back to article It's been 230 years since British pirates robbed the US of the metric system

In 1793, French scientist Joseph Dombey sailed for the newly formed United States at the request of Thomas Jefferson carrying two objects that could have changed America. He never made it, and now the US is stuck with a retro version of measurement that is unique in the modern world. The first, a metal cylinder, was exactly …

  1. PhilipN Silver badge

    Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

    It’s how many of us learnt arithmetic.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

      "Whatever his weight in pounds, shillings and ounces

      he always seems bigger because of his bounces"

      — A.A. Milne

      12 inches to the foot, three feet to the yard, 1,760 yards to the mile. Sixteen ounces to the pound, fourteen pounds to the stone, eight stone to the hundredweight, twenty hundredweight to the ton. Twenty fluid ounces to the pint (none of your New World 26 floz. cheapskates here), eight pints to the gallon. Twelve pence to the shilling, twenty pence to the pound.

      What could be easier? And I mean that in the practical sense. We Brits still call the standard building timber a "two-by-four". So much easier than "hand me a couple of one-hundred-by-two-hundreds, there's a good chap". As George Orwell wrote in his dystopian 1984, half a litre of beer is not enough, a full litre is too much. A pint of real ale is spot on and no free publican in the UK would dare challenge that. Ever tried to hump a neatly-numbered metric sack of animal feed? I could go on ... and on ...

      At one time it was made illegal under EU rules to sell a pound of bananas in the UK. and a market trader got prosecuted for it. This article is a great example of history being written by the winners.

      Of course, scientists need something a bit more geared to their needs. How about weights and measures based on Planck units? No no no! Something utterly arbitrary, like an inaccurate estimate of the Earth's diameter, is a far more scientific idea.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        A 2x4 would be a "fifty-by-one-hundred", just so we're clear.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          > A 2x4 would be a "fifty-by-one-hundred", just so we're clear.

          I had a conversation along these lines with a German colleague not so long ago. His father is a carpenter and I'm assured that they still refer to timber as four by two, amusingly can you pass me 2m of 4x2.

          1. jvf

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            At least the system of measurement for surveying in the US is decimal feet. As I slowly converted an architectural drawing from feet/inches to decimal feet to do a building layout, my crusty old boss groused that “the only people who deal in inches are whores and carpenters”.

            1. Lars Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              I won't admit I know anything about whores and inches, and I won't deny that I can at times exaggerate, but I will agree about the carpenters or should one say carpenting use of inches.

              The inches do remain around Europe in some use and nobody is on the brink of suicide because of that.

              And while I am sure, in advance, that car tires will have been mentioned before, I will mention them too, without any feeling that the metric system did not win.

              I suppose one of the reasons for this was the amount of timber exported to Britain from the continent.

              We exported a lot of "props" from Finland and it took me some time to understand why they were called props.

              Here in Finland, in the norther parts, we have this world leading and unique measurement called "Poronkusema".

              It has also fallen for the metrication and is now defined in the metric system as 7.5 km.

              It's defined like this, using the Wikipedia and Google translate.

              "Poronkusema is an old unit of length used when moving reindeer. Reindeer urine is the distance a reindeer can drive between (the reindeer's) urination breaks. Reindeer cannot urinate while running, and running for too long can cause paralysis. At its maximum, the reindeer's furrow can be up to 7.5 kilometers".

              Nothing is perfect, not GT either, and where that "furrow" came from I don't know.

              The opposition towards the metric system in Britain was due to the Empire nostalgia, like also Brexit, and costly for not only Britain.

              And now I hope that same lunacity will be costly for Russia.

              1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

                Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                "Reindeer urine is the distance a reindeer can drive between (the reindeer's) urination breaks"

                Can't help but think that the guy driving the sleigh is very happy about this.

              2. SundogUK Silver badge

                Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                What the hell has the empire got to do with it? Most imperial measurements were based on agricultural standards and were around long before the empire.

                1. Mike 137 Silver badge

                  Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                  "Most imperial measurements were based on agricultural standards and were around long before the empire"

                  Not necessarily agricultural, but generally practical. In days when precision was not the fetish it has become (witness the modern definition of the metre) units of measurement were related to everyday things that ordinary people could relate to directly, such as typical body dimensions. The inch was the notional length of a man's top thumb from the joint to the nail, the yard was the longest arrow an archer could shoot (the distance from the left fist to the right ear) and so on. Interestingly, right up to the late 1800s in maritime practice the picul was "the weight a man can carry" at around 120 lb (c. 55 kilos) which is just over twice the maximum the UK health and safety rules allow.

                  What we've gained in calculation simplicity and standardisation, we've lost in real world practicality. Measuring a wardrobe in millimetres is a bit pointless as (particularly in the case of self assembly flat packs) individual specimens will vary by quite a bit more than that. Plus, I've dealt with tradesmen who could understand millimetres but not understand centimetres, so bang goes the "simplicity" of the decimal base. And of course the metre was defined on an entirely arbitrary (and indeed quite parochial) basis anyway, not related to anything in practical day-to day terms. I find it necessary to use both systems according to relevance to the job in hand.

                  1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                    Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                    The inch was the notional length of a man's top thumb from the joint to the nail

                    Even before that (in pre-CE times) the cubit was defined as the distance of the rulers forearm between the elbow and the tip of the fingers (although in practice was often standardised within a kingdom and didn't change once the ruler died). And a palm was the width of the rulers hand..

                    Even the Romans were at it - the milum was (at one point) defined as the distance a marching legion could cover with 1000 steps (because having up to 8500 people marching in step would tend to smooth out the disparity in stride lengths) - the eventually started measuring it with distance wheels thhat dropped a pebble with every turn of the wheel (and the wheel being a specific width across).

                    A Roman mile was a good bit shorter than an a British mile.

                    (I'm in my late 50's - while my instinct is to think in miles (especially MPH) I'm perfectly happy using KM, KPH, KG, grammes, metres/CM/mm etc etc. At 2ndary school in the early 80's they had pretty much switched over to using SI units although the woodwork teacher still used feet and inches. But he was old - at least 30!)

                    1. Jonathan Richards 1
                      Thumb Up

                      Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                      > the distance a marching legion could cover with 1000 steps

                      Almost, but not quite: it's 1,000 paces, i.e. left foot to left foot. I verified this some years ago, when walking along a nice straight stretch of the Fosse Way. At marching speed, 1,000 paces took me almost exactly one statute mile as measured by GPS. I guess I must have roughly the dimensions of a legionary soldier!

                    2. Bwana mkubwa

                      Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                      The mile across Europe was was derived the Mille Passus or 1000 paces which is 2000 steps for a "mile". https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/mille_passus: mīlle passūs n a Roman mile of 8 stadia (“stades”); 1,000 passūs (“paces”); or 5,000 pedēs (“feet”), approximately 4,854 English feet. It varied from town to town and country to country, hence a country mile.

                  2. Adrian Midgley 1

                    And on the topic of exaggeration by men...

                    A man's yard was what he pissed with.

                    1. jake Silver badge

                      Re: And on the topic of exaggeration by men...

                      A ship's yard is what you set the sail from.

                      Strangely, "a shipyard is what you set sail from" means something completely different. English. Go figure.

              3. gerryg

                Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                In days of yore, maps were topological - places were one day's travel on foot apart (minimise threat levels) and a day's travel was a journée corrupted over time to journey.

                To throw in a quick French lesson, counter - duration: jour - journée, soir soirée et cetera FWIW

                1. aqk
                  Headmaster

                  Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pe full....nce

                  But still...

                  Is it café au lait? Or café crème?

                  I guess it depends on whether your cup is ½ empty, or is ‰ full...

              4. Stoneshop

                Try Deepl:

                Reindeer length is an old unit of measurement of length used when moving reindeer. Reindeer length is the distance a reindeer can travel between (reindeer) urination breaks. Reindeer cannot urinate while running, and running too long can cause them to become paralysed. The maximum distance a reindeer can run is up to 7.5 kilometres.

                1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
                  Joke

                  Re: Try Deepl:

                  No wonder Santa takes so long.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Try Deepl:

                    Nobody said they couldn't urinate while flying. That's why I stay inside on Christmas Eve.

                    1. The Unexpected Bill
                      Go

                      Re: Try Deepl:

                      In that same vein, I would like to bring your attention to the following: Twin City Christmas, specifically the track entitled "There Ain't Enough Papers for the Reindeer". (Years later, when that link has probably crumbled away to dust, hopefully your favorite search engine can still find this gem.)

                      The backstory, in the unlikely event anyone cares: the album in question was produced by a city near my part of the world in the mid-1990s as a fundraiser. It consists entirely of local talent. I have no affiliation with it, and might not even know of it, were it not for the fact that my father was one of the few people who bought a copy on CD.

              5. rcw88

                Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                Resistance was because the skinflints didn't want to replace imperial machinery with metric, the electrical installation industry metricated in 1974, but British Leyland were still making engines with imperial sizes long into the 1980's. A Metro bodyshell was metric, the A series engine imperial, just needed two sets of spanners - and still do today....

                There is rationale to the imperial system, 12 divides by 1,2,3,4,6, 10 divides by 1,2, and 5.

                I still don't understand why the USA uses CUPS for measurement, I thought that was for printing with Unix.

                1. Adrian Midgley 1

                  In the metric system, 12

                  integer divides by 2, 3, 4, and 6

                  Which is just as handy as the Imperial system, in which 10 integer divides by 2 and 5

              6. cerdic

                Metric is not always better. & mis-reporting by author

                Preferring the older (better) measurements is nothing to do with nostalgia. New does NOT mean better.

                Sometimes today people think that the Imperial system was an 'oddity', only used by Great Britain and all her many territories. Not so very similar sets of measures were used all over Europe, To my certain knowledge France, Holland, Prussia, Austria and many other German states used them. [oddity the old English foot (pre 1295-1300) was the Saxon/North German/Belgic foot which at 335mm is a third of a metre (I know 1005mm) This Belgic metre was still used in some German states until the 19th Century]

                Anyway It is liked because it is practical. Each of the measures evolved to suit a given task or set of tasks as such they work well for those tasks. They are easy to use and very flexible. Metric was designed from the start to be one, all encompassing system and if the available measurement unit wasn't particularly good for any given task, tough that's what you'll use like it or not. A simple proof of this is that at first even time and the calendar were subjected to this decimal madness and not in some thought experiment. The French people suffered this decimal nonsense for many years.

                In the traditional system if a task required a new measurement someone invented it and if it was useful it spread. (the Imperial reformation of some traditional measurements tidied up the centuries / millennia old measurements a little but the US strangely did not adopt them which is why they still use the older versions.)

                Example: an Acre was defined as the area one Ox team could plough in one day, This is normally quoted as 660 feet by 66 feet not a square like the artificial Hectare, The Acre suits its task. That in another country the Acre might be fractionally bigger or smaller was, and is irreverent as farmers don't have fields in more than one country. Only now with very common world wide trade is a common system advantageous and even now only for international trade and science. The author of this article badly mis-reported the incident of the failed space mission. There is nothing wrong with using Imperial / traditional systems in space travel. After all the US moon landings were accomplished with them. The problem - the insanity - was that one team used Imperial measurements and another Metric measurements. Given the immence distances involved it is not surprising that there was a problem but that problem could, just as wrongly, have been said to have been caused by using the metric system.

            2. Scott 26

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              > whores and inches

              Obligatory Young Ones quote: "I know what you are thinking, and you'd swear I was talking in centimetres"

          2. gnasher729 Silver badge

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            Bicycle wheels are measured in inches in Germany. Floppy disks were sold in inches - first, floppy disk drives are not square. Second, nobody cares how big they are - all we care about is that 3.5” disks are the right size to fit into 3.5” drives.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              "Floppy disks were sold in inches - first,"

              The writing on the package was in inches. The generally used term was in inches. The standard for how to make them was in metric; the 3.5 inch disk is in a case that measures 90 by 94 mm. 3.5 inches would have been 88.9 mm, but that's not how wide the disk is, either the rectangular case or the circular media inside it.

              1. Stoneshop

                Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                And the 3" disk as used by the Amstrad CPC and PCW computers was even more oblong; the drive and disks I have are currently in a box in the attic so I can't give the actual dimensions, but here's an image of one.

                But AFAIK the medium itself was indeed 3".

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              > Bicycle wheels are measured in inches in Germany.

              And car tyres, or rather the diameter of the wheel they fit is in inches while their width is in millimetres :-)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                Same mismash in both: My bike has 28" rim and 19mm width.

                But car tyres were sold in millimeters too, TRX-rim. I've a set of 225/60-415 and 215/65-390 rims and tyres and in 80s so many high end cars used those, from BMW to Maserati.

                You still can buy those tyres, but they are very expensive.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                  But car tyres were sold in millimeters too, TRX-rim. I've a set of 225/60-415 and 215/65-390 rims and tyres and in 80s so many high end cars used those, from BMW to Maserati.

                  You still can buy those tyres, but they are very expensive.

                  Even Jaguar went through a phase of fitting these metric wheels although I believe it is now rare to find Jags which still have them as you say they're expensive and also hard to find.

              2. NITS

                Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                Back in The Day, the tire's width was measured in inches. My first car, a Hillman Imp, had 5.50x12 cross-ply tires. I suspect that tread-width-in-millimeters came along (at least in West Pondia) about the same time as the switch to radial tires.

              3. Adrian Midgley 1

                Bicycle wheels...

                The common 700C rim, for instance?

            3. Korev Silver badge

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              > Bicycle wheels are measured in inches in Germany.

              My road bike has 32mm tyres, my mountain bike has 2.5"

              1. Zolko Silver badge

                Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                My road bike has 700x25mm tyres, and my mountainbike 28x1.5''.

                And I'm selling winter-tyres 185/65R15, where 185 is the width in mm, R15 is the rim size in inches, and 65 is the height above the rims in ... what exactly ?

                And my laptop has an 14'' screen.

                1. HkraM

                  Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                  "And I'm selling winter-tyres 185/65R15, where 185 is the width in mm, R15 is the rim size in inches, and 65 is the height above the rims in ... what exactly ?"

                  The 65 is the profile and is the percentage of the width, so for those tyres it's 65% of 185 mm = 120 mm.

                2. The answer is 42

                  Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                  65 is the aspect ratio- between the width and height.

            4. FreeTard

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              Depends if you're a roadie or a fast MTB rider -> 700C for roadies, 29inch MTB equiv (ISO 622).

              Smaller wheels for more responsiveness used on both gravel & MTB bikes -> 650b "gravel" bikes and 27.5inch MTB (ISO 584)

            5. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              "first, floppy disk drives are not square."

              Only the 3.5" variation. Which is not floppy either, that name came from 8" ones which actually were floppy. And square. When 5 1/4" floppy was the main stream, someone noticed that people manage to put them into drive the wrong way, so next generation wasn't square.

              Also: 3,5" variation is called 'a cracker' here in North as it doesn't flop.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                The disk is still floppy it is just the case which is rigid

              2. Mister Anderson

                Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                3.5" disks are just as floppy as their 8" and 5.25" predecessors. Their casings are more rigid to provide more robust protection during handling.

              3. Stoneshop

                Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                Only the 3.5" variation.

                I think you mean "all but the actual floppy ones, so the 8", 5.25" and 3.25" versions". The stiffies/crackers are all oblong to some extent, some more than others, while the IBM 4" floppy would be a square stiffie if it didn't have half of one edge slightly angled inwards.

              4. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

                Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                Thought the 3.5" version was called a "stiffy", i.e.: not floppy

            6. Stoneshop

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              Bicycle wheels are measured in inches in Germany.

              Not only there. Inch size is part of the ETRTO (European Tire and Rim Technical Organisation) size code.

          3. unbender

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            Close, it's normally 45x95mm or 47x97mm and comes in 2.4, 3.2, 3.6, 4.8, or 5.4M lengths.

            Plasterboard and most sheet materials come in 1200x2400mm, but plywood is 1220x2440 as most plywood is made to American 8x4ft dimensions. This is changing, but means yards may sell imperial, metric, or both sizes and can cause some issues.

            1. Stoneshop
              Boffin

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              Particleboard used to be 1220x2440, but tends to be 1250x2500 now. It's available in 2070x2800 and 1250x3050 as well.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            "amusingly can you pass me 2m of 4x2."

            Makes as much sense as calling it a 2x4 in the US (for anyone that doesn't know, a 2x4 isn't actually 2" by 4").

            1. ian 22

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              Indeed! I took a course in industrial processes that required us to learn to use lathes, milling machines, shapers, and to make gears among other metal things. The instructor caught me attempting to shave the metal to fit, and accused me of carpentry. It seems he considered that to be a Bad Thing.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                My Uncle, who taught me to use a mill (and then a CNC mill) told me it was all OK, as long as I didn't have to put more metal on the piece.

                The same guy, who also taught me to weld, said "There are two kinds of people in the world ... welders and grinders. As long as the parts stay together, you're good.". Almost 60 years later, and I almost consider myself a welder.

            2. rcw88

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              It used to 4x2 as it comes off the saw mill- rough sawn, if its PAR, Planed All Round, the rule of thumb was take 1/8 inch [3.175mm] off each dimension. But by shrinking the real size down they get more lengths off the tree. So its always better to buy your wood from a sawmill, where the unit of measure is a cubic foot :-).

