The Imperial units win

Big news here in England: the EU has decided to back down and stop trying to force the metric system on Britain.  It is difficult to know what is more silly than the extent to which this has become such a huge battle.   The linked article talks about “metric martyrs” and criminal prosecutions for grocers displaying prices in Imperial terms.  It sounds remarkably overblown until you recall the overriding importance of the British pint.   Although for someone new to town, it’s hard to know which is actually more common and important here: the pint of beer or the pint of milk.  Of course, we gluttony-prone Americans tend to buy our milk in gallons!  Yet our beer comes in measures of 12 ounces, not pints (which can be 16 or even 20 ounces depending on the system, just adding to the confusion!)

There are always these dramatic statements about generations of children being the last to have to learn two systems.  Really, is this so much of a struggle?  We have the same sort of duality in the US as is here  in the UK, and people seem to get along just fine with elements of both systems.  I’m not sure it’s really taxing to worry about burdening our children this way, especially in a world where it’s become increasingly useful to be bilingual.  We should be teaching our kids more, not less.

The real question on my mind is, could I please get a new dial for my oven?  If we are going to be allowed to continue on with the old units, I’d really rather bake in Fahrenheit.  Thanks.


2 responses to “The Imperial units win

  1. Great! Now we’ll be treated to more stories such as this:

    and have reasons to ponder wisdom such as Lord Kelvin’s, in 1884: “You, in this country, are subjected to the British insularity in weights and measures; you use the foot and inch and yard. I am obligated to use that system, but I apologize to you for doing so because it is so inconvenient, and I hope all Americans will do everything in their power to introduce the French metrical system … I look upon our English system as a wickedly brain destroying piece of bondage under which we suffer. The reason why we continue to use it is the imaginary difficulty of making a change, and nothing else; but I do not think in America that any such difficulty should stand in the way of adopting so splendidly useful a reform.” (cited at

    Love the bit about “wickedly brain destroying piece of bondage”!

    I think this is a British ploy to liven up the news media.


  2. Here too, I prefer to be bi-lingual. The rest of the world – which vastly exceeds both the UK and the US combined in size and population and increasingly spending power – does SI units. 🙂

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