comments and opinions taken from various sources; apologies for not always crediting authors

Most of the wimmin in my supermarket haven't a clue about the metric system. Ask them for 60 grammes of cheese from the deli and they're completely bamboozled. I have to resort to "two ounces, please", time and again. And the average age of these wimmin? 18!

How come the inevitable has to be foreign? And it is not necessarily enjoyable. It is uncomfortable for me and others to ask for 100 grams of cheese, cos we don't know what we're going to get. It is not inflexibility, it is very efficient conditioning by a government who has now changed its tune. Change is not necessarily an improvement, something that "flexible" people don't really understand. Come on, dealing in inches or centimetres is totally irrelevant to making people better people. It's a political decision with all sorts of pay offs and concessions that are nothing whatsoever to do with real life. Kicking and screaming about it drags it out enough to give truth time to out. Do you really believe that change for its own sake is a good enough argument. Long live what has always been.

The imposition (for that is what it is!) of uniformities such as metrication and the Euro and restrictions of juries, are all part of the ongoing "Third Way" conspiracy of international big business to reshape the world to its convenience. Thanks to such changes big biz grows ever more concentrated and powerful and drives out the masses of small businesses such as those individual-run cafes and pubs that added so much to the interestingness of life not so long ago.

...but I am unconvinced that we need to change our own system. It cannot be because the 'yoof' are unable to cope - they all use calculators and when these are unavailable they just grind to a halt whatever system is in use; look what happens when the electricity goes off in a shop and the tills are dead - they hope there are some 'oldies' around who can do 'sums in their head' I was much admired in my local Safeway store for this feat only a few days ago. How boring when we are all using the Euro and metrication (heaven forfend) it's only because the 'cool yoof' are unable to cope!

There are many in the Eurosceptic segment of the UK population who believe that UK retail metrication is simply another EU "weapon" to bring the Brits into line with EU obsession with conformity. They simply don't like us doing something which they see as non-standard. impose metrication on small retail sales is daft, and is simply annoying Brits over 45 - and there are a lot of those.

As a schoolchild in the 40s and 50s,I learned my lessons well. I was constantly told by my teachers, under government direction, that repetition impressed deeper and deeper into the brain the facts that we should learn. I did my tables every day. I learned that 12" = 1 foot and 3 ft = 1 yard and 1760 yds = 1 mile. These ideas became so impressed that without equal repetition I cannot comprehend in any natural way the idea of metres or litres or kilos or suchlike stuff. Surely instead of charging us as criminals for asking for half a pound of cheese, we ought to be able to sue the government for brain damage for impressing erronious ideas into helpless infants.

For some time now I have been ignoring the metric measure signs on supermarket deli counters and stubbornly asking for quarters or half-pounds of things. From today, it seems, I will be inciting the staff to illegal action if I persist. So be it. This is nothing to do with anti-EU sentiment, "Save Our Pound", or similar patriotism. Simply that, like a lot of people, I am used to the old measures and see no reason why I should change. If I was exporting pig iron to France or Belgium it would be reasonable to adopt metric measure but it cannot possibly concern anyone in Brussels how I buy cheese or sausages. What I object to is having changes imposed with full force of the law yet not even an attempt at rational explanation or persuasion. We have already seen an even worse imposition in the change of fire extinguisher regulations. Previously we had colour coding so that in an emergency anyone with minimal training knew what kind of extinguisher to grab. Now, to conform to an inferior EU system, extinguishers will all be the same colour and you will need to read the inscription to know what type you're reaching for. Obviously in an emergency the safer thing personally might be to forget the fire training and run - leave the blaze to the brigade. Which I suspect is what firm's fire officers are now advising, even if quietly. Anyway, be pleased to hear from any other Oldies planning to resist new weight and measure rules. (likewise, those resisting new Managementspeak in various places - "customers" for passengers, etc.)
Charles Pottins (moving effortlessly from young troublemaker to awkward old git, with minimum pause to be middle-aged and boring).

On a recent visit to my local Sainsburys, I noticed a sign saying that from the near future, loose produce, basically fruit and veg, will have to be sold in metric units because of some regulation. Whilst I can understand (just) the case for having a uniform system for packaged goods across the common market, that argument does not hold good for loose goods which by their very nature are sold unique to their particular location. This then can only be a political act designed to appease the crazed Brussels bureacrats. When will the Government of this country have the guts to stand up for the things that make us different instard of trying to euroclone everything!