              Conversion is easy if you know that an inch is 25.4mm EXACTLY. I had a One Inch micrometer that I used for years until I bought a metric one [as well]. Handily, vernier calipers are sometimes dual scale.

          5. KSM-AZ

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            Too bad a 2x4 is really 1-5/8 x 3-1/2 . . . Ish

        2. steelpillow Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          > A 2x4 would be a "fifty-by-one-hundred", just so we're clear.

          Me have trouble with metric conversions? Never! >Sigh!<

        3. award

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          > A 2x4 would be a "fifty-by-one-hundred", just so we're clear.

          100x50 if rough sawn, 90x45 dressed...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            But that's the case with 2x4's too. They're not actually 2" x 4" when you buy them.

        4. Lars Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          "A 2x4 would be a "fifty-by-one-hundred",

          Why not one to two.

        5. abetancort

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          Or in the civilized metric world, a five by ten. That’s is the beauty of a decimal system being used by people that use a base 10 number system. You can go up or down in the scale of units to the one that makes sense by easily dividing or multiplying by 10 . Not weird divisions and multiplication nonsense that you have to do with American units.

          1. FatGerman Silver badge

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            Inches are far more practical than mm. Carpenters frequently need to find the center line. What's half of 4 3/4 inches? 2 3/8. What's half of 123mm? .... hold on, I can do this....

            One isn't better than the other, they both have their place and I use the one most appropriate to the task in hand.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              Absolutely. It's far easier to find half of 3.937 inches than to find half of 100mm - you can do the first in your head, but you need a calculator for the metric system.

              Similar if you're looking at a 15.0 cm piece - it's *much* simpler to find half of 5.906 inches than to work out what half of 15.0 might be.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

                That one's easy. Half of 3.937 inches is 1 and 31/32 inches ... at least near enough for human use (welding, nailing, cooking, etc). (You'd be surprised how often 15/16 shows up on my Bridgeport.)

                Why would you have a 15cm piece if you were working in Imperial units? And why would you approximate 29/32 as .509? Glutton for punishment?

        6. JulieM Silver badge

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          I'm fairly sure the French were referring to it as "dix fois cinq" when I was working over there. (They seemed to prefer their metres split into hundreds, not thousands.)

        7. Jaybus

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          Or somewhere near 50x100. Of course a 2x4 isn't 2 inches by 4 inches either, more like 1.5 inches by 3.5 inches, so perhaps it's a 38x89.

        8. Theyank88

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          And if anything like a US 2x4 isn't actually 2"/4" but is 1.5x3.5"

          My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead, and that's the way I like it!

        9. Bwana mkubwa

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          A 2 by 4 in the US is a name not a measurement, as it probably is in Britain and from my knowledge of buying them and 2 by 6's they keep getting smaller.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        It can be anything really, as long as the units use powers of 10.

        Whenever I'm confused I turn to the interview with the guy who decides imperial measurements. You may notice he's drunk. Some people maintain this is why imperial measurements originated in the UK.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        We Brits still call the standard building timber a "two-by-four"

        Except they're not actually 2 inches by 4 inches...they're just called that for historical reasons.

        Ever tried to hump a neatly-numbered metric sack of animal feed?

        Yes. That's why the likes of potatoes are 23kg. Because it's almost exactly 50 pounds.

        I could go on ... and on ...

        Please don't.

        At one time it was made illegal under EU rules to sell a pound of bananas in the UK

        No, it wasn't.

        and a market trader got prosecuted for it

        No, he didn't.

        Something utterly arbitrary, like an inaccurate estimate of the Earth's diameter, is a far more scientific idea.

        That's not what a metre is and hasn't been for decades. Did you actually read the article?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          Except they're not actually 2 inches by 4 inches...they're just called that for historical reasons.

          Usually a size like "2x4" is the rough sawn lumber size, once the timber is dried and planed it will always be smaller.

        2. JohnTill123

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          Actually, the standard building timber IS a "two by four" when it's rough sawn. But it's normally "dressed" so it doesn't have saw marks on the surface. That knocks it down to about 1-5/8 inches by 3-3/8 inches.

          I once pulled a 70 year old rough sawn 2x4 out of a wall in a basement of a house built in 1919 and measured it with vernier calipers. It was exactly 2" by 4" to within a 1/10th of an inch.

        3. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          At one time it was made illegal under EU rules to sell a pound of bananas in the UK

          No, it wasn't.

          and a market trader got prosecuted for it

          No, he didn't.

          Oh yes it was

          Oh yes he was

          Such wishful thinking passes for argument nowadays if you want to be "on the right side of history".

          1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            He was prosecuted for using uncalibrated scales, i.e. short measure.

            1. Barrie Shepherd

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              Don't let a bit of truth get in the way of a Mail story.!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            Tell you what, why not read the actual report from the courts? https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2002/195.html

            Thornton was prosecuted for not using the correct scales for weighing.

            Hunt was prosecuted for not displaying the price in KG and that when items were bought, the quantity delivered in each case was less in weight than the amount which would have corresponded with the price.

            I.e. He was done for providing less product than he was claiming to sell. Nowhere was he banned for selling in pounds.

            > Such wishful thinking passes for argument nowadays if you want to be "on the right side of history".

            **cough**

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            If you're going to link to Government websites to "prove" your false claims, you might want to read them before doing so, as neither of those links justify your fabrications.

            It's not a case of "wishful thinking" or "argument" when one side is totally devoid of facts.

            At one time it was made illegal under EU rules to sell a pound of bananas in the UK

            If you actually look at the link you gave, "pound" is NOT on the list of proscribed measurements. In addition, the preamble clearly states that any of them can be used as "Supplementary Indications". In other words, they're all allowed as long as they're not the SOLE measurement used.

            and a market trader got prosecuted for it

            That Grauniad article doesn't actually say WHAT law the judge accused him of violating, but the devil is in the details. It mentions that sets of scales were seized. That's because he was using measuring equipment which couldn't/didn't display metric. THAT is what he was prosecuted for. But "convicted of selling fruit in imperial measurements" is punchier and more appealing to the type of reader who get red faced at the mere prospect.

      4. elaar

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        "What could be easier?" - a metric system....

        "We Brits still call the standard building timber a "two-by-four". So much easier than "hand me a couple of one-hundred-by-two-hundreds, there's a good chap"." - You don't base a measurement system on which one's easiest to say. You can still call it a 2x4, as it's pretty close, I'm sure the person passing it to you won't get confused if you're a few mm out with your description.

        I don't think we'd suffer any major issues if a pint of beer was 13% smaller, the US version is under half a litre, and that's the point really... a system where values differ between common countries has no place in a modern society. The only people that argue against this are those that grew up with said archaic system.

        1. R Soul Silver badge

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          "I don't think we'd suffer any major issues if a pint of beer was 13% smaller,"

          You've clearly never spent time in a pub in Scotland.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            If the price was too... fat chance of that though.

          2. Great Southern Land

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            Or Australia.

          3. Mac Logo

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            Spirits used to be in fractions of a Gill. (Pronounced Jill. No, me neither)

            In Scotland it was commonly as 1/4 Gills and England 1/5 Gills.

            That turned into 35ml vs 25ml - a difference I find much easier to visualise - but difficult to stomach at the same price.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          > The only people that argue against this are those that grew up with said archaic system.

          Trouble is Johnson, Mogg et al are too young to have any real experience…

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            Trouble is Johnson, Mogg et al are too young to have any real experience…

            s/young/old Etonian/

        3. Jim Whitaker

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          Beer serving sizes? Read Brave New World to see what you are up against.

          1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            "One cubic centimetre cures ten gloomy sentiments," if I remember rightly.

      5. Dave K

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        "At one time it was made illegal under EU rules to sell a pound of bananas in the UK. and a market trader got prosecuted for it. This article is a great example of history being written by the winners."

        Incorrect. What was made illegal was selling items *only* by pounds/ounces. Shops have always been allowed to sell by pounds and ounces if they want to, but they must also sell by grams/kilograms as well. The trader was fined because he refused to provide pricing for metric quantities.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          And... let me blow your mind here. It's ALSO illegal here in the US.

          Every packaged quantity of everything is sold either as US units and metric units, or just metric units. The 2 liter bottle of Coke is common. Wine bottles are 750ml. Wine boxes are 3 liters. A 12 ounce can of fizzy water is also marked 355ml, and would be illegal to sell if it wasn't. Medication is measured in mg.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            mg is an optional unit for medication. The preferred metric unit is k$ or Shkreli

          2. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            The impression I get from visiting my American cousins (lawyers, teachers, etc) is that they don't notice the metric measure. A bit like Gaspode.

          3. Mongrel

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            Although, five or so years ago, I saw some thyroxine (IIRC) imported from the States still being measured in grains

          4. Outski

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            Wine bottles are 75cl because that's the accepted standard size internationally. In the UK, and most of Europe as well, I think, boxes are 225cl, as that makes three bottles.

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              In the UK, and most of Europe as well, I think, boxes are 225cl, as that makes three bottles.

              Three liters (300 cl) is four bottles.

            2. Bwana mkubwa

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              Wine worldwide is sold by the mL, in France by the cL. They sell wine boxes worldwide by 3 litres, 5 litres and 10 litres. Not sure which planet you are on.

        2. captain veg Silver badge

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          The trader, Steve Thoburn, was actually fined for using scales that did not bear the required stamp by a Weights and Measures inspector.

          The stamp couldn't be obtained because they only showed imperial measures, but that wasn't the actual offence.

          -A.

          1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            Unsure about the pricing of fruit or vegetables? Never fear, Captain Veg is here!

        3. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          Exactly. The point is proven. You can't have legal-for-trade scales that only measure pounds and ounces. You are obliged to have them marked in metric units too.

          Without that restriction, you would be able to have properly-calibrated imperial scales.

      6. LogicGate Silver badge

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        ....We Brits still call the standard building timber a "two-by-four"..

        Last time I tried to build something using "two by fours", I found that these were not two inches by four inches. Rather they had started out as such, and after being planed, they were significantly smaller.

        1. Norman Nescio Silver badge

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          Exactly correct. 2x4s started as 2 inches by 4 inches as rough cut timber, but it shrinks as a result of seasoning/drying and planing.

          Popular Science: Two-by-fours are not actually 2-by-4—here’s why. We measure wood in a weird way.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          South of the equator we use 4x2's. Lumberyards seldom stock 2x4's as there not much call for them round here.

          (formerly framing was usually 3x2, but what can you do - that's inflation for you)

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            I recall a chippy on a job one time sending his apprentice to measure something or other. Said apprentice returned and cheerfully announced that it was 'two metres three and five eighths'.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            "South of the equator we use 4x2's. Lumberyards seldom stock 2x4's..."

            Think you'll find if you rotate a 4x2 through ninety degrees it becomes a 2x4.

            1. wangi

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              aye, and if you rotate your head ninety degrees the comment will still be flying over it

            2. GloriousVictoryForThePeople

              Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

              "if you rotate a 4x2 through ninety degrees it becomes a 2x4"

              Ah, I see, 2x4s are made for dwangs.

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        a market trader got prosecuted for it

        No, he got prosecuted because he refused to give up his old scales, which were no longer authorised for trading use because they only measured in imperial units. Under EU rules it was still legal to have "supplementary units" on display, as long as the metric ones were at least as prominent. That was supposed to be phased out eventually, but back around 2007 the EU parliament finally abandoned plans to force countries to drop old units, as long as they use metric as primary ones.

      8. cream wobbly

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        > As George Orwell wrote in his dystopian 1984, half a litre of beer is not enough, a full litre is too much.

        Visions of real-alesters in the US ordering "one pint and four and a bit fluid ounces of your most baby-sick flavored IPA, please".

      9. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        > At one time it was made illegal under EU rules to sell a pound of bananas in the UK.

        No it wasn't.

        https://fullfact.org/europe/metric-eu-brexit-pints-metres-pounds/

        > and a market trader got prosecuted for it.

        No he wasn't. https://ukma.org.uk/why-metric/myths/consumer-protection/#sunderland

        > This article is a great example of history being written by the winners.

        *cough*

      10. Ozan

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        Here we have 5x10 instead of 2x4.

        1. Ken G Silver badge

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          stop bragging

      11. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        "As George Orwell wrote in his dystopian 1984, half a litre of beer is not enough, a full litre is too much. A pint of real ale is spot on and no free publican in the UK would dare challenge that."

        And you've missed the point of the line. The person who was complaining about the units used was an elderly man that the protagonist, Winston Smith, was attempting to question about the past. Smith has lived almost his entire life in a place where whatever the government says is accepted and he can't tell whether it's true or not, and he wants to learn what life before that was like. He finds an old person who isn't a party member and hopes that this guy can provide him that knowledge, but all this man can do is complain or babble about small and unimportant details, such as whether top hats are in fashion, the details of a fight he got into in the 1920s, or the units in which alcohol is sold. The person arguing about units wasn't Orwell saying that metric units are bad or the sign of despotism; it was a man failing to care about important details while being consumed by trivialities.

        Elsewhere in his writings, Orwell argued for both systems. I don't know that his opinions on these matters are much more important than the average person, but you can consider those as his true beliefs if you want.

      12. parlei Bronze badge

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        Interestingly, the mile is already based on a rational number: a mile is simply 1000 (double) paces (in my old age I find that I need about 35 more paces to go the full mile).

        As to the lumber: next time you are in the lumber yard, do check if a 2x4 is actually a full 4x2 in. In Sweden I simply purchase a 95x45 (nominally 100x50 before drying), and I suspect yours is about the same no matter what they call it.

        As to temperature: a scale based on a poor estimate of body temperature...

      13. Potemkine! Silver badge

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        What could be easier? And I mean that in the practical sense

        Let's make a comparison:

        You calculate the volume of a cube with a side of 4 feet and 2 inches, I calculate the same volume for a cube of 127 cm. Let's see who makes the fewest calculations.

        1. Glenturret Single Malt

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          "Fewer" calculations.

          Mental arithmetic (negligible time) gives 4 foot 2 inches as (4 x 12) +2 = 50 inches.

          Ditto 50 x 2.54 to convert to cm ((takes a little bit longer) = 127 cm

        2. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          What's your point? If I ask you to calculate the volume of a cube 39 11/32 inches, it will be a damn sight easier for me to tell you it's one cubic metre because I've chosen the value in my unit of preference.

          Converting across measurements becomes inherently easier when units are directly correlated. Tell me how wide and deep an Olympic swimming pool is and I'll tell you how much water you need to fill it in about five seconds. Try doing that in mediaeval units.

      14. gandalfcn Silver badge

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        "At one time it was made illegal under EU rules to sell a pound of bananas in the UK. and a market trader got prosecuted for it." Did lying Boris tell you that?

        1. Lars Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          "Did lying Boris tell you that?".

          Some more on that topic by an outsider/insider I could recommend.

          Fintan O'Toole, in "The Politics of Pain"

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA08SXJ8mAY

      15. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        "fourteen pounds to the stone"

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_(unit)

        In England you could have 'stones' of 8, 12, 12.5, 14, 15, 22lb depending on what you were measuring.

        In County Clare of a stone of potatoes was 16lb in the summer and 18lb in the winter

        Most of Europe had their own version

      16. Cynical Pie

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        It was never illegal to sell items by the pound, you just had to also show/also use the metric equivalent.

        The most obvious example of this is the fact milk cartons in the UK show their volume in both metric and imperial

      17. Jedit Silver badge
        Trollface

        "Ever tried to hump a neatly-numbered metric sack of animal feed?"

        No. But I guess you had to make your own entertainment when you were a lad.

      18. Paul 195
        Headmaster

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        "t one time it was made illegal under EU rules to sell a pound of bananas in the UK. and a market trader got prosecuted for it. "

        Nope. This is an example of history being rewritten by known liars, like Boris Johnson. You can sell any quantity of bananas you like under EU rules, including a pound. After all, you can still buy milk by the pint in most supermarkets.

        What you *can't* do, is use a system other than metric as the measurement on which you base your prices and tariffs. So you can sell a pound of bananas, providing you also label clearly that what the customer is getting is .454 Kg of bananas. And this is to stop monkey business and chicanery with weights, a favoured method for wide boys to cheat customer since time immemorial.

        1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          No chicanery if your imperial scales are standardised by Weights and Measures. Declining to do so allowed said monkey business.

      19. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        I want the half-guinea back!

        1. that one in the corner Silver badge

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          > I want the half-guinea back!

          Settle for two Crowns and a Tanner?

      20. ian 22

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        Oddly, here in the Leader of the Free World (tm), a '2 by 4' is actually 1.75 inches by 3.75 inches. Go figure (using some strange measurement system).

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          "Oddly, here in the Leader of the Free World (tm), a '2 by 4' is actually 1.75 inches by 3.75 inches."

          Nope.Here in the USofA, 2x4s are uniformly 1.5x3.5 inches, in many standard lengths. These days. I rarely reference Wiki, but see their article on "Lumber" for a fairly decent, if rough & minimal, overview. It's not a strange measurement system, it's legacy.

          1. ian 22

            Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

            Quite right, Jake. It’s been awhile since I had to deal with lumber.

      21. Adrian Midgley 1

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        "At one time it was made illegal under EU rules to sell a pound of bananas in the UK. and a market trader got prosecuted for it. "

        No it wasn't, and he didn't.

