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Thread: Why the U.S. isn't metric

  1. #1
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    Why the U.S. isn't metric

    A long history of trying, culminating in:
    "...as part of his budget-cutting efforts, President Ronald Reagan disbanded the U.S. Metric Board in 1982..."
    http://www.weatherwise.org/articles/June03.htm

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    The Stonecutters are keeping it down.

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    Perhaps it's just inherently unnatural.

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    What a backward iliterate argument that article made. Might have helped if the author admited were the metric system comes from.

    So lets do a score check

    Nations with Metric - 198

    Without - 2 - one of which (Burma) is working hard to return to the stone age.

    Glen Chapman

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    Quote Originally Posted by glen chapman
    What a backward iliterate argument that article made. Might have helped if the author admited were the metric system comes from.
    Which article are you referring to, the original that sarongsong posted or the second one that kilopi posted?

    If it's the second one, I'm guessing you don't know who the author is, do you?
    Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn

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    I think he means mine, but I know he's just joking. I mean, c'mon, he mispelled illiterate:
    What a backward iliterate argument that article made. Might have helped if the author admited were the metric system comes from.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kilopi
    I think he means mine, but I know he's just joking. I mean, c'mon, he mispelled illiterate:
    What a backward iliterate argument that article made. Might have helped if the author admited were the metric system comes from.
    He also misspelled "admitted" and "where" (and you misspelled "misspelled," but I bet you'll say that was intentional, too, eh? ). Maybe the lack of smiley threw me on his joking.
    Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn

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    Without - 2 - one of which (Burma) is working hard to return to the stone age.
    ...and doesn't Burma make three?

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    I think it was near Cincinati back in the 1980s when I saw the following road sign...

    "Federal Test Area
    Metric Road Signs
    Next 30 Miles"

    I laughed out loud.

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    Re: Why the U.S. isn't metric

    I'll avoid the obvious Mars probe joke.

    What I found most fascinating is that the head of The Weather Channel is named Ray Ban.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sarongsong
    "...as part of his budget-cutting efforts, President Ronald Reagan disbanded the U.S. Metric Board in 1982..."
    This is true, but misleadingly phrased.

    Here's the U.S. Metric Association's take on what happened:

    "From the late 1970s to early 1980s, the U.S. Metric Board [USMB] held some meetings in various USA cities, but did little to forward the transition to metric. In 1982, President Reagan retired the USMB, stating that it had served its purpose. After disbanding of the USMB, a Metric Program (MP) Office was established under the Department of Commerce. Its duties were to provide metric information and respond to queries on metrication."

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    Hey I have a sense of humour and can laugh at myself - nup the typo's were just that - teach me to write slower in future.

    However my opinion of the article really hasn't changed. I work for an American Corporation in Australia - and I have to say, we loose sales because customers can not be bothered mucking around converting information from metric to imperial - when other suppliers can offer the same product in metric to begin with

    Since it was first proposed, the metric system has undergone a number of corrections. The current measuing system is as good as we can get with the technology of today. Also the way the metric system is used has improved. Some measurement have gone - all in the name of clarity.

    Back in the Seventies, the story went that the US wouldn't convert because of the cost to manufactures to change over their equipment. Perhaps in a world of half and half systems, this is a valid arguement, but not today.

    The petition mentioned in the article is equally weak. To use the logic displayed, then Henry Ford should never have begun production on his cars, because one day the oil will run out, and we'll just have to change to another type of motor.

    Glen Chapman

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    kilopi
    Perhaps it's just inherently unnatural.
    Great site I never saw the imperialist empire system till at least my tweenty's and it made no cents to me (Cents divides by tens). I just wondered if we had ten fingers and two thumbs, would counting by twelves be natural.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Hale_Bopp
    I think it was near Cincinati back in the 1980s when I saw the following road sign...

    "Federal Test Area
    Metric Road Signs
    Next 30 Miles"

    I laughed out loud.
    There's still a couple of road signs on I-75 South heading out of Dayton that list distances to Cincinnati in miles and kilometers.

    And by the way, as I recall from my misspent youth, that particular herbal nonsense was sold by the 'key', not 'ki'...don't ask...

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    Hi yanks.
    Ive always wondered: How many imperial gallons do you guys get per hecter on your 1 and 1/4 american tonne vehicles? And how many royal thumbs are required to make a commoner yard?

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    Political Meterball

    Canada is metric.

    No one except scientists have any idea what any of the measurements mean.

    And I'm not sure how successful the metric police have been with their "re-education" efforts. After a big push, I see grocery stores slowly returning to selling by the pound.

    Canadian football is still measured in feet. That must really irritate the MP.

    I laugh with a gufaw at the Metrically Correct (on behalf of the Canadian Unwashed) who insist upon changing all references of Canadian aircraft flight heights to meters (oops, metres) (ie: in newspapers) when the international aviation world itself uses feet.

    As a metric rabble-rouser, I deliberately use "centegrade" instead of celsius.