Metrication is the rational argument. It is based on , but not exactly , the earth's diameter.Most 18 year olds have grown up with metric teaching,plus their mum's and grannies' input and experience.Thus, metrication is a school thing, and imperial is the real world. Rationality is irefutable in a very narrow field. Trouble is, life happens in a much wider scale of operation. The rational, the perceptive and the downright intuitive seem to operate in roughly equal proportions, so everybody is right part of the time and nobody is right all of the time. Hurrah.'So the economist, the politician, and the poet, all have something important to say. When the economist, listens to the politician, who listens to the poet, who listens to the plumber, who listens to the economist, maybe then things will start to happen.

I'm no mathematician, but I gather from those sort of folk, that Imperial Measurements are ever so sensible compared to metrication, where a sort of committee plucked the length of a centimetre etc from thin air. Imperial is based on much more practical reasons, like somebody's stride,and the divisions serve engineers much better, says my engineer friend. Me, I just like to celebrate difference and diversity. Metric is a total bore, all those tens. OK, so the treaty of Rome means that we are already committed, more's the pity, but lets not go out without a kick and a scream. As for the educational psychologists, who think it will help children count more easily, apparently kids who get more complex things thrust at them from an early age get more pathways created in their brains. This means that the easier metric system will create less intelligent people, does it not? Maybe more standardised,conforming people, but is that what we are about? If we all go about pretending not to understand metric, retailers will have to help us ,and Imperial will be kept alive.

Return to Index

A Song (c1874)

When I was bound apprentice, and learned to use my hands,
Folk never talked of measures that came from foreign lands:
Now I'm a British Workman, too old to go to school;
So whether the chisel or file I hold, I'll stick to my three-foot rule.

Some talk of millimetres, and some of kilogrammes,
And some of decilitres, to measure beer and drams;
But I'm a British Workman, too old to go to school,
So by pounds I'll eat, and by quarts I'll drink, and
I'll work by my three-foot rule.

A party of astronomers went measuring the earth,
And forty million metres they took to be its girth;
Five hundred million inches, though, go through from pole to pole;
So let's stick to inches, feet and yards, and the good old three-foot rule.

W. M. Rankine, "The Three-Foot Rule," Songs and Fables 1874.

Return to Index

The Earth And The Moon

Here is a simple and elegant way of establishing the relative sizes of the earth and the moon. Start with a 3:4:5 triangle (shown in black outline in the diagram to the right), project a 3x3 square from the shorter side and then draw another 3:4:5 triangle off the other side of the square. From the bottom line of the resultant figure, project another square, this time 11x11. Draw a circle in each of these squares.

From the 3:4:5 triangle we can calculate the following figures:


You will recognise 12 and 60 as being the basis of how we measure time. The figure of 72 relates to an astronomical phenomenon called precession (because of the slow wobble of the earth's axis, the night sky appears to revolve in a complete circle but not that you would notice. It takes 72 years to move through 1° of that circle) The next figure, 720 is the one which relates to our two circles in the above diagram. Multiplying this figure by the diameters we see -
The moon has a diameter of 2160 miles and the earth has a diameter of 7920miles.
There is much talk these days within Europe of "harmonising" Perhaps M.Santer or anyone else in favour of metric measurement could demonstrate how their system is in "harmony" with the earth and its satellite.

Return to Index

Abbott Mead Vickers Survey Results

The evidence of independent market research is that, even after 30 years of official metrication, a clear majority of consumers of all ages think in UK weights and measures, and prefer to have them included on packaging and in recipes.


Main findings of the research:-

THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF THE BRITISH PUBLIC PREFER UK WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: 74% find feet and inches, pints and pounds, to be more convenient for most everyday purposes than their metric equivalents. THIS IS TRUE ACROSS ALL AGE GROUPS - including, perhaps surprisingly, the metric-educated 15-24s.

WOMEN IN PARTICULAR are significantly more likely to prefer customary measures than men. 82% say they find the British system more convenient for most everyday purposes.

SEVEN OUT OF TEN WANT 'DUAL MARKING' IN RECIPES AND ON PACKAGING: 70% of the British public would prefer the packaging for goods, and the ingredients listed in recipes to be given in both Imperial and metric measures, allowing the consumer to choose the system which suited him or her the best.