        And good luck finding a bunch of bananas which is exactly 453.592g in mass.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

          Yeah, we've already done that one to death. But thanks for participating.

    2. Boring Bob

      Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

      Auvoirdepois has nothing to do with pounds, shillings and pence. Precious metals are measure using the Troy system that has 20 ounces to the pound. That is why a pound of gold weighs more than a pound of feathers. 1GBP was originally worth a pound of gold hence 20 shillings to the pound.

      1. Chz

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        I think you'll find it was a pound of sterling silver. Even with 240 pennies to the pound, a penny's worth of gold would be far too valuable.

      2. ThatOne Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        > a pound of gold weighs more than a pound of feathers

        It costs more too, isn't that proof of that the pound is the more rational unit?...

        /s

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Hexidecimalization

        @An_Old_Dog

        That was silly, there is no reason for the 12, it's just one we chose.

        One hour could be 100 minutes and so forth, and one hour 100 seconds.

        But please use what ever you are brave enough to use before the EU and the bad world finds you.

        1. Zolko Silver badge

          Re: Hexidecimalization

          that's what we used when writing down flight-times (in recreational aviation): 1h and 15 minutes was written 1,25h, because it was easier to add them in columns

      2. deadlockvictim

        Re: Hexidecimalization

        I agree, the Imperial System would have an awful lot to recommend it if everything was evenly divisible by 12 and only 12.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Hexidecimalization

          I agree, the Imperial System would have an awful lot to recommend it if everything was evenly divisible by 12 and only 12.

          That only 12 won't work, it will also be evenly divisible by 1.

      3. ArrZarr Silver badge

        Re: Hexidecimalization

        Amen. If I had the ability to make one change to history, it would be changing every ancient civilization to run on duodecimal (Dozenal) rather than Decimal way back in the day.

      4. Fred Daggy Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: Hexidecimalization

        I could live with 12. Like you said, nice round integer division when dividing between 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6. Not impossible and done in 1 generation. But for now, basing things off 10 will do just fine.

        The main selling point of metric is its consistency. And for that "SI until I die".

        Let's not change course now.

      5. grantmasterflash

        Re: Hexidecimalization

        Dividing 12 in half or quarters is fine but what about doubling, tripling etc... What happens when you need 7 12s? Dividing 10 in half is as easy as dividing 12 in half. Multiplying 10 by *anything* is easier that multiplying 12. So, the entire basis of this argument is the scenario of dividing into quarters...

        You would give up easier math literally in every other scenario just to gain the ability to divide by 4? What is so important that needs to be divided by 4? Besides pizza if you only have three friends.

        As for your reasons someone wouldn't accept this system, they are the same reasons that you won't accept a logical, easy system redirected at people who already have.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Hexidecimalization

          I am afraid you are overlooking the minor fact that there would be twelve digits in a duodecimal system, so the number twelve would be written as 10, making multiplying by twelve just as easy.

          There are only 10 types of people, those who understand binary and those who don't.

      6. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Hexidecimalization

        Yes, 12 is a great base, which is why the imperial system of length makes so much sense: 12 inches to the foot, 12 feet to the yard, 12 yards to the rod, and 12 rods to the mile which as we all know is 1728 feet. 16 is also a nice base, hence why the weight system of 16 ounces to the pound, 16 pounds to the stone, 16 stone to the ton (256 pounds) is so logical.

        Oh, wait a minute. I think I made a typo somewhere.

        We use decimal numbers. Maybe things would have been more logical if we used a different base, but we did not. Unless you want to switch to using base 12 for everything, get used to using base 10. We don't say that something weighs 13A pounds, so while we're using decimal numbers to express the number of the units we're using, we should also use decimal to divide the units.

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hexidecimalization

        You are Al Murray, and I claim my 5 pounds.

    4. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

      Except it’s not. You learned to count in decimal then applied the 12, 16 and 20 times tables.

      Obviously, this is doable and means more practice of things not particularly needed; which can have fringe benefits.

      Crashing spacecraft into mars because unit conversions are bit sucky and inconsistent however, is ample enough evidence to avoid them in any important work.

      As units of utility inches and feet still have their uses. Other than that, get rid.

    5. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

      Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

      I always mentally translate avoirdupois as "to have some peas" whenever I see it, which makes me laugh at least as much as the system it describes.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

      I was born 2 months before the Apollo 11 mission and only ever learned metric at school. I can estimate feet and inches as I know an inch is about 2.5cm and 1 foot is the same as a 30cm ruler. Ask me about pounds and ounces though and you will get a blank look and I will ask, "what is that in kilograms"?

      My dad knows both systems, but greatly prefers metric.

      So unless my school was an outlier, nobody born in the UK since man set foot on the moon was educated in any other system than metric. This makes going back to the old system more than stupid. Why would we burden our kids with having to learn another system that is of absolutely no use outside of the UK?

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Hooray for Avoirdupois and pounds, shillings and pence

        For learning in schools, I think the cutoff was those who started after the 1972-3 year, so anyone born after that world cup win will only have learned "Imperial" units at school for fun. I dare say this was more likely at Eton than elsewhere.

        Another change around the same time was adopting Monday as the first day of the week. In my second year at primary school we had a regular exercise of writing what you did at the weekend ... but you weren't allowed to report anything you did on the Sunday because the teacher was an anal retentive twat fighting a rearguard action against Change and taking it out on her class of 6-year-olds. Fortunately for my karma, I have forgotten her name and so I'm not tempted to speak ill of the probably-dead-by-now on this public forum. But looking back ... what a twat!

  2. xyz Silver badge

    The amount of times...

    I've found exactly what I want on the internet only to be presented with measuements in American and I just leave the site. You guys must be losing a fortune in sales if I'm typical.

    At least , after having read the article, I now have a rough idea of what weight they are banging on about on Gold Rush when they're going on about something weighing 50,000 lbs.

    1. chuckufarley Silver badge

      Re: The amount of times...

      Freedom Units FTW!

      Umm, wait...

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: The amount of times...

      Yes, two pounds = 1kg (approx).

      One yard = one metre (approx(*)).

      One ton - one tonne (approx).

      But the one that continues to confound me is temperature. I like watching Frozen and Naked and Afraid (the latter not being as naughty as it sounds if you've never watched it) but both give temperatures in F and the only clue I have whether or not it's snowing :(

      I don't know if it astonishes or saddens me most that TV companies who clearly intend to market their product globally see no reason to give temperatures in C (even if only alongside). I mean for those two shows in particular the audience benefits from knowing what the outside temperature is.

      (*)There's a golf course near me where the fairway markers are in metres because it once hosted a round of the Europro series. That's when I learnt that one yard isn't really one metre. Amusingly the distances given on the tee box are in yards so I assume more than a few golfers have been caught out when hitting their fairway shots.

      1. Old Used Programmer

        Re: The amount of times...

        1 tonne ~ 1 long ton, the two being, respectively, 2204 lbs and 2200 lbs. The "common" US ton (i.e. what you mean if all you say is "ton") is 2000 lbs. None of them to be confused with the displacement ton, which is 35 cubic feet.

        1. Glenturret Single Malt

          Re: The amount of times...

          Since primary school, I have always used 1 ton as 20 cwt = 8 x 20 stone = 160 x 14 lbs = 2240 lbs.

          I have never used or heard of anyone referring to a "long ton".

      2. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: The amount of times...

        > Yes, two pounds = 1kg (approx).

        About 10% out.

        > One yard = one metre (approx(*)).

        About 10% out.

        > One ton - one tonne (approx).

        You have to qualify that with which ton you're talking about. Still, short ton: about 10% out; long ton: about 10% out; guantanamera: no idea.

        > But the one that continues to confound me is temperature.

        Hmm. Neither Fahrenheit nor Celsius is intrinsically more "decimal" and, while I'm no expert, I believe that SI calls for Kelvin.

        In everyday life I can do either. Still, Fahrenheit does seem better adapted to the human scale of experience, or at least it was before global warming totally buggered up our weather.

        > I don't know if it astonishes or saddens me most that TV companies who clearly intend to market their product globally see no reason to give temperatures in C (even if only alongside). I mean for those two shows in particular the audience benefits from knowing what the outside temperature is.

        The relevant fact is that advertising spend in the US is greater than that of the rest of the world put together.

        This is why el Reg has latterly started pretending to be American.

        -A.

        1. Lars Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: The amount of times...

          "Fahrenheit does seem better adapted to the human scale of experience".

          That was funny. Zero degrees is where water is about to freeze but hasn't, and -1 is when its frozen and 100 is when it's boiling. No way to beat that logic.

          One could perhaps add that Celsius was a Swede and not French.

          1. IvyKing
            Headmaster

            Re: The amount of times...

            Hmmm, 100C is where the vapor pressure of pure water is the standard atmospheric pressure at sea level. At 1 to 1.5km of elevation, the drop in temperature at where the vapor pressure of water is equal to the ambient pressure is enough to require adjustments to recipes when baking. The more natural point for 0C would be the triple point in water. Fahrenheit's scale was 0F being the coldest achievable temperature with water ice and NaCl, with 100F being core body temperature. A real SI scale fr temperature would be eV...

            For doing thermodynamic calculations, the appropriate scales are Kelvin and Rankine, and there really isn't much difference in usability between K and R as all sorts of conversions need to be done to get answers in Joules or MWHr. Another "fun" problem is dealing with speed involves Joules being watt-seconds, while vehicle speeds are usually given in statute miles, nautical miles or kilometers per hour. A fun factoid is that 1 pound of force at one statute mile per hour is equal to 2.0W (1.99W is a closer approximation).

            As for feet, a fair approximation is that light travels 1 ft/nsec, too bad the foot wasn't ~1.6% shorter as a light nano-second would be the ultimate SI unit of length. The current definition of an inch, 25.4mm, was chosen in the 1920's to allow machine tools to handle inches by having a 127 tooth gear instead of a 100 tooth gear.

            FWIW, Jefferson wanted to base his unit of length on a "second's" rod, i.e. e pendulum whose length would have exactly one second period when measured at seal level and 45º latitude.

            Don't get me started on kilograms of thrust.

            1. JohnTill123
              Windows

              Re: The amount of times...

              A useful "feature" of Fahrenheit for people in snowy climates is that zero Fahrenheit is the temperature where salt on icy roads ceases to help melt the ice on the road to make it less slippery. So if the temperature is less than zero Fahrenheit, you know to be very careful when driving.

              In Celsius, you have to remember that the critical temperature for salted roads is about "-18C", which is not as intuitive.

              1. grantmasterflash

                Re: The amount of times...

                Most people don't know that either. They just associate a number to a feeling, nothing more making it even more rediculous to use Fahrenheit. It's super easy to step into the modern world when it comes to temperature. Arguably not as beneficial though as switching to SI units for measuring distance and volume.

                1. AndrueC Silver badge
                  Happy

                  Re: The amount of times...

                  Temperature is more about intuition than most (all?) other measurements because it's the one that's hardest to measure without a suitable device and also the only one that's at least somewhat subjective.

                  A metre is a metre and a yard is a yard. Okay so a gallon can vary (all part of how the imperial system is unsuited to the modern global economy) but my living room is currently 19.5c according to the thermostat. It's 18.7c according to my weather station. The old analogue thermometer I inherited from my parents appears to think it's a bit less than 20c.

                  But really the only thing that matters is that it's the right temperature for me. And even then I'm sure those of you who don't live alone can have a nice argument about whether your room temperature is correct or not :)

              2. ConsumedByFire

                Re: The amount of times...

                "A useful "feature" of Fahrenheit for people in snowy climates is that zero Fahrenheit is the temperature where salt on icy roads ceases to help melt the ice on the road to make it less slippery. So if the temperature is less than zero Fahrenheit, you know to be very careful when driving.

                In Celsius, you have to remember that the critical temperature for salted roads is about "-18C", which is not as intuitive."

                And what - having to remember 32F for unsalted roads is more intuitive . .

              3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

                Re: The amount of times...

                In fairness, many people don't in places where driving at -18 is a realistic possibility.

            2. Lars Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: The amount of times...

              @IvyKing

              Standards for the exact length of an inch have varied in the past, but since the adoption of the international yard during the 1950s and 1960s the inch has been based on the metric system and defined as exactly 25.4 mm.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inch

              1. IvyKing

                Re: The amount of times...

                From somewhere in the later half of the 19th century to ~1920, the US inch was defined as 39.37 inches equals 1m. According a ca 1920 issue of Railway Mechanical Engineer, the machine tool industry was making a push to defining the inch 25.4mm so that by using a 127 tooth gear to replace a 100 tooth gear a lathe could be set up to produce metric and imperial threads.

                One problem with converting the US to pure metric is that almost all land titles use feet, not meters. The US legal definition of a foot was 1/66 of a chain, a mile was 80 chains (66x80=5280), a section of land under the Northwest Ordnance of 1787 (passed under the Articles of Confederation, NOT the Constitution), which was 6400 square chains and the acre being 10 square chains (640 acres per square mile). The surveys for the Townships (36 sections) didn't really start until ca 1796, so if the arrival of the metric standards had not been delayed by the storm and the English, the US might have re-written the 1787 law to use metric measurements.

                Another problem with the US converting to metric was Herbert Hoover's success as Secretary of Commerce in setting national standards for pipes and other hardware.

                One final note about metric versus imperial is that a nautical mile is defined as 1 minute of longitude at the equator, so works well with the degrees, minutes and seconds customarily used for angles. Metric navigation would favor a decimal system for expressing angles, i.e. the gradians.

            3. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: The amount of times...

              "Fahrenheit's scale was 0F being the coldest achievable temperature with water ice and NaCl, with 100F being core body temperature."

              Wrong on both counts. On Fahrenheit's original scale, 0 was the freezing point of a solution of ammonium chloride (NH4Cl), not table salt (NaCl). As neither compound is used directly on roads, the point at which it is not useful depends on which specific salt is being used in the area, and more importantly on where the compound has been applied and whether it has been moved or not. The temperature of the human body was not 100. It was 96. Of course, neither value is considered average for body temperature (and body temperature is incredibly variable in any case, whereas boiling points of things at a specific fixed pressure is stable). This is because the modern scale abandoned both limits by instead fixing 32 and 212 as the values for water freezing and boiling, moving both of the original bounds slightly and making use of the original scale inaccurate to modern users.

              1. -tim
                Coat

                Re: The amount of times...

                In 1700 it was much easier for a scientist to calibrate a home made thermometer using ammonium chloride cooling bath and a docile dog. The temperature of boiling water required a barometer at higher altitudes and calibration tables. The human armpit temperature of about 96 allows hand drawn hash marks in repeated halves. Many very early Fahrenheit thermometer are often marked every 3 degrees.

                1. doublelayer Silver badge

                  Re: The amount of times...

                  You don't have to calibrate a thermometer based on the water temperatures alone. You can use whatever points you like if you know where on the scale they are. That means that if the ammonium chloride mixture is a point you can achieve more easily than freezing water (it isn't because you have to get significantly colder which is a bit tricky if it's not winter and you don't have refrigeration) you can use that and remember to label it -17. Using a dog for a temperature source is ridiculous as their average temperature is different from humans, but as there's so much variation with a human, it wouldn't allow much accuracy even if you used them.

          2. Binraider Silver badge

            Re: The amount of times...

            Given that both solid and liquid can coexist at the same temperature…

            The triple point of water has been known about for quite some time.

        2. Mooseman Silver badge

          Re: The amount of times...

          "Fahrenheit does seem better adapted to the human scale of experience"

          In the UK we seem to talk about summer heat in terms of "it was 85 degrees today!" but cold is described in Celsius, as in "It's -4 !"

          1. AndrueC Silver badge
            Meh

            Re: The amount of times...

            You might. I don't. The only F values I understand are 32F - 0c. And -40F which is also -40C.

            I know enough to perform the calculation if I sit down and think about it but I never bother. A hot day is anything above 25c. 30c is where I start to reconsider outdoor activities (although last year I did play a round of golf at 32c, teeing off at 1pm, lol). 40c is the 'oh-shit-end-of-the-world' point. At least in the UK.

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: The amount of times...

              And 212F = 100C.

          2. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: The amount of times...

            Kind of depends who you speak to there.

          3. Binraider Silver badge

            Re: The amount of times...

            32F for freezing point? 212F for boiling? Much rather the Rankine scale. 671.69 for boiling, and 461.67 for freezing.

            Perhaps we should consider the Delisle scale, where colder measurements have higher values. 0 as boiling point, and 150 as freezing point. Said scale was apparently used in Russia for quite some time.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: The amount of times...

              I find this fascinating. Whichever measurement scale you choose increasing for adding heat would seem to be the logical measure. Adding heat is something we've done for millennia. Refrigeration rather more recent.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The amount of times...

            I never did while living in the UK. I can vaguely remember they would give F as well as C in weather forecasts many years ago when I was a kid, before just dropping F.

            Now, living in the tropics, it is just bloody hot all the time. We have 2 seasons. Hot & dry and even hotter & wet.

        3. Fred Daggy Silver badge

          Re: The amount of times...

          "Fahrenheit does seem better adapted to the human scale of experience".

          Really? Someone from the US tells me it's 60, and I have no idea if i need to wear a jumper or turn on the air con. Mum and Dad tell me it's forty with a hot northerly, then I know they are on the look out for bushfires.

