The Empire must die

At last, the (imperial) pound gets one over the Euro – Times Online

Oh, how the old-timers love their Imperial system. They’ll do anything to preserve their right to live in one of the only two countries in the entire world (the UK and the USA, for those who haven’t been paying attention) that believes using a system of measures that nobody understands is A Great Idea.

When I use the phrase “nobody understands”, I fully intend it to encompass the confusion that arises from the US and the UK not even using the same non-standard system, but two systems that are superficially similar but fundamentally incompatible. The US system of measurements (confusingly and utterly wrongly called “English” in its native land) corresponds with the UK’s (and to a lesser extent, Ireland’s) anachronistically named Imperial system only in units of length and some units of weight. Units of fluid capacity are so far out of whack that calling them by the same names is almost libellous.

When I use the phrase “nobody understands”, I also fully intend it to encompass the utter futility of learning a system where no two pairs of units are the same multiple of each other. Twelve inches in a foot, three feet in a yard, sixteen ounces in a pound, fourteen pounds in a stone. Who in their right mind wants to waste valuable brain cells remembering all of these? How many fluid ounces in a gallon? Don’t use the internet!

I furthermore fully intend it to encompass the fact that nobody in the UK under the age of 40 was taught Imperial units in school. That means the government has just wasted valuable political capital defending an item of “essential national culture” that has less of a future to look forward to than the North Sea cod fisheries.

Dear God, WHY?

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3 thoughts on “The Empire must die

  1. Why? Because it is what the British people want! We’ll do anything to preserve our right to live in a country where we can decide these things, whether our opinion is sensible or stupid. If imperial is a mistake, it is our mistake to make. (I would argue the same about the working time directive opt-out).

    BTW: UK and US only two countries? Do you buy your beer in pints or litres in Galway? :-)

    It will allow traders to sell items by the pound and ounce provided that they also display the metric equivalent.

    So no problem for visiting foreigners. To impose a ban on measurements that the locals prefer is EU imperialism. Also, it sounds like Germany, France, Estonia and Austria wasted political capital on this, as most other countries sensibly didn’t care about something that doesn’t affect them.

    I furthermore fully intend it to encompass the fact that nobody in the UK under the age of 40 was taught Imperial units in school.

    Yes, we were not taught them, and I would never consider trying to solve a mechanics problem in imperial units. However, imperial units are still more meaningful to me in the context of height and weight of people, size of steaks and speed and fuel economy of cars. Change is happening (e.g. peoples’ weight is recorded in kg by the NHS), but it takes time. Give it 100 years.

    How do feel about nautical miles?

  2. If imperial is a mistake, it is our mistake to make.

    Up to a point. I do have some sympathy with the metric martyrs (where’s the harm in giving _extra_ information?), but having distances and speed limits in Imperial is nothing but confusing for foreign lorry drivers who don’t have the benefit of dual-unit speedometers.

    BTW: UK and US only two countries? Do you buy your beer in pints or litres in Galway? :-)

    Pints are the only imperial unit still in use down here, at least officially. They finally gave up on miles a few years ago. And I would argue that “pint” isn’t actually a unit of measurement in daily usage, as nobody ever says “three point seven six pints of beer”. The pint of beer is like the glass of wine, or shot of whiskey. Most people would be hard pressed to tell you the metric equivalent of any of those – they just happen to be the sizes of the standard containers that history has given us.

    And yes, all three of those are legally defined in metric.

    It will allow traders to sell items by the pound and ounce provided that they also display the metric equivalent.

    Hm, ISTR that at least some of the metric martyrs were refusing to give metric equivalents.

    Give it 100 years.

    Which effectively means “never”, since both of us will most likely be long dead and past caring.

    How do feel about nautical miles?

    I feel very little actually, since I don’t have the occasion to encounter them in my daily routine. :-)

  3. having distances and speed limits in Imperial is nothing but confusing for foreign lorry drivers who don’t have the benefit of dual-unit speedometers.

    Sounds like something a decent GPS should take care of, aided by a few thin strips of masking tape on the speedometer at 40*1.6 km/hr (single carriageway) and 50*1.6 km/hr (dual carriageway).

    At least with speed limits, if they mistake our mph limits for kph, they will be driving slower than they could, not faster than they should.

    nobody ever says “three point seven six pints of beer

    True, though I dare you to try it in your local :-)

    And yes, all three of those are legally defined in metric.

    Metric foundations laid, progress made.

    Hm, ISTR that at least some of the metric martyrs were refusing to give metric equivalents.

    Yes, I think so.

    >Give it 100 years.

    Which effectively means “never”, since both of us will most likely be long dead and past caring.

    I’m not sure that is the correct attitude! :-)

    I feel very little actually, since I don’t have the occasion to encounter them in my daily routine.

    :-)

    I asked about them because they are an example of another, completely different unit system. Atomic units, AU/lightyears/parsecs are others. What matters is that the people involved are happy using them. Would mariners and pilots benefit from converting from knots to km/hr? Enough to be worth the cost and hassle? The same argument applies to the customers buying carrots in lb from a greengrocer in Skipton.

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