ONLY A TINY MINORITY FAVOUR METRIC-ONLY LABELLING: only 7% are in favour of the current move towards printing the packaging for goods, and the ingredients listed in recipes, solely in metric measurements. On the other hand, THREE TIMES AS MANY WOULD PREFER IMPERIAL-ONLY LABELLING: 21% would prefer recipes and packaging to be printed with UK measures only.

Details of the research-. A survey of nationally-representative sample of 1,000 British adults aged 15+, was commissioned by Abbott Mead Vickers-BBDO Ltd, Britain's leading advertising agency, carried out by the independent market research company RSL's Capibus division in November 1997 and presented to the Department of Trade and Industry, the European Commission and the British Weights and Measures Association in December 1997.

Return to Index

Metric Madness (a letter from Mike Rooth)

Date: Thu, 22 Dec 1994 07:41:48 -0500
Subject: Re: Newsletter stuff

Metric Madness.

No doubt Canada has embraced metrication in a reasonably orderly fashion. The USA,to the best of my knowledge hasn't changed at all. Sensible people. Don't.

It may be of passing amusement to read a short account of how it is done in the UK (sort of,but not always).

Even Thatcher was unable, or unwilling, to try to deprive the Englishman of the mile, particularly the country one, reputedly slightly longer than the statutory one. To substitute a larger number in the walk to the pub would presumably be unacceptable. So we still have miles. The pint too was to be held sacred for the same reason.

The first cockup after "metrication" was all the fault of the Yorkshire Imperial Metal Company who continued to produce Imperial sized copper central heating pipe, whilst going all modern and producing metric fittings. Which wouldn't. This effectively brought to a halt plumbing jobs countrywide. Since it isn't difficult to stop a plumber working at the best of times, the chaos this produced is best left to the imagination. At about this time, I happened to be in a builders' merchants and was treated to an account of a further "misunderstanding". The assistant behind the counter had to order some gutter downpipe from his wholesaler. He rang up and asked for ten metres of 200mm pipe. He'd taken the trouble to convert(no doubt removing mittens and shoes and socks the while in order to have more digits to count on). "Don't do 200mm mate" was the reply. "Well what DO you do,then". Pause for thought. "You can 'ave ten metres of four inch" came the reply. And to the best of my knowledge you still can. It got so bad that the Mechanical Engineering Dept workshops at this University stayed Imperial. Someone asked the then Prof why his shops were not metric(they being the arbiters of taste in such matters). His reply was that when it was decided WHICH metric system was going to be used, he would consider it, but until that unlikely day ever dawned, his people would work in Imperial. And, of course, that is the problem. Its NOT metric, it is the SI system. This is the system that was so awful when it was first dreamed up in the early part of the century, no-one dared try to introduce it.

So now we have luggage space in vehicles measured in LITRES. Liquid Luggage? Nonsense.

Along with metrication came decimal coinage. No bad thing you might think and you'd be right, you've had it for years. But we hadn't. Six months later, the prices af a lot of things had doubled. The theory no doubt being "Get 'em confused, then sock 'em with it". Between decimalisation and metrication, we REALLY got shafted. Afer all, a penny a litre on fuel doesn't look all that much. But multiply that by four and a half, then convert it to proper money.......well, suffice to say you won't do that too often, it's bad for the blood pressure.

The other failure was not recognising that the new system was not immediately universal. There was bound to be a lot more imperial stuff about for years to come than ever there was metric. Firms stopped making imperial nuts, bolts, bricks, you name it. Those that were slow to change must have done quite well, thank you. The lashups in the building trade had to be seen to be believed. House extensions fitted where they touched, which wasn't very often. A garage owning friend of the family went to a tool fair with the intention of getting some SAE taps and dies. No way. Tool firms all "gorn Metric, mate". Imperial and SAE special orders only. A year later he did the same thing in reverse, only to find the firm had reverted to imperial ans SAE as standard and the metric stuff he wanted was special. They had to revert, before they went broke.

If we had a chaotic system before, at least it was one we could live with. Now we have two chaotic systems, which we definitely can't.

The old Prof's contention was, in my view, quite right. He further maintained that as far as screw threads were concerned we should have adopted the American system. I agreed with him there too, as does a friend of mine who makes his living selling such things. He maintains that metrication is a world class balls up, even now. And he wasn't in business when it started, so if it was going to work, it should be doing so by today.

So my advice to any American is, if any of your politicians propose that you go metric, vote them out!

Happy New Year

Mike Rooth

Return to Index

Back to Estatopia home page