          So, depends upon what you learnt. From that perspective, neither one is better than the other.

          But for any scientific or engineering use, then (as others have pointed out), Kelvin is the way to do.

          1. Lars Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: The amount of times...

            @Fred Daggy

            A bit about the background to Kelvin.

            "Historically, the Kelvin scale was developed by shifting the starting point of the much-older Celsius scale down from the melting point of ice to absolute zero, and its increments still closely approximate the historic definition of a degree Celsius, ...."

          2. Fred Dibnah

            Re: The amount of times...

            Although I was brought up on Fahrenheit, I’m happier with Celsius:

            -10 = bloody freezing

            0 = freezing

            10 = cool

            20 = warm

            30 = hot

            40 = bloody hot

            50 = aargh

            1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: The amount of times...

              I class -32C as Bloody Freezing.

        4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: The amount of times...

          More importantly, for Fahrenheit the reference temperatures aren't 0 and 212; they're 32 and 96. 96 minus 32 is 64. And 32 and 64 are ... stay with me here ... powers of 2.

          Fahrenheit based his scale on powers of 2 so that thermometers could be graduated by successive bisection (and then reflected to extrapolate outside that range, on the assumption that the mechanism was sufficiently linear within the desired range). That's an actual engineering reason, unlike "duh humans like powers of 10". There really isn't much reason to favor Celsius.

          Kelvin, of course, is the one that matters. (Yes, Rankine works too, but for some SI operations Kelvin is more convenient.)

          Celsius is today as much flavor-of-the-month as Fahrenheit is. The original justifications for them are no longer relevant; they're just a matter of taste.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The amount of times...

            Surely if Kelvin is "the only one that matters", then Celsius would be preferable to Fahrenheit because the units are the same?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The amount of times...

              In a former career in gas instrumentation, Rankine was quite common in long-used software. For commonality of trade; Kelvin and Celsius of course, rule.

              Slight complications still arise in assigning energy values to combustion processes, for the temperature of fuel and oxidiser has bearing on the useful output. Burn the same unit of natural gas in northern Norway, gain less energy than if you burn it in Dubai. The reason being the energy to break bonds is partially contributed by ambient temperature.

              I wrote various papers on the subject for various government bodies. Measuring stuff well is hard; and when there’s money involved the scum of the universe will always try on their scam.

        5. NITS

          Re: The amount of times...

          My rules of thumb for measures of convenience:

          4 inches is about 100 mm.

          1 ft is about 30 cm.

          10 ft is about 3 meters.

          10 meters is about 16 ft.

          50 miles is about 80 km.

          20 C is 68 F. Adjust from there: 5 degrees difference (C) is 9 degrees F.

          300 megahertz has a wavelength of 1 meter.

          1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

            Re: The amount of times...

            >10 meters is about 16 ft.

            Huh? Please explain. Did you plan to type 5 meters = 16 ft?

      3. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: The amount of times...

        "I don't know if it astonishes or saddens me most that TV companies who clearly intend to market their product globally see no reason to give temperatures in C (even if only alongside). I mean for those two shows in particular the audience benefits from knowing what the outside temperature is."

        Don't forget that a certain red top rag that no one should buy, will gleefully tell you it'll be -15c in the winter, but 110f in the summer.

      4. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: The amount of times...

        F to C conversion is pretty straightforward (- 32 *(5/9)) with only the division by 9 being a bit awkward, the reverse conversion is even easier (*(9/5) + 32).

        Some pointers:

        -40F = -40C

        32F = 0C

        212F = 100C

        1. WowandFlutter

          Re: The amount of times...

          The best one is

          28˚C = 82˚F

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: The amount of times...

          c to f is perhaps easier to do in your head as "double it, take off 10% ( 1 tenth) and add 32"

          e.g. 20 doubled is 40 minus 4 makes 36. add 32 gets to 68

          It works backwards with a touch of inaccuracy because it's is a bit of a pig to do exactly. Because you have to add back 11 tenths. Good enough for every day use though.And not too hard to adjust the error margin a tad.

    3. drfunk

      Re: The amount of times...

      Idk. I think most people just simply convert. I usually split my screen & have the article on the top half & my converter on the bottom.

  3. chivo243 Silver badge

    Learn both?

    Surely, as learned scholars reading Reg.com, we have the capacity to learn two standards? It's easy, I learned the metric system when I was in 12 going to school in the US! Yes, there was a big push to go metric! I still have the binder we made in school in 1976! The contents are long gone. In the end, all that became metric was soft drinks in large quantities. 3 liters of Pepsi anyone??

    As someone who lived in Western Europe for nearly 25 years, knowing both has been a life saver. I worked for an American flavored company with many local hires. As we often received some products and equipment from the US, my knowledge of both standards was extremely useful, and saved the day a couple of times.

    Now let's go watch the Maltese Falcon, and the comedy remake The Black Bird....

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Learn both?

      When I first got to the UK, school kids were still being taught both metric and imperial (just before sixpence became 2.5p, a whole 'nuther kettle o'worms). I still think in either, or both, depending on the situation. It's not exactly difficult. Strangely, at least for an American, I think of my own weight in stone ...

      Nobody should ever have a need for even 1 liter of carbonated sugar water. Disgusting stuff.

      1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

        Re: Learn both?

        My schooldays started just after decimalisation. We were taught exclusively in metric but day-to-day used almost exclusively imperial measures. Why? Dunno, really. In my case I just liked imperial better, I could visualise it more easily.

        1. Triggerfish

          Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

          Born in '72. It's weird, depending on what I am thinking off I can only visualise certain things one way easily. Like people's height, my wife is 149.8 cm but I don't know how short that is until I go oh four foot eleven. Meanwhile if wanting to measure a doorway I need metres to get the idea.

          I often see the arguement Celsius doesn't make sense as a temp measurement from Americans because they know that 32F is cold whereas 0 degrees makes no sense they don't know if they need a coat.

          The mind is an odd thing.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

            Centigrade isn't granular enough for ambient temperatures without using decimals. Zero to 100 F are temperatures you're likely to encounter in daily life. Zero C is common, 100 C and you're dead.

            I keep my house at 63 (17.22) in the winter, if the temp drops to 62 (16.66) inside I notice and I'm cold. I put up with 67 (19.44) inside in the summer, if it gets up to 68 (20) I'm too hot and can't sleep well. C is just not granular enough.

            Is Fahrenheit perfect? No. Is it better than centigrade for daily use? Oh fuck yes.

            I'm all in favor of the rest of the metric system. But leave our American temperatures alone.

            1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

              > I keep my house at 63 (17.22) in the winter, if the temp drops to 62 (16.66) inside I notice and I'm cold.

              Are you Inuit so you can take such low temperatures? Do you live in an old castle from the 12th century which is impossible to heat? I'd pack myself with three+ layers if it would be this cold here...

              1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

                Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

                Those are pretty much the same temperatures I live with (though I'm able to do it in Celsius without losing granularity - decimal points ain't confusing! -- despite the fact that a nice round 16C is an annoying 60.8F!), and that's wearing shorts n' t'shirt.

                I also have 3 air-con units (it can get hot in sunny South Wales!)

            2. cream wobbly

              Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

              > Centigrade isn't granular enough for ambient temperatures without using decimals.

              Now buy a thermometer and measure said ambient temperature, and you'll discover it's a range of several degrees in either system.

              For outdoor temperatures, take your pick of a few different forecasters and you'll commonly get a range of ten Fahrenshite degrees in their predictions.

              If anything, they're both too granular for customary usage.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Don't forget

              The American insistence on using AM and PM. The 24hr clock like the metric system is used by their military but talk 14:25 in civvy street and you get blank looks.

              It will only get worse if the Republicans get control of The House, The Senate and The White House in 2024. They are isolationists.

              1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                Re: Don't forget

                Unfortunately the US also have far to many hardcore historical revisionists who want to "return to the grand old times", entirely neglecting that the "grand old times" included even more misery, persecution and, effectively, slavery. However those that want this are the only ones who benefit - as in the top 0.0001%. While the UK doesn't have quite so many literalistic theistic (I suspect most just use their "religion" as an excuse for their behaviour rather than have any actual belief) woman and non-hetero haters as the US elected, the UK is unfortunately following along nicely and this includes isolationism - Brexit, for example.

                12:00 AM and 12:00 PM categorically cannot exist.

                12:00 is the middle and as AM is "before midday", midday cannot ever be described as before itself. Likewise, PM is "after midday" and therefore midday cannot ever be described as after itself. It's like deciding that 4 is a larger number than 4, except when it's a smaller number than 4 of course.

                Midnight is the same amount of time both before and after midday therefore it is simultaneously both before and after it at the same time.

                Those who are too clueless to understand the problem claim that there are "accepted standards" where 12:00 am is always midnight.. except when it's not, and vice-versa. With localised context, it's usually possible to make an educated guess as to whether or not some muppet writing 12:00pm is referring to midday or midnight, but not always. To work around this, established standards were created and these are called "the 24 hour clock".

                As for claims of 12:00pm being midday or midnight, consider this sequence... 10am, 11am, 12am... or 10pm, 11pm, 12pm. Now as soon as one goes past this time then the am/pm switched, for example: 11:00am, 11:55am, 12:00am, 12:05pm. There: perfect sense and absolute nonsense in the same sequence.

                1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                  Re: Don't forget

                  It's why formal changes tend to take place at 12:01 AM

                2. gnasher729 Silver badge

                  Re: Don't forget

                  The correct name for one minute after 11:59 am is noon. The correct name for one minute after 11:59pm is midnight. With midnight you have the additional problem what she date means.

                3. ravenviz Silver badge
                  Facepalm

                  Re: Don't forget

                  12:00 AM and 12:00 PM categorically cannot exist

                  They can and do exist, by definition.

                  1. Lars Silver badge
                    Happy

                    Re: Don't forget

                    "They can and do exist, by definition."

                    And that makes it stupid and so damned an necessary.

                4. Lil Endian Silver badge
                  Boffin

                  Re: Don't forget

                  12:00 AM and 12:00 PM categorically cannot exist.

                  Bull-fucking-shit!

                  Those who are too clueless to understand that clock times such as minutes are a period of time rather than an instant (hint: could be someone you know).

                  12.00AM = 00:00:00 to 00:00:00.999999'... therefore is AM (Ante Meridiem)

                  12.00PM = 12:00:00 to 12:00:00.999999'... therefore is PM (Post Meridiem)

                  This is, of course, assuming 1 second granularity with a day starting at 00:00:00 and ending at 23:59:59.99999' - with the middle being the start of the period 12:00:00-12:00:01. If you want to argue the instant of AM to PM to AM please declare the granularity of your clock! (BTW, it really gets up my nose when I see a clock with "24" at the top!)

                  However, I fully agree: If you want to talk with less ambiguity then don't use AM/PM.

                  As a departing lightener: I was once talking to a copper. He wanted me to remember his badge number and to appear clever. "2430" he said "Half past midnight, easy to remember!" Boy, was he pissed off with me! Nob! I guess he was partly right though, I do remember his number. And that he was a nob!

                  1. Lil Endian Silver badge
                    Headmaster

                    Re: Don't forget

                    Correcting for sig fig consistency:

                    12.00AM = 00:00 to 00:00.999999'... therefore is AM (Ante Meridiem)

                    12.00PM = 12:00 to 12:00.999999'... therefore is PM (Post Meridiem)

                    1. jake Silver badge

                      Re: Don't forget

                      Midnight and noon aren't actual times, they are just markers between the old Roman notion of ante meridiem (before midday) and post meridiem (after midday). They both have zero duration, and as such are logical constructs, not actual times.

                      Thus "midnight" marks the time when the prior day stops the new day starts. As it is time of zero length, it doesn't actually belong in either day.

                      Put another way, there is no "midnight on Monday", but there is a "midnight between Sunday and Monday" and a "midnight between Monday and Tuesday".

                      It follows that the time 24:00:00 doesn't actually exist, and is an illogical construct.

                      1. Lil Endian Silver badge
                        Thumb Up

                        Re: Don't forget

                        G'day jake. I'm not sure if you intended to respond to my post, or gnasher729's post above. Either way, I agree with your point.

                        It follows that the time 24:00:00 doesn't actually exist, and is an illogical construct.

                        Yep. The standard for Earth Days is a measure of a 24 hour period, it's base 24. It "ticks over" (oh dear!) before 24 is reached, 24 doesn't exist "in that column". In the same way base 10 doesn't include 10, in the units column.

                        Not that I'm enthusiastic about it, but if we extend to use the phrase "the hour of midnight (between Sunday and Monday)" then it would be a period during Monday. So midnight precedes midday for any given day.

                        In short, times specified are usually actually a period of time, defined by the start if that period and for the duration of that period. The period is implied and has been overlooked as insignificant in day to day life. In sciencey life we can better nail down definitions.

                        1. Norman Nescio Silver badge

                          Re: Don't forget

                          It'll depend on which day you are measuring as to whether 24:00:00 exists.

                          The mean (in other words, average) solar day is pretty much 24 hours. That's the time it takes for the Earth to rotate so that the Sun crosses the same 'longitude' in the sky (meridian), or the shadow cast by a gnomon on a sundial to cross the same fixed mark. It's an average because the Earth's orbit is not circular, so a result of the Earth's motion on the non-circular orbit is a variation in the length of the day as measured by those means. That variation can mean that the day can be 30 seconds longer, or 20 seconds shorter than the average. So a time of 24:00:30 is entirely possible if you are measuring apparent solar time. (Wikipedia: Mean Solar Time)

                          If you use a different star as your reference - one that the Earth is not orbiting around, you get different length of the day. If the star is far enough away, it appears fixed to a celestial reference frame, and the time it takes for the earth to rotate so that the star crosses the same meridian is 23 hours 56 minutes 4 seconds and some change - the length of the sidereal day. (Wikipedia: Sidereal time)

                          It turns out that the Earth does not rotate uniformly: the trend is that it is gradually slowing down, but it does occasionally speed up. This means that defining time as dependent on the Earth's rotation is less accurate than using atomic clocks, which beat more consistently. Given that clocks tick SI seconds, which vary less than mean solar seconds, we need to adjust things to keep them synchronised, which is done by adding 'leap' seconds to compensate for the Earth slowing down. If the Earth speeds up enough, we might need to subtract a second. Leap seconds are added at 23:59:59 UTC, so the time will beat 23:59:59 - 23:59:60 - 00:00:00.

                          1. jake Silver badge

                            Re: Don't forget

                            There is a difference between "time", the dimension, and "what time is it?", clock/calendar time.

                            I run on three major clocks, and one minor one.

                            The first is TheWife's monthly cycle. If you are married to a woman, you'll grok.

                            The second is the seasonal clock handily provided by the Solar Year & the Earth's axial tilt with respect to its orbit. It is totally out of my control, but I plant my fields & breed my critters by it, as humans have since time immemorial. Trying to change this is a fool's errand.

                            The third is the clock provided by the Master clock on my network, which syncs up to an atomic clock once per day (ntp.org works for most purposes ... I use something else), which all of my machines adhere to. This is for computer record keeping more than anything else.

                            Context is key. There is no "SingleTimeStandard[tm]", and never will be. With the exception of The Wife's, of course.

                            The minor fourth clock is my dive watch. I wear it when appropriate. It's kinda important ... but it could be completely out of sync with the three major clocks in my life and it wouldn't matter at all.

                            As a side-note, I don't wear a wristwatch day-to-day ... and haven't in nearly half a century (since my HP-01, back in 1977). In my mind, they are completely pointless. Everywhere you look these days you can see something giving you a pretty good approximation of "local time". Humans living life to the second or minute (or even ten minutes!) is counter productive. Even when baking bread ten minutes either way won't kill you, or the loaf ... Relax, be patient, learn to make cheese, cure meat and brew beer.

                            1. ArrZarr Silver badge

                              Re: Don't forget

                              It's been 21 days since Jake posted this and he'll probably never see it (unless there's some way that you can be notified of responses on El Reg, and if there is, I'd love to know how), but I do love the assumption that the person reading his comment might not be straight, but they're definitely a bloke.

                              So hello, you intrepid post explorer. Please share in my amusement.

                              1. jake Silver badge

                                Re: Don't forget

                                "I do love the assumption that the person reading his comment might not be straight, but they're definitely a bloke."

                                I'm pretty sure I didn't make that assumption at all. Women married[0] to women notice the same things[1].

                                "(unless there's some way that you can be notified of responses on El Reg, and if there is, I'd love to know how)"

                                Nearest that I am aware of would be to visit https://forums.theregister.com/my/forums/ ... any changes to commentardary in forums you've commented in will automagically mark that link unread, and move it to the top of the list. It'll be up to you to figure out if anyone is talking to you, though. Use the "sort comments" option "newest" to bring new comments to the top. Etc. Fiddle about with it and use what works for you.

                                Edit: That's not my downvote ... have an upvote to negate it.

                                [0] Or in a long-term, committed relationship, if you prefer not to use the "m" word.

                                [1] What "things" means will vary between individuals, obviously.

                                1. ArrZarr Silver badge

                                  Re: Don't forget

                                  I do believe you made the assumption that the reader was a bloke since Women married to Women probably don't need the hints ;)

                      2. Anonymous Coward
                        Anonymous Coward

                        Re: Don't forget

                        It follows that the time 24:00:00 doesn't actually exist, and is an illogical construct.

