unclear on things like temperature, whether weather or body) if it's told to me in Centigrade/Celcius.

: : "Trust me" Tony, our grinning PM, a rampant Europhile if ever there was one, and a chief proponent of forcing everyone going metric, caused much wry accidental amusement the other year when his last child was born - upon being asked by journalists, he repled that the baby was a healthy "6 pounds 12 ounces".

: : For the record, I'm sure that a car such as the Holden (which is a bit of a beast) could happily reach 100mph in well under 20 seconds, let alone a minute.

: :

: Even though I was in my teens when we did the metric conversion - there are still things I struggle with. eg. Apparently I'm 169cm tall - but visualising that doesn't really work for me. I know I'm 5'7 1/4" and that I can picture. Equally I hate it when on the news that talk about some criminal on the loose and describe him and say he's 187cm tall. I've pretty well figured out that 180ish is 6'ish, but it just doesn't paint a precise enough picture for me. If they said he was 6'1" or something - no problem. But my stepdaughter doesn't have that problem because she was born long after the conversion. So us old fuddy duddies will die out eventually and there'll be no such problems.

: Also with weight. I am gradually coming around to the kilo thing, but I have to tell you that psychologically it sounds better to say you've lost 2.2ish lbs than 1kg. And I do still tend to think in stones and pounds I'm afraid. But other things - probably things I'm forced to live with, such as kilometres come completely naturally now. I really have to think hard to convert back to mileage.

: Currency of course - well that's totally natural. Partly again because we HAVE to use it all the time and also because I was so young when the conversion happened.

: Frankly as someone who struggled with Imperial measurements as a kid, such as how many Yards to a Chain, etc., cos all the numbers were different - I think metric is DEFINITELY the way to go. It's totally logical. It's dead easy to figure out how many metres in a kilometre, etc.

: We had the hapennies and thrupennies etc. but I don't know what a tanner is. Is that the same as a tenner?

: Finally thanks for the Holden advice. As you can see I have absolutely no clue about such things. Although - I will say this, I'm not so sure my old EK ute would have done 0 to the ton in 60 seconds.

My first car wouldn't have 0 to the ton in 6 months!

As for old usage, in the UK Imperial measures are still almost universal among anyone older than about 25, but one old one I can think of that still has some currency (pun fully intended!) is the phrase 'daft (or silly, or the like) ha'p'orth'.

'Ha'p'orth' being a contraction of half-penny worth - a coin no longer in existence.