    And I say kil-OHM'-meter instead of kiloh-meters (as you are supposed to say in Canada.)

    All this from a guy with a Science degree. Tch-tch. I even support the concept of metric. (And, okay, since no one asked me... what I detest is the god-awful every-day oppressive language-poetry of it all. I tried singing "A hundred kilometers" and "I can see for kilometers" and say such things as "I'd walk a kilometer for a Camel" and "Gimme a litre of beer" and watch movies like "The Longest Meter" or "The Green Kilometer" and wear a ten litre hat... but it's just not right. The metric system will never do for everyday poetic language.)

    Hey, I just noticed how much (metrically) higher I am above you all from this soapbox. I'll get down now.

    Cheers,
    RBG

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    Re: Political Meterball

    Quote Originally Posted by RBG
    Canada is metric.
    So is Australia.

    No one except scientists have any idea what any of the measurements mean.
    Most people in Australia seem to have no problem.

    And I'm not sure how successful the metric police have been with their "re-education" efforts. After a big push, I see grocery stores slowly returning to selling by the pound.
    Everything is sold in kilograms here.

    Canadian football is still measured in feet. That must really irritate the MP.
    Well, Australian Rules Football, Rugby League and Rugby Union all have their measurements done in metric.

    I laugh with a gufaw at the Metrically Correct (on behalf of the Canadian Unwashed) who insist upon changing all references of Canadian aircraft flight heights to meters (oops, metres) (ie: in newspapers) when the international aviation world itself uses feet.
    True that the aviation world uses feet for altitude, but for those unfamiliar with distances in feet, conversions in brackets can be useful.

    As a metric rabble-rouser, I deliberately use "centegrade" instead of celsius.
    You rebel you. :P Still, here in Oz, we know that 30 degrees is hot, 20 degrees is mild, 10 degrees is cold and 0 is (literally) freezing. If it gets over 37 degrees, the media will often talk about the temperature hitting "the old century".

    And I say kil-OHM'-meter instead of kiloh-meters (as you are supposed to say in Canada.)
    You're kidding me! Canadian authorities actually tell people how to pronounce the words?

    Mind you, my Latin teacher said that kilolitre (not a frequently used word, by the way) should be pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable. But she was just being a pedant.

    All this from a guy with a Science degree. Tch-tch. I even support the concept of metric. (And, okay, since no one asked me... what I detest is the god-awful every-day oppressive language-poetry of it all. I tried singing "A hundred kilometers" and "I can see for kilometers" and say such things as "I'd walk a kilometer for a Camel" and "Gimme a litre of beer" and watch movies like "The Longest Meter" or "The Green Kilometer" and wear a ten litre hat... but it's just not right. The metric system will never do for everyday poetic language.)
    Well, all the words soon generate their own slang. So "kilometres" are "kays" or "klicks", while "kilograms" are "kilos", and "millilitres" are "mils". So when someone talks about 100 kilos, we know they mean kilograms, not kilometres or kilolitres.

    And as for beer, well, that always comes in stubbies or middies.

    Hey, I just noticed how much (metrically) higher I am above you all from this soapbox. I'll get down now.
    Don't worry, I had it for a centihour. :wink:

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    I just don't get it....

    I am from Australia - a country that claims exclusivity of the metric system in our lives - and the Imperial system makes not a single word of sense at all... How many yards in a mile again?

    But enough of that... Face facts - units of measurement, as a facet of language itself, is evolving....

    I am not very olde, nor have i taken a wyfe - and you will not see me express myself with such spelling (this sentence excepted). The English language is now in a different form - these words are no longer considered correct (from a spelling point of view)...

    So it is also true with our units of measurement.

    I am living in a time (and country - i guess this is a factor), where the metric system is the prevailing 'language.' I speak it, others around me speak it as well. Someone comes at me with an Imperial measurement, I need to translate it. It is not my (first) language, and the measurement has no meaning until I can put it into my native context.

    Other people around the worlds are in a different age (i won't postulate which is more modern - what's the point - which came first: japanese or english (doesn't matter)?), and they speak a different language of measurement. Their prevailing system works, in spite of its' convolutions.

    Whether or not there should be one prevailing system for all is a different kettle of fish.... Different spoken/written languages have been coping for millenia, and the current intermingling of the two measurement systems is an everyday occurence (ie: aviation; I know how my altitude in feet, but my fuel capacity in litres, not pounds).

    Of course, there is an unfortunate spacecraft that might tell a different story.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RickNZ
    Hi yanks.
    Ive always wondered: How many imperial gallons do you guys get per hecter on your 1 and 1/4 american tonne vehicles? And how many royal thumbs are required to make a commoner yard?
    (For some reason, this made me remember this . . .)

    One rancher boasts to another:
    "I've got so much land, I can drive my pick-up truck at the crack of dawn from one end and not reach the other end until sunset.