                        Although strangely enough 23:59:60 can exist, and computers have to allow for it, when a leap second is added.

                      3. Stoneshop
                        Thumb Up

                        Re: Don't forget

                        It follows that the time 24:00:00 doesn't actually exist, and is an illogical construct.

                        Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.

              2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

                Re: Don't forget

                If you use 24h time style in the US, you have to word it the way the US military does.

                Your 14:25 example gets fourteen-twentyfive-hours, and then they will get it. Every US knows this style of time telling, at least when they watch movies.

                Important detail for Britain: fourteen-twentyfive-hours-zulu means Greenwich time. That letter addendum is used when an operation crosses several time zones or when it matters to tell the time zone. Current local time here is twentythree-thirtyone-alfa-hours (why alfa and not alpha? Well... ). Confession: I don't know whether the letter comes before or after "hours", someone from the US should be able to tell. Google-fu is unclear.

              3. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

                Re: Don't forget

                You leftists and your anonymous comments. Republicans are what makes up most of our military, and none of us have a problem with the 24 hour clock. I spend 40 hours a week working off UTC because it's the easiest way to work across time zones. If you want to point politics, I've yet to come an American leftist* that even has any idea other time zones exist, much less be able to think in terms of other time zones.

                *Not true, of course, but everyone can demonize the other party and for no good reason.

                1. Jonathon Green
                  Trollface

                  Re: Don't forget

                  I’ve generally found that when demons are invoked (along with witchcraft, devil worship, etc, etc) it’s generally by the right, more specifically the religious right. The left generally have difficulty *actually* demonising anybody because we tend to have no truck with such superstitious nonsense… :-)

              4. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Don't forget

                12h clock is used often in speech here in North dispite using officially 24h system.

                Like "'it's 2 o'clock' when someone asks what time it is (instead of 14), because the context is 'now' and am/pm isn't really relevant. When you write time down, it's always 24h time, as you've no idea when it will be read.

                Also avoids totally 12AM/PM confusion by using 00 or 24 for midnight: "12" is always noon.

              5. Mage Silver badge

                Re: Don't forget

                American date format is worst

                1. macninja

                  Re: Don't forget

                  After over two-decades living outside the US I have to say, that I still am not used to how the dates are written in the rest of the world. When sorting columns I generally want things broken down by month and having the day first means that I have to do extra steps to get things in the order I need. I'd be interested to hear why the day should be in the first position and not the month and why the US does it one way and everyone else does it differently. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd think it has something to do with ledger books and sorting.

                  The ISO standard is Year-month-day which I think makes sense so if we're voting, I'd go for that.

                  1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                    Re: Don't forget

                    Day-Month-Year has the advantage of increasing units in sequence. If I have to sort them, I prefer the ISO standard as well, same for storing it in a database, especially in a keyed column (see sorting).

                  2. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

                    Re: Don't forget

                    Aesthetically I'm not a fan of ISO but won't deny it's usefulness so it's my preference for filenames and anything else that would benefit from being sorted. Visually I still like the VMS-style d-Mmm-yyyy format but obvs. it's more awkward for stuff like sorting and internationalised applications.

                    The worst has to be nn/nn/nn which is so ambiguous it could be any of several things. Even when storage was expensive and green-screens were the norm, 2-digit years were a terrible idea.

            4. Triggerfish

              Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind @AC

              I think your proving my point really it's just the scale you're used to that let's you perceive what is hot or cold.

              I would have had no clue what 63 was if you hadn't put it in C, also by my experience I doubt many people notice the granularity of a half degree C difference that much when it come to too hot or too cold for temp settings.

              1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

                Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind @AC

                Nope, half a C can definitely be felt. No, I don't mean wave a hand and know the temp, but 73F can be too cold, 74F comfy and 75F too hot.

            5. grantmasterflash

              Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

              Now you're just making scenarios up. So you keep your house right around 17 and in the summer you can go up to 19. So keep it at 17 in the winter and 18 in the summer. This really isn't that difficult if you just purge the rediculous system from your mind. What you're doing wrong is finding the temperature you've become accustomed to and then converting that into a fractional celcius unit. What you need to do is stop thinking in F and use C. 7 billion people are able to set their climate control using SI units without worry, I'm sure you can too

          2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

            With doors I'm the other way around, 'cos a door is two-six by six-six, which I then back-convert to two metres-ish by, erm, less than a metre.

          3. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

            Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

            I'm quite similar and often mix and match units; I've been just fine with 25.4mm to the inch since forever.

            The main exception (I mean apart from now rather quaint-looking measures like furlongs etc) is °C: Fahrenheit has always seemed a bit alien to me. I presume people around me used it but I never became familiar with it. About the biggest controversy for me was trying to get used to Celsius rather than centigrade.

            Also to the downvoters, not sure what I said that was controversial: I started school in Feb '73 and we were taught metric. *shrug*

            1. Lars Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

              "About the biggest controversy for me was trying to get used to Celsius rather than centigrade."

              Wonder why as it's the same.

              "The degree Celsius is the unit of temperature on the Celsius scale[1] (originally known as the centigrade scale outside Sweden),[2] one of two temperature scales used in the International System of Units (SI), the other being the Kelvin scale. The degree Celsius (symbol: °C) can refer to a specific temperature on the Celsius scale or a unit to indicate a difference or range between two temperatures. It is named after the Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius (1701–1744), who developed a similar temperature scale in 1742. Before being renamed in 1948 to honour Anders Celsius, the unit was called centigrade, from the Latin centum, which means 100, and gradus, which means steps. Most major countries use this scale; the other major scale, Fahrenheit, is still used in the United States, some island territories, and Liberia.".

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celsius

              1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

                Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

                The name, I meant. I was taught it as centigrade and then suddenly the name changed to Celsius because reasons.

              2. Lil Endian Silver badge
                Headmaster

                Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

                Wonder why as it's [Celsius/centigrade] the same. True for the layman, not by strict definition (the triple point thing). To make it even easier, they pulled the old name switcheroo!

                ...one of two temperature scales used in the International System of Units... True, but K is a base unit, °C is derived. I reckon they included °C just because it happened to fit in easily! (JK!)

                1. Binraider Silver badge

                  Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

                  It's just a question of utility. Small quantities are easy to work with.

                  6'6" is something you can visualise. 1.98m is awkward. Is that above average or what? Unless you use those units and record height on a regular basis in this fashion. The reference of 5'9" as the (western) human average is very well understood. Plus or minus a couple of inches people automatically know what that means, even if not educated in imperial units.

                  K and C have the same issue. Weather forecast of 263? or 303? A working range of -10 to +30 around a zero is just easier for most purposes to read and understand.

                  But for any serious work whatsoever, finance, engineering, science, the SI system is king. Eliminate any possible ambiguity (is it a ton, tonne, long ton, US Gallon, Imperial Gallon, etc.). SI happens to be, I dare say, elegant in a make-your-maths tidy way too.

                  The Inch is of course formally defined in metric units in todays era, so whether you like it or not you're using SI.

            2. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

              >>"About the biggest controversy for me was trying to get used to Celsius rather than centigrade."

              Celcius is the name of the temperatire scale (well the name of the bloke wot dun it innit?) which happens to be a centigrade (a scale with 100 gradations) - the point being that you can have a centigrade for any arbitary interval (of anything) but only one (?) corresponds to the Celcius scale which goes between freezing point and boiling point of water under standard conditions.

          4. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

            Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

            On temps, there is more granularization with F than C. C users have 0 to 49 for freezing to damn it's hot, whereas F has 32 to 120. And, there is a noticeable difference between 72 and 73 degrees on a thermostat. No idea if C thermostats have decimals, like 30.1 as an option, but if it doesn't then C would not be granular enough.

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

              Digital C thermostats usually (always in my experience) have a .5 C granularity, which is roughly equal to 1 F.

              1. doublelayer Silver badge

                Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

                Amusingly, half a degree in Celsius is equal to 0.9 degrees in Fahrenheit, so it's the Celsius thermostats that have more granularity.

              2. Lars Silver badge
                Coat

                Re: Learn both? It's all in the mind

                @A.P. Veening

                As they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words". So have a look at this and you must see how wrong you are.

                https://www.almanac.com/temperature-conversion-celsius-fahrenheit

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Learn both?

      I think in the UK there's a cohort born around 1960 that went through school learning both and are probably still OK with both. In junior school (age 8-12) I did lots of arithmetic with oz, lb, stones, CWT, tons, inches, feet, yards, chains, furlongs, miles, pints, gallons and can still remember the conversions. Ditto pounds, shillings, pence (or LSD as we knew them) and guineas, but we went decimal while I was at junior school, so spent a lot of time on decimal arithmetic. In In later years everything was metric. I'm perfectly happy working in both but I default to feet, yards, miles, pints, gallons if I'm not talking technical. I'm ok cooking with imperial or metric but not cups.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Learn both?

        Similar age and similar experience. Except I have ( now grown up )kids. The AC doesn't mention if they have any. But with kids going through the school system metric was the one we had to use. ( Though clinical thermometer was an exception 98.4 all the way).

        Mostly I use a mixture too, now. I weigh myself in stones and lbs. Recipes in metric, fuel in gallons, distance in Km, speed in mpg, wood in centimetres, height (my) in feet and inches, And so on.

        And sometimes there's a combination as in how many gallons will take us so many Km.

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Learn both?

          Nobody's mentioned rods, poles or perches yet.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: Learn both?

            I got all of those (born early 60) as well as physics in CGS as well as FPS and MKS. Fortunately MKS won by the time I was doing A-levels.

            I recall only too well those who never considered that they were working base 10, 12, and 20 for money (not even looking at farthings!) and base 12, 14, and 8 for weights - but thought that decimalisation was 'too hard'.

            1. JohnTill123

              Re: Learn both?

              Your point about the metric system in CGS is well taken! Most people don't realize that there are more than one "metric system".

              The CGS and MKS system may seem to be similar, but trying to convert between the two systems in the equations in "Classical Electrodynamics" by Jackson will bend your mind. (Note: The third edition of this book partially changed to SI units, but the first two editions were Gaussian/CGS.)

              Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaussian_units

          2. Dante Alighieri
            Joke

            eh?

            what the 'ell are you on about

            1. Lil Endian Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: eh?

              Are you yanking my chain?!

          3. Ken Shabby
            Holmes

            Re: Learn both?

            Or barleycorns, links, chains, furlongs

            1. Lil Endian Silver badge

              Re: Learn both?

              I'm glad the "Geegook" never became popular, bloody daft that were!

            2. Glenturret Single Malt

              Re: Learn both?

              Chains and furlongs are decimally related (10 chains = 1 furlong = 220 yards). A cricket pitch is exactly one chain in length between the stumps.

        2. Glenturret Single Malt

          Re: Learn both?

          Morning brain workout: I weigh myself (in kilograms) immediately before having a shower in the morning and spend the time in the shower mentally converting the reading to stones and pounds. Not every day, though. I prefer to sing and do other vocal exercises.

          Easy to begin with: Pounds = Kilograms x 2 then add 10%. However, since 1kg = 2.204 lbs, I have to add an extra 0.3 lb for the 0.004. Then divide the answer by 14.

          1. Lil Endian Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Learn both?

            I can make your calculations a bit easier if you promise not to sing at me!

            You've truncated at 3dp rather than rounded:

            1Kg = ~2.2046 lbs so, 2.205 lbs rounded. I'm sorry that you've gained so much imperial mass! However.... good news! If I'm reading you correctly[1] "an extra 0.3 lb for the 0.004" is weigh over the top! So you lose quite a bit here.

            So, (Kg x 2 + 10%) + ((Kg / 100) / 2) [ie. half 1% of Kg] Then all over 14.

            Upvote, because it's good to work the grey matter. (And a hidden upvote for not singing at me!)

            [1] Query: you're adding 4.8 (5) ounces per kilo? I'm a bit confused.

            1. Lars Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Learn both?

              @Lil Endian

              Married I will have to presume, (at least at some time).

              1. Lil Endian Silver badge

                Re: Learn both?

                "Does this calculation make my bum look big?"

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: Learn both?

                  No, your big bum makes your bum look big.

                  1. Lil Endian Silver badge

                    Re: Learn both?

                    And that ladies and gentlemen is how you get two thumbs up...

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Learn both?

      Metric is certainly more convenient for calculations, but in many situations it's more a question of familiarity than of which is "best".

      Tell someone in the US or UK that a location is 20 miles away and they don't visualise that as a linear distance, rather they will think "too far to walk", or "half an hour's drive". 32km is meaningless to them in that context. The reverse would be true for people who grew up with metric units. I grew up in that period when we learned both, and have lived in places with miles and places with km, it is useful to know both.

      Much the same is true of ºC/ºF, in daily life the number doesn't matter, what's important is "shirtsleeves or coat?".

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: Learn both?

        according to a road sign on an interstate highway, Chicago was 100km or 62 miles away. Not sure of the precise accuracy of the sign, but it put it in perspective.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Learn both?

          At least they put both with the unit. While Ireland was changing from miles to km it wasn't unusual to find a sign with just a number, you had to guess if it looked new enough to be km.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Learn both?

            They took all the km signs back down here - except for our one metric interstate highway, I-19 - which is actually entirely within Arizona.

          2. Frumious Bandersnatch

            Re: Learn both?

            "you had to guess if it looked new enough to be km."

            You mean you didn't notice that the new signs were a different colour?

          3. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Learn both?

            First time I went there, I could not get to the speed limit due to traffic, but I managed to get to 80mph.

            Then our customers told me.

            Oooops.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Learn both?

          Damnit. All those times driving at 100Km/h, I thought I was going 70m/h. No wonder it seemed so slow...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Learn both?

            I bought a motorcycle when I was visiting Vancouver, and promptly headed off through the mountain back roads of Washington state. I was quite impressed by the speed people like to take corners, judging by the corner speed signs.

            Shortly after reaching the Columbia river highway, I got stopped by a cop for speeding, and realised that my speedo may have been labelled in km/h, but it certainly was calibrated in mph.

          2. Lil Endian Silver badge

            Re: Learn both?

            My way-back-when French girlfriend driving our British car in France, doing 100mph! Had me gripping the dashboard à la "Planes, Trains and Automobiles"!

        3. ravenviz Silver badge

          Re: Learn both?

          That’s why I like driving in Europe because on a journey the distance numbers go down quicker than in the UK for travelling at the same speed!

      2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: Learn both?

        > 32km

        They would say "30 km", since +-10% doesn't matter. Of is the "20 miles away" really exactly 20 miles away or actually 22 miles or 19 miles?

      3. cream wobbly

        Re: Learn both?

        > Tell someone in the US or UK that a location is 20 miles away and they don't visualise that as a linear distance, rather they will think "too far to walk", or "half an hour's drive". 32km is meaningless to them in that context.

        It's your comment that's meaningless.

        The UK being right next door to the mainland means that people are in fact familiar with km. For a distance of 32 km it would be casually mentioned as "a bit more than 30". Really easy to visualize.

        Likewise in the US, children are taught the metric system, and have been for decades. Plus there's plenty of us immigrants and neighbors who bring with them an understanding of metric. In fact, there's an interstate highway which starts not far from here that is marked out in km.

        The US and the UK could switch overnight without any hassle. There'd be your moaners and such, but when they stop being funny the telly has an off button.

      4. Heggisist

        Re: Learn both?

        There is also a advantage to fractions beyond how people naturally think (like no one things that glass is 0.5 full, it's half full). Anyway a fraction is more precise then a fraction that's not using the lowest common denominator. As a example, write exactly 1/3 in a base 10 system. You can't.

        1. Lil Endian Silver badge

          Re: Learn both?

          0.dot3

          Sorry, my keyboard won't put the dot over the 3, so I've used convention. I'd type it as 0.3' or 0.3° for myself to read, or with a note in the intro (or somewhere) if the doc was for someone else to read.

        2. Lars Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Learn both?

          "As a example, write exactly 1/3 in a base 10 system. You can't.".

          True and it makes me sleepless and I start to see 0.33 and then 0.3333 and 0.333333333 it gets worse and worse.

          But I am metrificationed and I can only learn and dream of a better and older system, but to be honest I am not .5 full but half full.

          1. Lil Endian Silver badge

            Re: Learn both?

            I agree with you 100% (?100/1pc?) that 1/3 is way better that 0.dot3, it's clearer. I answered a question.

          2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

            Irrational Numbers

            The binary system used inside most computers has different-than-under-base-ten fractions which it cannot represent exactly.

      5. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

        Re: Learn both?

        "Much the same is true of ºC/ºF, in daily life the number doesn't matter, what's important is "shirtsleeves or coat?".

        Or on Tyneside, "big coat or not?" which reminds me of my maths teacher where that was the only noticeable difference between a warm summer's day and winter's freezing North Sea gales; the latter of which would see her doing schoolyard duty in The Big Coat but still with bare legs and strappy sandals poking out the bottom. Five foot nothing but the yobs were terrified of her because what she lacked in stature she made up for in withering sarcasm. Also "her Jarrow accent is so strong I can't understand a word she's saying" according to my dad, from South Shields.

        1. Lil Endian Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Learn both?

          Propa sed favva! Nah wearz Biffa? Gannin doon lan!

    4. lglethal Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Learn both?

      Hey as a dedicated El Reg Commentard, I already have learnt two official Standards - Metric and the El Reg Soviet Standards! I have no problem switching between metres and london buses or linguine, or m³ and bulgarian airbags.

      But that imperial guff, show it the door. It's utterly useless!

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: Learn both?

        Or, as most Germans, convert to the size of Fußballfelder, Schwimmbäder, Tennisplätze, Acker, Anker, atü, ... Wait, you have to distinguish between FIFA, Bundesliga, Kreisliga and various other variants of Fußballfelder.

        Though I am among those who never gets the Fußballfelder measurement, I have no feeling for this "standard German size".

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Learn both?

          "Football fields" is also very misleading.

          Football rules specify length of 90 to 130 m and width of 45 to 90 metres*. So the area could be anywhere between 4050 and 11700 sqm, a difference factor of almost 3x

          * Although official FIFA, UEFA and national competition matches have much tighter limits, there is still not one standard size.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Learn both?

        We Americans tend to measure large areas as Rhode Islands. For example, England is about 42 Rhode Islands, whereas Texas is 221 Rhode Islands.

        1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Re: Learn both?

          Even Wolframalpha fails there! How many km² is one Rhode Island, officially?

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Learn both?

            How many km² is one Rhode Island, officially?

            It's about 0.1 Belgium, or 150 milliWales. Or 36 million square double decker buses, if that helps.

            1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: Learn both?

              Isn't the latter a measurement for volume instead of area?

              1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

                Re: Learn both?

                Wouldn't square double-decker buses be a 5th dimention unit? ^2 x ^3.

                1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

                  Re: Learn both?

                  Yes, a squared cube, obvious. That's how I naturally think.

    5. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Learn both?

      I worked for an American flavored company with many local hires. As we often received some products and equipment from the US, my knowledge of both standards was extremely useful, and saved the day a couple of times.

      Rather risky of UKians and USAians to assume they know the measurements used on the other side if the pond.

      Comparison of the imperial and US customary measurement systems

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Learn both?

        @Dan 55

        Interesting, perhaps we should blame the Germans and the Italians for that ridiculous system.

        Might make a Brit feel less embarrassed about it too.

        Not surprised the French decided to make something better of it.

        "Both the British Imperial and United States customary systems of measurement derive from earlier English systems used in the Middle Ages, that were the result of a combination of the local Anglo-Saxon units inherited from Germanic tribes and Roman units brought by William the Conqueror after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066."

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_the_imperial_and_US_customary_measurement_systems

    6. Lars Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Learn both?

      Some find it hard to learn more than one language too, and we are now in that sphere here on ElReg.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Johannesburg and the hazards of metric vs imperial.....

      Rumour has it (from my nonagenarian retired architect of a mother-in-law) that the streets running south through Commissioner St in Johannesburg are not aligned due to one developer using the metric system and another using imperial measures. Not sure if that is true but what is true is on some streets crossing Commissioner street, such an Von Wielligh St, requires diagonal travel.

  4. Captain Hogwash
    Pint

    That explains...

    why, when once at an American bar, my request for a pint was greeted with "a large pint or a small pint?"

    1. ravenviz Silver badge

      Re: That explains...

      So, naturally, your answer was, “A proper pint”!

    2. Lil Endian Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: That explains...

      Go careful in Belgium mate! There a pint means a draught beer, like Stella or Jupiler (rather than a proper Westmalle Tripel or something). You'll get 250ml-330ml, if they don't treat you like you're a guzzling Brit! A pint or "pincha" (dunno how they spell that) = a small non-strong (5%) beer.

      1. JQJ

        Re: That explains...

        In Dutch the colloquial term for a glass of lager ("pils", Pilzener), also known as a "pint" (in Dutch) is a "pintje", literally: a small glass of lager, and indeed pronounced as 'pin-cha. As already stated, this glass can be either 25 or 33 cl. In the Netherlands the usual glass of lager is a "fluitje" (in Dutch), but that holds only 20 or 22 cl of lager.

        In the south of Germany, they laugh at these quantities: you'll usually get a 50 cl glass of beer when ordering one. During the Oktoberfest in Munich you'll probably get a 1 l glass or stone jug.

        1. Lil Endian Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: That explains...

          Nice one JQJ - I wasn't sure, but just called the Antwerp boys to check my spelling... You got here thirst!

          For Germany, Königsbacher was my favourite. But TBH it can't hold against the Belgium stuff. Tongerlo Prior is easily the best beer for me!

          Cheers buddy -->

  5. Alan J. Wylie

    US Survey Foot

    At least, as of three weeks ago, the US has deprecated the Survey Foot. Before 1959, the US defined the foot as 0.304 metres, rather than the exact value of 0.3048.

    The 1959 redefinition of the foot was legally binding and intended for the entire United States. But a single exception temporarily allowed continued use of the previous definition of the foot, exclusively for geodetic surveying. To distinguish between these two versions of the foot, the new one was named the “international foot” and the old one the “U.S. survey foot.” It was furthermore mandated that the U.S. survey foot be replaced by the international foot upon readjustment of the geodetic control networks of the United States. Although such a readjustment was completed in 1986, use of the U.S. survey foot persisted. This situation has led to confusion and errors that continue to this day, and it is at odds with the intent of uniform standards.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: US Survey Foot

      "Although such a readjustment was completed in 1986, use of the U.S. survey foot persisted."

      What did they expect? That's what all the tools in the wild were (are) calibrated for. I know I'm not planning on replacing my kit any time soon.

      Not that I ever have to file anything official ...

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: US Survey Foot

        Which is why they should have gone metric in one step.

        Changing the definition of an existing measure always causes confusion. Particularly when it's a relatively small change, as the numbers look plausible and you can't tell the difference without having both old and new sticks beside each other.

        If they'd just changed to metres, then the old kit could still be used with a conversion factor, and it's reasonably obvious if the conversion has not been done.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: US Survey Foot

      I was reading Beyond Measure recently, an excellent book that discusses all this issues in this article in much greater detail. There is a whole large section of the book on the US Survey, the survey foot and the chain. Most of the US is defined in terms of the Gunter's chain. If you change the definition of the survey foot you've either got to change every land deed in the country or you somehow need to modify the size of the planet. Persuading people to change the "size of their plot or even state" to fit with some new definition is unlikely to be popular and so changing the size of the planet might well turn out to be easier. That at least is only a technical challenge and doesn't involve persuading people to change their minds.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: US Survey Foot

        The difference is very small, you could just make the border line around states a little thicker and it would cancel out

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: US Survey Foot

      And (vaguely) related to feet, UK/US shoe sizes are still measured in barleycorns (1/3"), although they have a different baseline.

    4. Jamie Jones Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: US Survey Foot

      Not really surprising..

      People have feet of varying sizes after all...

    5. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: US Survey Foot

      "The 1959 redefinition of the foot was legally binding and intended for the entire United States."

      Thank goodness I was born after that. When they redefined the foot, did they change the inch as well? Or perhaps they changed the number of inches in a foot. I think the second way would be preferable, otherwise the machinists would have had to relabel all their screws....

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: US Survey Foot

        They made the American inch (which they call English units) and the British inch (which they call imperial units) both the same 'metric' inch - defined as exactly 25.4mm

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Costly

    I was part of a due-diligence team assessing a European company for a US private equity firm that was looking to buy it. Part of the justification for the deal was that they would transfer some of the products to their US factory. I did the engineering/manufuacturing assessment; it was was mostly a fabricated product - metal bashing, welding, assembly, etc. no multi-axis CNC, exotic materials, EDM, - the IP and novelty was in the SW and performance. The deal collapsed because the costs of converting the drawing packs to metric which the US factory proposed were astronomical - and because they were so high the PE guys saw it as a very risky proposition. Even though they'd have had access to the European design team they'd assumed that they'd have to just about re-design and qualify the whole thing and wouldn't back down. They just seemed to be terrified by the very concept of metric.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: terrified by the very concept of metric

      Yes, I understand.

      Cavemen were terrified by fire as well.

      So, not to worry. In a few millennia they will grow bigger brains and be able to comprehend the system. In the meantime, they'll be happy measuring in smelly feet.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Costly

      "They just seemed to be terrified by the very concept of metric."

      Ore perhaps it was a convenient way to back out of a deal that they discovered wasn't nearly as lucrative as they had first thought.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Costly

        If only Musk had thought of that...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Costly

      Did the change involve converting screw threads?

      Sometimes these are much more involved that just finding the nearest equivalent size.

      This was an issue during WW2 where the British were desperate to get a US manufacturer to help with the production of the Merlin engine. Initially the plan was that Packard built Merlins would use US screw standards rather than the British built one's Whitworth screws. This was until one of the Packard engineers pointed out that Whitworth threads are stronger for a given size in the materials in use so they'd have to re-engineer the whole engine to switch thread standards to ensure it didn't just fall apart. At that point Packard decided it was easier to setup the manufacture of Whitworth threaded tools, nut & bolts in the US.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Costly

        I think making planes that flew on the left was a bigger problem

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Costly

          Is that why there was so much agro between the RAF & Luftwaffe?

          When flying in opposite directions they kept getting in each other's way.

  7. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Don't forget how the Tory government only last year was cheering a 'benefit' of Brexit of being able to go back to shops selling goods in pounds and ounces since the UK left the EU, despite every one for the last 40 or so years only having been taught metric at school. And also ignoring the fact even when we were in the EU it was legal to sell in pounds and ounces that as long as they also gave the weight in Kilos / grams.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Legal, yes, but it meant that market traders and greengrocers had to replace all their scales with ones that showed metric measurements as well as imperial. They could not legally use imperial-only ones, even for a customer who requested "half a stone of potatoes". Petty bureaucracy at it's worst.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As someone more inclined to order 500g of cheese than a pound, I'd be a bit put out if the trader waved at their antique scale and said "close enough". So I'm not sure it was petty.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        They could not legally use imperial-only ones, even for a customer who requested "half a stone of potatoes". Petty bureaucracy at it's worst.

        Yes, they could. But they had to advertise metric and put that first. A customer was still entitled to order in imperial and the trader could convert. If somebody asked for "a pound" of something you're perfectly allowed to sell them 454g.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Those are two different issues. The customer can request an imperial quantity, and the trader can sell it, but to be legal the measuring equipment used has to have metric units. It may also have imperial ones, but imperial-only is illegal. The weights and measures act requires that scales be officially certified, and ones that have only imperial measures cannot now be.

      3. Roland6 Silver badge

        > Petty bureaucracy at it's worst.

        Westminster (and I think it was the Tories as well), could not be bothered when given the opportunity to make Imperial measurements an official measurement system of the UK.

        As Westminister did not officially ratify Imperial measurements, nor did they object to the parts of the legislation that would consign imperial measurements to history.

        Just another example of the UK shooting itself in the foot and blaming “the EU”…

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          It was the UK civil service that banned imperial measurements and not the EU.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            That might be the case, however, as it was all across the press at the time, we can safely assume Westminster MP's in general didn't care and neither did the minister those civil servants reported to...

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Wile more or less true, depending on the circumstances, they were given years of notice to prepare.

      5. James Anderson

        Not petty at all. How would you be able to compare prices if one trader was quoting ounces, the other grams, and a third in cups.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          That's irrelevant, it has nothing to do with quoted prices, which by law must be metric but can optionally also be imperial.

          The point is that if a customer wants imperial, and the trader is willing to serve imperial, it's still illegal for a trader to use a scale which doesn't have metric. That's what upset the "metric martyrs", Trading Standards tried to confiscate their existing scales and require them to buy new ones, even on occasions when both trader & customer were happy to use imperial.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Downvotes don't change the facts. Look it up.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              You say that hoping people won't look it up. The very old scales were no longer accurate, and needed to be replaced (as would happen every few years anyway). The fact that the new scales were also metric is a smokescreen.

              You know this, but you obviously have some kind of anti-European agenda.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Please, do look it up. I did, so I know I'm correct.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Scales rarely need to be replaced, but they occasionally need to be recertified, and get an official stamp.

                In this case trading standards saw that the scales had no metric readout, and so removed the official stamp because they no longer complied with UK law. The trader was told that the scales could not be recertified, went to court, and lost. He threatened to go to the EU courts, but died of a heart attack before he could.

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Fact check before posting - you make yourself look stupid.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Care to point out the error?

          1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

            How do we know this isn't somebody arguing with himself?

      7. DJO Silver badge

        ...market traders and greengrocers had to replace all their scales...

        Bullshit, all they needed was a new scale to stick over the existing one, a cheap product scale manufactures (mainly Avery) were happy to provide for a few quid more than they cost to make.

    2. Antony Shepherd

      Yep, It was the start of my second year at junior school (so 1968) that the classrooms were festooned in posters about metric units and we were issued new rulers and textbooks, to start learning metric there and then. (God, I'm old).

      So anyone in the UK who doesn't understand metric is either a bit of a dunce, left school before then and learned nothing since, or is being deliberately ridiculous (*cough* Rees-Mogg *cough*).

      It's a crying shame the UK didn't go 100% metric by the late 70s. We could have had ten years for people to get used to it, and to go replacing road signs and pub glasses etc, then phased out the last remnants of the ridiculously baroque imperial measure before the end of the 70s.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        I couldn't agree more. The longer a change is left, invariably the harder it is to implement. I wonder how "easy" it would be to switch from driving on the left to driving on the right nowadays compared with when Sweden did so in 1967 when cars were a lot more scarce on the roads?

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge
          Joke

          "I wonder how "easy" it would be to switch from driving on the left to driving on the right nowadays "

          The trick is to phase it in slowly, one direction at a time.

          ( Icon, because otherwise someone......)

          1. ravenviz Silver badge
            Trollface

            I heard the plan was for a phased switchover so lorries and buses would switch to driving on the right for six months, after which cars and motorcycles would then follow suit.

          2. Lars Silver badge
            Joke

            @Terry 6

            Yes like slowly, getting the hang of it. On the left on Monday on the right on Tuesday and so forth.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Young people would switch but the old folks would carry on driving on the left

          3. stungebag

            "The trick is to phase it in slowly, one direction at a time."

            They've already started at Liverpool St. Underground station. One of the corridors has a Keep Right sign at one end and Keep Left at the other.

    3. Chris Miller

      At any French market, people cheerfully buy and sell vegetables and other produce in 'livres' (500g), ditto Germany and pfunde. And French TVs and monitors are sized in pouces (inches, literally 'a thumb'). You can buy a 5x10cm length of wood, but measure it carefully and you'll find it's a 2x4".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I remember going into a French DIY store and finding shelving board in 20, 30, or 50cm widths, all in 183cm lengths. That's 6ft...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Still the same in UK DIY stores :-)

      2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Livre and Pfund are at least exact definitions, a half kilogram. That one is actually easy to convert, compared to the US-A variants...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        plumbing

        My German built shower has 3/4" pipe fittings. There's an adapter to go from UK 15mm pipes to German 3/4" fittings.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: plumbing

          And since it's plumbing the 3/4" won't actually be 3/4" and the 15mm won't be 15mm

          1. cheb

            Re: plumbing

            It's my understanding that imperial measurements refer to the bore of the pipe and metric to the outside diameter.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: plumbing

              Or they refer to the diameter of lead pipes 100years ago which had the equivalent capacity.

              Which is why 3/4 copper and 3/4 plastic pipe is different and neither is 3/4"

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "And also ignoring the fact even when we were in the EU it was legal to sell in pounds and ounces that as long as they also gave the weight in Kilos / grams."

      And even now, you still come across some products in weird numbers of grammes or millilitres because they are approximations of imperial measurements.

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Happy

        "they are approximations of imperial measurements."

        Lets not make to much of this, but the imperial measurements are actually defined in the metric system since a long time.

        And why the hell do people take these historical oddities personally, like it was a victory or a defeat.

  8. jake Silver badge

    "Meanwhile, buy a pint in the UK and you'll get 20oz of beer, do the same in America and pints are only 16oz – a fact that still shocks British drinkers."

    Sort of. Yes, the standard American unit of measure called "the pint" contains 16oz, However, almost all bars that serve pints of beer serve it in standard, British made (or reasonable facsimiles thereof), 20oz pint glasses. At least the bars that I've been in over the last several decades. I have also noticed in the last ten or so years that many bars are keeping 22oz glasses on hand to decant the 22oz bottles which many/most micro/craft breweries ship at least some of their brews in.

    This might be a West Coast thing; I haven't been in a bar East of the Rockies in decades.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge
      Pint

      It varies a lot by chain and location.

      Almost all of the places I've visited actually specified whether their "pints" were 16oz or 20oz on the menu/price list.

      Quite a few of them used both sizes, because that's not confusing at all.

      1. Crypto Monad Silver badge

        A US quart is sufficiently close to a litre that a switch would be pretty unproblematic.

        What I object to is recipes like these (came with an air frier):

        - 5 small gold potatoes, cut into 6.35mm pieces

        - 28 grams unsalted butter, melted

        - 1.42 grams salt, plus more to taste

        - 1.42 grams pepper, plus more to taste

        - 32 grams plus 17 grams all-purpose flour, divided

        - 1 large egg

        - 5.69 grams prepared horseradish

        - 1.42 grams paprika

        ... etc

        Now, where did I put my apothecary scales!

        1. VicMortimer Silver badge
          FAIL

          It's pretty obvious what that is - an American recipe converted to metric - and done quite badly. 6.35mm means it wants about 1/4 inch pieces of potato. 1.42 grams of salt is about 1/4 teaspoon, 49 grams of flour is about 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour (because American recipes don't use weights for salt, pepper, spices, or flour).

          1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

            Still an improvement over the recipe my daughter was working from yesterday, which specified a "large cup" of something. As if cup wasn't imprecise enough.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              >As if cup wasn't imprecise enough.

              Depends on context.

              Decades back my sister worked in a factory producing hair products, they worked in buckets - I never asked what size the buckets were, just assumed they were of a size relative to a production run where the imprecision didn't matter.

    2. petef

      20 US fl oz is 4% more than an Imperial pint. A British pint in a brim glass may contain 5% head. This is making my head hurt, I need a beer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Beer Head Rip Off Measure

        Remember these?

        https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DpiGCdaWkAIRsA3?format=jpg&name=small

        https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DpiGC2iXcAAcRYe?format=jpg&name=900x900

        I've still got mine. The prices per pint are nostalgic. Valid only in the south, obviously.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      From the telly, I was under the impression that in US bars, beer comes in a "glass" or a "pitcher" :-)

      1. VicMortimer Silver badge
        Pint

        Absolutely correct, unless you order a bottled beer the sizes can be quite arbitrary.

  9. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    The problem with the jars climate orbiter wasn't that it was using customary units; the moon landings used customary units throughout and went off without a hitch. The problem was that units were being converted between two teams and someone made a mistake in the conversion. It's a perfect demonstration of the need to standardise units across a project, rather than proof that any particular system is superior to any other.

    We should all be using duodecimal, anyway. 12 mm to the douximetre, 120 doux to the metre, and so on. More factors.

    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge
      Coat

      Well. My inability to spell, combined with my inability to edit, has left me in something of a jam. I'm sure a jar of marmalade has a lovely climate, though.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Coat

        I'm sure a jar of marmalade has a lovely climate

        Is that imperial, metric or El Reg units lovely?

    2. R Soul Silver badge

      duodecimal my arse

      We should all be using duodecimal

      Fuck off! Since this is an IT forum, it should be promoting the adoption of the hexadecimal system.

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: duodecimal my arse

        > IT

        Decimal, EBCDIC, ASCII, octal, Byte-width(s), Hex.... Wait, what are the witch hunters doing here? What do you mean demonic phrases? But I don't use them, I use base64, requires less characters to display a number and is still readable! Why are you all running towards me?

        1. tonique
          Trollface

          Re: duodecimal my arse

          I suggest using irrational base, perhaps the golden ratio (1.618...) or Gelfond's constant minus pi: e to the power of pi minus pi (19.999099979...).

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: duodecimal my arse

        Since this is an IT forum, it should be promoting the adoption of the hexadecimal system.

        Is that why US pints are 10₁₆ oz?

      3. Norman Nescio Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: duodecimal my arse

        Since this is an IT forum, it should be promoting the adoption of the hexadecimal system.

        Hardly. Given the simplest representation of numbers in a Universal Turing Machine is Unary, we should use that (or Church Encoding, which is somewhat more flexible). You could argue for binary.

        One of the disbenefits of any rational system, like decimal, is the ease by which order-of-magnitude errors are made by humans - our built-in shift operators are not good at keeping track of the number of times they have executed.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: duodecimal my arse

        12" up the tradesman's entrance? No thank you.

      5. Bitsminer Silver badge

        Re: duodecimal my arse

        Just where am I supposed to find another 6 fingers?

        1. petef

          Re: duodecimal my arse

          If you put your mind to it you can count to 31 on each hand.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: duodecimal my arse

            If you put your mind to it you can count to 31 on each hand.

            And there is an old and easy way to count to 12 (decimal) on one hand, just count the falanges of your fingers with your thumb.

            1. petef

              Re: duodecimal my arse

              I don't have any Spanish Fascists on my fingers. They do have 3 phalanges each though ;-)

          2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

            Chisanbop

            You can count from 0 to 99 using both hands. The Korean method of Chisanbop lets you do this. Right hand fingers are 0..4, right thumb is 5, left-hand fingers are 10,20,30,40, and left-hand thumb is 50. "Up" is "off", "down" is "on".

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "More factors."

      I've heard that as an argument for retaining feet and inches from Americans before. "What if you need a 1/4 ft or 1/3rd of an inch? My ruler has those marking". Well duh! You can divide a ruler into any weird fractions you want to. Or you can just use decimal in the first place :-)

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Factors are more useful than you seem to think.

      2. the Kris

        Indeed, and what if they needed 1/5th, then the fun really starts.

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          2.4 isn't really all that exciting.

          The reason why more factors are a good thing is because you end up with fewer cases of infinitely repeating decimals. 10/3 is 3.33333... whereas 12/3 is 4. Duodecimal offers a good balance between factors and mathematical simplicity. It only gets weird a bit silly once you're dividing by 7 or 9, but 10 doesn't divide well into those either.

          Now I just need to find an article that lets me ramble about replacing Pi with Tau...

          1. Norman Nescio Silver badge

            Now I just need to find an article that lets me ramble about replacing Pi with Tau...

            I think somebody already has written that ramble. Unless the author was you.

            1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

              When I first came across that idea, tau was half-pi, being a one legged letter that was half of a two legged letter. Whatever you choose, there are going to be some cases where your change makes for an easier formula and other cases where it doesn't. Like base ten, it's almost certainly too late to change now.

              1. Lars Silver badge
                Joke

                "Like base ten, it's almost certainly too late to change now."

                Just leave it to Mogg.

  10. johnB

    It's not all bad

    I've spent years ranting about non-metric measurements.

    But I've got to admit the American usage of cups in certain recipes is by far easier than using spoons, weigh scales & measurers.

    Some recipes are actually more dependent on ratios, not volumes / weights.

    e.g. my morning porridge (for two) is one cup of porridge (oatmeal) & two cups of semi-skimmed milk. No scales, etc & washing up simpler.

    Otherwise, yup, systems other than metric are simply bonkers. (And far too error-prone).

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: It's not all bad

      ALL recipes are dependent on ratios, regardless of how you measure them.

      Most Brits are shocked to discover that England has official standard size measuring cups. If you don't believe me, you can purchase them from none other than John Lewis.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: It's not all bad

        Eggs is a bit of an issue though.

        There are EU standards for the size of a small/medium/large hens egg, but I've no idea what they are or whether US standards match.

        Of course, the Conservative Party just handed ministers carte blanche to accidentally delete those standards. Hopefully the Lords will save us from their idiocy.

        My MP just quoted the first paragraph at me to justify his vote, so it's pretty obvious he's not bothered to read it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's not all bad

          On the topic of eggs, I read yesterday that the US has a problem at the border with people smuggling eggs because they're now so much more expensive.

          Surely that could be addressed by patting people down a bit more firmly?

          :)

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Stop

      No to cups or spoons

      Especially in cooking, you state the ingredients in grams or milliliters and that should be all.

      Spoons, really. What size spoon do you ? And don't tell they're all the same size, that's simply not true. The spoons from our wedding tableware are bigger than the spoons of our daily tableware, so there is no standard there.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: No to cups or spoons

        Measuring spoons for cooking are (supposed to be[0]) calibrated, while spoons intended for table use are, essentially, haberdashery that can and do vary with the whims of the host(ess).

        A "tablespoon" measure isn't a spoon for the table, rather it is a spoon that holds half a US fluid ounce (just under 15ml). A measuring teaspoon holds a third of that.

        Likewise a one cup measure has nothing to do with taking a tea break, rather it is a measure equal to half a US pint, or 8 fluid ounces. That's roughly 235ml.

        [0] Not all are. Cheap imports are cheap. Caveat emptor.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: No to cups or spoons

          The teaspoon and tablespoon are also official mandated size in the UK for cooking measures too. And as you say, actual tableware are not calibrated measures and come in variable sizes :-)

          There are conversions between US and UK cups and spoon measure though because, as you would expect, they are different on each side of the pond. A bloody nightmare when buying some cooking equipment that comes with recipes from the US and they didn't bother to (or even understand!) that the measurements are different. I only really use cups for rice cooking and tea/table spoon for bread making.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: No to cups or spoons

            Volume measurements are subject to the varying density of the measured product... let's not mention 'kosher salt' which after some confusion (surely Sodium Chloride is the same stuff, whether or not it's been exposed to religion or not?) I discovered to be a less dense form - because of its manufacturing method - than crystalised salt.

            1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

              Re: No to cups or spoons

              Kosher salt is so called because it's used in the preparation of certain kosher meats.

              1. Lars Silver badge

                Re: No to cups or spoons

                .... and kosher meat is prepared in a certain way....

                1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

                  Re: No to cups or spoons

                  But the salt is just salt. It isn't kashrut, it's just used during the process in preference to other kinds of salt, because of certain properties that are considered more efficient for drawing fluids out of meat. Any salt will do in a pinch.

            2. jake Silver badge

              Re: No to cups or spoons

              The kosher in so-called kosher salt is more properly "koshering". It refers to drawing blood out of meat as part of the meat curing process.

              When curing meat (or pickling veg), always weigh your ingredients for best results.

        2. Norman Nescio Silver badge

          Re: No to cups or spoons

          ...spoons intended for table use are, essentially, haberdashery...

          I don't think that word means what you think it means - at least, I don't wear my cutlery.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: No to cups or spoons

            Might not a pedant suggest that 'cutlery' relates only to knives, which might indeed be expected to be worn in some circumstances, while the forks and spoons are 'flatware'?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: No to cups or spoons

              They might, but it whether they were correct would depend on where and when the pedant lived. If they lived in the US then they'd be correct. If they lived in the UK a long time ago then they'd be correct - my 1924 OED defines cutlery as "Knives, scissors, etc.". By today's OED they'd be on dodgy ground since it includes "forks and spoons for eating" in the definition and if they worked in a restaurant and were asked to polish the cutlery they'd probably get bollocked if they only polished the knives. Most importantly (IMO - obviously), if they were talking to my grandad (unlikely) then they'd have been quickly put right because he was a cutler in Rotherham and made knives, forks and spoons.

              1. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

                Re: No to cups or spoons

                Just refer to them as 'irons' - for the eating etc.

          2. ravenviz Silver badge

            Re: No to cups or spoons

            I think you mean “cluttery”!

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: No to cups or spoons

        "Especially in cooking, you state the ingredients in grams or milliliters and that should be all."

        I use "a bunch, "some", "a handful" and "a pinch" for must of my cooking. Strangely, there are rarely any leftovers, so I must be doing something right ...

        1. Joe W Silver badge

          Re: No to cups or spoons

          Yeah, same here. I use a metric pinch/some/bunch though....

          (except for some bakery, and the first time I try a recipe).

          The problem with volumetric measurements for dry ingredients is that e.g. flour can pack quite differently, just fill a vessel to the brim and give it a rap, the stuff rearranges and settles down. If you actively stomp it down it compresses even more. Weight is just more exact (though you often don't need the precision). And measuring a cup of cold butter is just a mess...

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: No to cups or spoons

            Ever watched Americas Test Kitchen? They bang on about "perfection" and then use these imprecise measurements like cups! They even did a section on *how* to fill a cup depending on the recipe/ingredient and then never really talk about it again, leaving you to guess. A little variation may not matter with large quantities, but could make a huge difference in smaller quantities such as 1 cup or 1/2 cup. Dip and scrape level? Pour in? Shake or not? Cup of chopped nuts? How small are the nuts chopped? Weird!

          2. whileI'mhere

            Re: No to cups or spoons

            "And measuring a cup of cold butter is just a mess..."

            Yeah - it gets weirder because that's why they have sticks of butter. A stick is a genuine standard measurement.

            1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

              Re: No to cups or spoons

              A stick of butter is 4oz, and you get 4 sticks of butter in a pound of butter. They fit together in the box quite well, stacked 2x2. When you pull a stick of butter out, they are wrapped in wax paper printed with various measurements commonly used in cooking on the paper.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: No to cups or spoons

                Just like in the UK then, except the 1/2lb block was marked in ounces and now the 250g block is marked in grammes[*]

                Interestingly, ATK did a segment on butter and concluded the European/UK[**] style of tending to uses paper backed foil was the superior packaging method as the butter was far less likely to take on the smells of other products in the fridge. I think they picked Lurpack as the best option :-)

                *Usually, but it's not always the case and because of the foil backer wrapper, you fold it and use it more as a ruler rather than cutting through it.

                ** some of the cheapest butter uses waxed paper but most is paper backed foil)

                1. tiggity Silver badge

                  Re: No to cups or spoons

                  @John Brown (no body)

                  It is now g vs ounces, but its usually 25g markings on butter, so slightly less than an ounce.

                  .. But when looking at old ounce based recipes and mentally converting to metric, the easy maths conversion is to massively simplify oz to g and treat an ounce as 25g (essentially 3 and a bit #g less, but that way no need for calculators, pen & paper etc just easy mental maths, & if doing large amounts of ounces and want to match volume to what it should be then add extra "ounce" for very 8 as further approximation) so the 25g markers on UK butter are useful as they are "easy maths" ounce equivalents.

                  .. On the topic of UK weighing & approximate weights, if any UK readers know why I used to have a few half pence coins (long after they went out of circulation) amongst my various imperial & metric weights that were occasionally used on my balance scale then you are a naughty boy (or girl)

                  1. jake Silver badge

                    Re: No to cups or spoons

                    As a cook, the biggest worry you should have about butter is the water content ... Here in the US, by law butter has to be at least 80% butterfat, leaving roughly 2% milk solids and 18% water. Most national name brands don't go over 81% or thereabouts, because water is free and fat is money.

                    However, yer Dear ol' Gran's cake and cookie recipes are from more enlightened times, when butterfat content was more like 86% and water content 12%. This sounds like a small difference, but in the chemistry of baked goods it is massive. If you think you can't cook because your grandmother's cookie recipe doesn't work for you, try again with a variety of butter that contains less water. Note that some unscrupulous companies advertise "less water!", but add more milk solids instead of fat. Caveat emptor.

                    Here in Northern California, I recommend Straus Family Creamery's butter (just under 86%). If you are lucky and have access to real Amish butter, try that. Or make your own and press the water out as you see fit; it's not exactly rocket surgery ... and you get to control the salt content, should you want salt in your butter.

                    You're already using lard/mantica for your pie crusts, American biscuits and the like, right? Right? RIGHT?

          3. Lars Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: No to cups or spoons

            @Joe W

            Slightly behind the point perhaps, but indeed in aviation and F1 they use weight (kg) and not volume for fuel for obvious reasons. Much behind the point but still not totally.

      3. drfunk

        Re: No to cups or spoons

        Depends. If I'm baking accurately I'll use the measuring spoon. & If I want half a table spoon I'd take 1 & 1/2 teaspoons. If I want a cup I get a 8 oz cup... If I want to know the ml it says on the handle. Or I'd grab my Pyrex that has increments in Cups & milliliters.

    3. Dave K

      Re: It's not all bad

      It's not so bad when the entire recipe is in "cups", but it is a problem when you come across some American recipes where half the stuff is in ounces (ie for things like butter which can't fit in a cup), and the rest in cups. Also, it becomes a problem for any recipe where you use eggs.

      Knowing how big a cup is supposed to be matters quite a lot when the same recipe calls for 3 eggs and 6 ounces of butter.

      Personally I much prefer recipes that say 100g of porridge and 200ml of milk. The ratio is still clear and if you want to pour them in via a cup, that's entirely your choice.

  11. bartsmit

    Not easy to get rid of some standards based on the wrong system

    Global shipping uses (non-k8s) containers measured in feet and PCB's are still riddled with parts in thou's (mili-inch) which is especially rife in connectors, i.e. their interfaces.

    *Sigh*

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Not easy to get rid of some standards based on the wrong system

      2.54mm spacing is fine. The inch is in fact defined in terms of millimetres, so you're just going back to the source anyway.

      Only annoyance is that it's really difficult to distinguish 2mm, 2.5mm and 2.54mm spacings.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Not easy to get rid of some standards based on the wrong system

        Only annoyance is that it's really difficult to distinguish 2mm, 2.5mm and 2.54mm spacings.

        And bigger sizes.

        Back in the 80s/90s there were some traffic accidents in the UK caused by towed caravans coming unhitched. The problem was that some people had older caravans which had 2" socket hitches (50.8mm), but the ball on the towbar of their modern Japanese and European cars was 50mm. They looked the same, but that 0.8mm difference, added to a bit of wear on the old socket, meant that one good bump in the road & the caravan could part company with the car...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not easy to get rid of some standards based on the wrong system

          In the "good old days", there were pressed steel hitches, hollow tow balls, and 1/4" steel sheet used for towbars. Combine that with the digger driver being happy to drop two cubes of gravel in a piss weak trailer if you were silly enough to ask him to.

          A missing 0.8mm was the least of your worries.

  12. Jeff Smith

    Whilst you're at it could you have a word about your date format too please. Thank you.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Agreed, but they're not the only ones. How's about 22.01.2023 ? Or 2023-22-01 ?

      And I have a few more that I found while importing CSV files from various customers - sometimes with different formats inside the same file.

      I swear, it's a good thing firearms aren't easily availble 'round here because when I snap I'll be reduced to strangling the bastards instead of shooting them - that'll give someone more time to drag me off.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        YYYY-mm-dd is the ISO standard. Use it everywhere you can, it sorts.

        And feel free to use the septic tank for anyone writing YYYY-dd-mm. The cover is loose.

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Meh

        I mostly use 2023-01-22.

        22/01/2023 certainly makes more sense than 01/22/2023 which makes me completely cross-eyed, but 22/01/2023 is still mixed-endian, because the most significant digit, the millennium digit is in the middle.

        1. gnasher729 Silver badge

          I write 22/Jan/2023. 90% know what it means, the remaking 10% know that they dont know what it means.

          1. Lars Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            "I write 22/Jan/2023".

            Yes, I have had to do with that and all those variations years ago in programming but the fact is today, that you actually don't write that shit today when dealing with the internet and computers.

            You will infact today enter the date exactly as the system demands you to do it for so fucking obvious reasons.

        2. Lil Endian Silver badge

          DD/MM/YYYY is little endian.

          You're asserting that the year (as a single field: YYYY) is a compound field when that's not how it's used. It's a single number. You'd be correct if you wrote 22/01/2/023, but I don't want to hear the rationale for that system!

      3. logicalextreme

        Different formats in the same file is fine. It's stupid, as stupid as not using a format from ISO 8601 (which has its own bits of stupid); but it's fine.

        Different formats in the same column/field, on the other hand…there will be blood.

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Hurray for middle-endian, the worst of all possible worlds.

    3. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      What, no one linked to iso8601 on xkcd yet?

      Even Windows 3 can be set to use it. Believe me, I've tested, and it works!

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Trollface

        So 41332 is still an acceptable way to store the date?

        Which is good news, because that's how Excel stores its dates, unless of course you are using older Mac versions, in which case the same date is stored as 39870.

        1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          The iso does not care about how you store the date, it is how you display it. NT uses a 64 bit counter with 100 nanoseconds increments since 1601-01-01 or 1.1.1601 or 1/1/1601.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
            Coat

            Presumably a signed value to accommodate times before a minute past four?

          2. Norman Nescio Silver badge

            NT uses a 64 bit counter with 100 nanoseconds increments since 1601-01-01 or 1.1.1601 or 1/1/1601.

            Interesting choice by Dave Cutler.

            It makes duration calculations slightly more complicated at the changeover between the Julian and Gregorian calendar. For the U.S colonies at the time, that would officially be September 1752. "Section I of the Act corrects this divergence by providing that Wednesday, 2 September 1752 be followed by Thursday, 14 September 1752. when the calendar officially did not use the days between."

            I'm assuming it's a proleptic date (in other words, 'New Style' extended backwards), as the date precedes the Julian to Gregorian change to the calendar for UK and colonies. That is, if the NT clock shows 13 September 1752, it is actually (officially) 02 September 1752, so the NT clock starts at (officially) 20 December 1600 (Old Style).

      2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        I'll trade you that link for this link There's more to ISO8601 than meets the eye, although fortunately most people ignore 90% of the spec. Well I say 90%, I'm not going to pay ISO for it so I have no idea.

      3. Norman Nescio Silver badge

        What, no one linked to iso8601 on xkcd yet?

        Before ISO 8601 was published, in written correspondence in a multicultural environment, I tended to use the format <2 digit number of day in month with leading zero>-<month in Roman numerals with overline and underline>-<4 digit year> e.g. 06- ̲̅V̲̅I̲̅ -1984, as different countries used different abbreviations for the names of the months, and some places put the month in digits first. In all the time I used it, I think I got one query, everyone else interpreted it correctly.

  13. xosevp

    Is America(USA) Actually Metric?

    Technically, YES: htps://youtu.be/SmSJXC6_qQ8?t=30

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Is America(USA) Actually Metric?

      Darn, you beat me to it!

      For those who can't be arsed to watch the video, the story is that the American standards institute works in metric and coverts everything to imperial/whatever you call it at the end of the process.

  14. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Coat

    NATO?

    <>Today the US Army uses metric to better integrate with NATO allies.</>

    Yes, 7.62mm is such an obvious metric value (yes, I know it's 0.3inch).

    1. WolfFan Silver badge

      Re: NATO?

      Some of us prefer 7.7mm, as used in the Very Best Battle Rifle Ever Made, the Short Magazine Lee Enfield III*! And in the Finest Light Machine Gun Of All Time, the Bren!

      Why, yes, I did carry those items around when I was in the Cadets, why do you ask?

      1. navidier

        Re: NATO?

        > Some of us prefer 7.7mm, as used in the Very Best Battle Rifle Ever Made, the Short Magazine Lee Enfield III*! And in the Finest Light Machine Gun Of All Time, the Bren!

        > Why, yes, I did carry those items around when I was in the Cadets, why do you ask?

        You and me both, mate. Despite my love-affair with motorcycles, I still consider the Bren as my favourite internal-combustion engine! (And my Lee-Enfield .303 was actually Boer-War vintage...)

        1. Mooseman Silver badge

          Re: NATO?

          " (And my Lee-Enfield .303 was actually Boer-War vintage...)"

          Oh we had modern ones - we had the fancy new-fangled WW1 vintage rifles. Kick like a mule and bloomin accurate.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: NATO?

      (yes, I know it's 0.3inch).

      Even that isn't a standard. IIRC a 0.303 is smaller than a 7.62 (0.3) depending on how you measure the rifling

  15. 3arn0wl

    I'm pro SI

    One of the tangible, retrograde, outcomes of Brexit, does seem to be that people feel free to use Imperial measurements - I hear it increasingly, everywhere.

    I grew up with SI units, and I like the fact that the institute strives to create units from constants - I don't understand some of their reasoning... but clever people argue about things for a very long time before they come to a conclusion - and I think that that probably produces a more accurate measuring system than the Rule Of Thumb.

    The only persuasive argument that I've heard from Mathematicians about the Imperial system, is one of easier division : 12 divides into thirds, quarters and halves, whereas 10 just has divisions of 2 and, oddly, 5.

    Maybe there's an argument to be made that we've all got lazier (stupider) since we don't have to do mental gymnastics with money and measurement? idk.

    1. Crypto Monad Silver badge

      Re: I'm pro SI

      12 inches = 1 foot (factors: 2, 2, 3)

      3 feet = 1 yard (factors: 3)

      22 yards = 1 chain (factors: 2, 11)

      10 chains = 1 furlong (factors: 2, 5)

      8 furlongs = 1 mile (factors: 2, 2, 2)

      (UK)

      16 ounces = 1 pound (2, 2, 2, 2)

      14 pounds = 1 stone (2, 7)

      8 stone = 1 hundredweight (2, 2, 2)

      20 hundredweight = 1 [long] ton (2, 2, 5)

      Yes, that's *really* convenient to work with for mental arithmetic. How much taller is someone who is 6 foot 4 inches than someone who is 5 foot 7 inches? How much heaver is 13 stone 5 pounds than 11 stone 10 pounds? How long is a quarter of a mile, in yards?

      At least Americans just give the weight in pounds.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: I'm pro SI

        "At least Americans just give the weight in pounds."

        And have a love of *BIG* number based on docudrama/reality shows I've seen. Things are many, many 1000's of pounds. And yet they have at least two sizes of Ton to play with :-)

        1. WolfFan Silver badge

          Re: I'm pro SI

          Three. Long ton, short ton, and gross register ton.

      2. Outski

        Re: I'm pro SI

        1 chain x 1 furlong = 1 acre

        1 chain = 1 wicket

        and a quarter of a mile (2 furlongs) is 440 yards. Furlongs are pretty easy if you follow horse-racing

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I'm pro SI

      "One of the tangible, retrograde, outcomes of Brexit, does seem to be that people feel free to use Imperial measurements - I hear it increasingly, everywhere."

      That;s a little surprising to me. Just some strongly Brexit people being contrary maybe? Anyone 60ish or younger was taught metric from early school days, like me, I was there when it all changed so learned both. By secondary school, pretty much all teaching was done in metric units.

      1. nobody who matters

        Re: I'm pro SI

        Imperial never really went away - I learnt metric at primary school in the 60s and 70s alongside the old imperial system, and I am always surprised by the number of much younger people (young enough to have little or no exposure to imperial) who nonetheless revert to inches, feet and acres in particular, in preference to using the metric units they were brought up with.

        Of course, in many applications where precision isn't needed, feet and inches are easier - an average persons foot is likely to be somewhere approximately a foot in length, a normal pace for the same person will be around a yard, where to stride a metre, you have to stretch your pace to more of a stride, and of course the distance from the end of an average thumb back to the knuckle is roughly an inch, all of which make such distances easy to relate to and make a rough measurement of.

        Even though I was taught metric from very early on, I don't find most metric measurement easy to picture in my mind. Not that this is helped the reality that for many everyday things, all that was done to metricate them was to convert the existing imperial measurement to metric and carry on using the same sized packaging containing the same amount of product (which a couple of people have already mentioned).

        However, using parts of the body for measurement is probably going to give you the same result as using Ray's Rules of Precision - 'Measure with a micrometer, mark with chalk, cut with an axe'.

        1. Lars Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: I'm pro SI

          @Nobody who matters

          Thanks that was a nice comment.

          Equally I know my height and weight in kilograms and meters and so forth. And I don't feel I have to know how many stones I am.

          But non of that part of life has anything to do with this article really.

          The metric system is about having a world wide standard, call it ISO or what ever, and that had to happen, and it had to be better than what was before.

          The British felt, as always, it was all about them, of course, and that their Imperial standards, no matter how rotten, were superior and no change was needed, and certainly not by anybody else.

          But in France the number of different measures was immense with more than 500 different, and they decided to do something about it.

          The rest of Europe had similar problems, and also the Americans.

          The great idiocy reading these comments is that there are some people still here who for some stupid reason feel that they have lost something or being robbed of something.

          And some Brits are indeed experts in that field.

          And may Mogg go in any system of measurements of his choice.

          It's obvious there was a serious demand in the world to reach a common standard.

          That could have started in Britain, but it did not due to the Empire and the English assumption they had already "invented" the superior system.

          (100% of Britain's problems are today caused by those same assumptions).

          "The Metre Convention, also known as the Treaty of the Metre,[1] is an international treaty that was signed in Paris on 20 May 1875 by representatives of 17 nations (Argentina, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Norway, Switzerland, Ottoman Empire, United States of America, and Venezuela).

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metre_Convention

          1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

            Re: I'm pro SI

            You're right, but I don't think it's just a British thing. If the British had managed to formalize imperial measures as a world standard then the French would be using metric today and a load of Jambons would be chucking their toys out the pram about having to buy groceries in pounds and ounces.

            1. katrinab Silver badge
              Megaphone

              Re: I'm pro SI

              But the metric system was first proposed by a British person.

              Yes, it is the French that took the idea and made it work, but it is a British invention.

              1. Lars Silver badge
                Happy

                Re: I'm pro SI

                @katrinab

                No it was not.

                But I think I know how you have been fooled to think so, probably from this.

                "James Clerk Maxwell played a major role in developing the concept of a coherent CGS system and in extending the metric system to include electrical units."

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metric_system

                "The metric system is a system of measurement that succeeded the decimalised system based on the metre that had been introduced in France in the 1790s.

                The French Revolution (1789–99) provided an opportunity for the French to reform their unwieldy and archaic system of many local weights and measures. Charles Maurice de Talleyrand championed a new system based on natural units, proposing to the French National Assembly in 1790 that such a system be developed. Talleyrand had ambitions that a new natural and standardised system would be embraced worldwide, and was keen to involve other countries in its development. Great Britain ignored invitations to co-operate, so the French Academy of Sciences decided in 1791 to go it alone ".

        2. katrinab Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: I'm pro SI

          I don't have any problem visualising metric units, because seen and measured many things in metric over the years, so I get an idea of what to expect.

    3. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: I'm pro SI

      It's an absolutely miniscule number of rabid idiots.

      Sadly a few of them bought seats in the House of Commons so they could leave abusive notes for civil servants after taking a nap on the benches of the House.

      The "consultation" was violently biased, yet fortunately 99.95% "stop wasting our money on this tripe".

    4. Mooseman Silver badge

      Re: I'm pro SI

      "people feel free to use Imperial measurements - I hear it increasingly, everywhere."

      Nope, not the slightest difference anywhere I've been - people still use the usual mash up of imperial and metric. The only people who are possibly "free" to use imperial are doing it deliberately, I suspect, to make brexit into a "victory"

    5. katrinab Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: I'm pro SI

      Especially when the inch literally is a rule of thumb (it is apparently the width of a man's thumb), but everyone's thumbs are different sizes.

    6. DJO Silver badge

      Re: I'm pro SI

      ...12 divides into thirds, quarters and halves...

      When the only option was mental arithmetic or a slide rule if you were fancy then that was a reasonable argument. But now with every phone having a calculation app and for those without phones simple calculators are of negligible cost so almost nobody does mental arithmetic anymore the argument for a 12 factor is no longer applicable.

  16. Andy 73 Silver badge

    Fascinating history

    (Tongue in cheek)

    It certainly makes sense to use a rational standard where things are going to be interchanged, but honestly the people frothing over the use of a pint as a measurement make no sense to me.

    At no point do I need to know exactly how much my pint weighs (or its volume), so long as I know it's consistent - I have never once needed to order 1.35 pints of beer, and the smallest 'useable' fraction is a half. It functions quite reasonably as a unit of food delivery, so getting mightily offended by it not being defined by a number conveniently ending in a series of zeroes seems a bit of a waste of drinking time.

    We happily accept a year being 365.25-ish days, a month being 30-ish days and so on because they conveniently divide a concept we hold - mildly obtuse units of measurement can be useful when they keep numbers within a particular range we are comfortable imagining.

    1. rafff

      Re: Fascinating history

      <q>At no point do I need to know exactly how much my pint weighs (or its volume), so long as I know it's consistent - I have never once needed to order 1.35 pints of beer, and the smallest 'useable' fraction is a half. It functions quite reasonably as a unit of food delivery, so getting mightily offended by it not being defined by a number conveniently ending in a series of zeroes seems a bit of a waste of drinking time.</q>

      Where I am a.t.m. beer is sold in 1/3 litre

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fascinating history

        You have ATMs that dispense beer?!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fascinating history

          It's called a bartender.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Fascinating history

        Because a half is too much for the children?

      3. Norman Nescio Silver badge

        Re: Fascinating history

        At no point do I need to know exactly how much my pint weighs (or its volume), so long as I know it's consistent - I have never once needed to order 1.35 pints of beer, and the smallest 'useable' fraction is a half. It functions quite reasonably as a unit of food delivery, so getting mightily offended by it not being defined by a number conveniently ending in a series of zeroes seems a bit of a waste of drinking time.

        Where I am a.t.m. beer is sold in 1/3 litre

        I don't know if they still do, as I have not attended one in a (too) long time, but at beer exhibitions/trade fairs (e.g. Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court (which tells you how long ago)), the beer would be served in 1/3 pint glasses.

    2. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Fascinating history

      @Andy 73

      smallest useful division of a pint is 1/3 in many real ale pubs...

      Plenty of pubs do a taster triple - a pint in total - 3 different beers, each in a 1/3 pint glass.

      You can sample 3 beers you have not tried before (I know most pubs will serve you a tiny dribble to taste as a freebie, but really need a decent volume so its had a proper pour to get body & head developed)

      A good way to try a few different beers without getting too merry - e.g. trying 6 beers is 2 pints in this way, but if doing that with 1/2 pints then its 3 pints.

      1/3 pt is just enough to be able to adequately sample the beer, anything smaller (e.g. 1/4 pint) or less would be a struggle to get decent body & head (and you also need enough volume to have several tastes to properly sample a beer)

  17. Grunchy Silver badge

    Frankly, I get along just great with hexadecimal, and always have. Then my boy comes home from some club they set up at school, affiliated with the “dozenal society,” and all of a sudden they want factor of 3 wedged in there: yeah, duodecimal. All of a sudden it’s all these stories coming home, like how come a minute is five-dozen seconds and a day is two-dozen hours, or a circle is 30-dozen degrees, and all this! Listen, I grew up when Swatch came out with Beat Time, where a whole day is 1000 .beats: that’s 10^3.

    Also as a donut appreciator I prefer the “baker’s” dozen rather than a traditional dozen.

    (Although some enterprising grocers will sell you a hexadecimal dozen eggs, $12, which is a full 50% more vast than any mere dozen. Who says Easter eggs are only for Easter? I say, let’s move to “Easter Island” where every day is appropriate for egg salad sandwiches!)

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Yabbut... eggs in the UK come as a rule in half-dozens or dozens, occasionally in fours for specialist hens. Here in Germany they come in tens and, er, half dozens.

      Yet the last two fridges I bought in the UK had egg holders with *seven* spaces. Go figure.

      1. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Egg holders with Steven spaces: For people who buy fresh eggs before the last egg is gone.

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Most UK supermarkets sell eggs in boxes of 6, 10, 12, 15 and 30.

        I've occasionally seen boxes of four, but those might be chocolate. Mmmmm, chocolate....

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Yes sometimes you see the really expensive non-hen eggs in boxes of 4. I looked on Waitrose, they don't have any examples at the moment.

        2. Norman Nescio Silver badge