    The other rancher nods and replies:
    "Uh-huh. Had me a truck like that once!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by freddo
    I am living in a time (and country - i guess this is a factor), where the metric system is the prevailing 'language.' I speak it, others around me speak it as well. Someone comes at me with an Imperial measurement, I need to translate it. It is not my (first) language, and the measurement has no meaning until I can put it into my native context.
    And some more examples from the Land Down Under.

    One of my hobbies is wargaming (battles with toy soldiers). The rules we use are from the UK (DBM if you're interested). The toy soldiers we use are glued to bases with a standard width of 40 millimetres. Yet movement distances are measured in inches. Everyone who plays the game can think in inches, and it's another measurement system I can use for convenience.

    When babies are born, it's traditional to express the baby's birth weight in pounds and ounces, though I can never remember how many ounces there are in a pound, and how many pounds in a stone. In this regard, I always think of people's weight in kilograms, not pounds, and have to stop to think when converting between the two, as Freddo described.

    Petrol (gasoline) is sold by the litre. The tank on my car takes 40 litres, and I can usually do about 600 kilometres on a tank. A standard can of drink is 375 mL, and milk is sold in 1 litre, 600 mL and 300 mL cartons. I understand that 600 mL is close to the old pint. But I'm completely unfamiliar with Imperial volumes, and so measurements like gallons, quarts and pints have essentially no meaning to me.

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    [quote="Peter B"][quote="freddo"]<snip>

    And some more examples from the Land Down Under.

    One of my hobbies is wargaming (battles with toy soldiers). The rules we use are from the UK (DBM if you're interested). The toy soldiers we use are glued to bases with a standard width of 40 millimetres. Yet movement distances are measured in inches. Everyone who plays the game can think in inches, and it's another measurement system I can use for convenience.

    When babies are born, it's traditional to express the baby's birth weight in pounds and ounces, though I can never remember how many ounces there are in a pound, and how many pounds in a stone. In this regard, I always think of people's weight in kilograms, not pounds, and have to stop to think when converting between the two, as Freddo described.

    Petrol (gasoline) is sold by the litre. The tank on my car takes 40 litres, and I can usually do about 600 kilometres on a tank. A standard can of drink is 375 mL, and milk is sold in 1 litre, 600 mL and 300 mL cartons. I understand that 600 mL is close to the old pint. But I'm completely unfamiliar with Imperial volumes, and so measurements like gallons, quarts and pints have essentially no meaning to me.
    I also dabbled in the world of tabletop wargaming (Games Workshop & Warhammer to be precise), and this is an excellent example of metric/imperial mish mosh... While it's quite easy over time to work out how far a 4" move is going to be on the table, it's quite another to take it to other facets of life... I don't look at my coffee mug and go "gee that must be about 5" tall...

    Of course, looking at my computer screen I can tell you i have a 17" viewing area. But don't ask me how many centimeters that is, because I can't do those kind of conversions off the top of my head (ie: <10 response time).

    As for the rest of your comments, I think you're hinting on the point I was trying to express earlier (and more or less submerged into lengthy musing). All day long I'm exposed to Imperial terminology - I understand it, but only in its' context (ie: the weight of a baby)... Unless it's used in describing an item where such a measurement conveys meaning (15" monitor - I'm 5'11"), then I do not understand it, nor can I visualise and quantify.

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    Quote Originally Posted by freddo
    I just don't get it....
    Think soccer ("football") in the USA.

    RBG

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    Europe is all metric, which is main problem when it comes to getting Britain metric. The public see the metric system as a European thing and therefore instinctively hate it. If the government, any government, would get on with it and just change the road signs, it would be simple. At the moment, metrication efforts come in the form of Eurocrats bullying groccery shop owners. So far, we buy our petrol in litres and the weather forecast is given in celsius.

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    So, you might say that the UK is slowly approaching the metric system, inch by inch?

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    Quote Originally Posted by AstroSmurf
    So, you might say that the UK is slowly approaching the metric system, inch by inch?
    On Question Time, Mary Archer did say that the metric system was inching its way forward.

    I also forgot to say that only the metric system is taught in schools.

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    Quote Originally Posted by glen chapman
    The petition mentioned in the article is equally weak.
    Are you familiar with that petition? Do you have a link by any chance? They published a small book about it that I read in a library. I couldn't find an online description of it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by freddo
    Of course, looking at my computer screen I can tell you i have a 17" viewing area. But don't ask me how many centimeters that is, because I can't do those kind of conversions off the top of my head (ie: <10 response time).
    I can send you a 12" ruler with inches on one side and centimeters on the other side. Easiest way to do such conversions. We do it all the time here (if there's such a need - i.e. scince class).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Glom
    Europe is all metric, which is main problem when it comes to getting Britain metric. The public see the metric system as a European thing and therefore instinctively hate it.
    This is ironic to many Americans, who think of Britain as a European nation!

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    Quote Originally Posted by freddo
    Whether or not there should be one prevailing system for all is a different kettle of fish....
    How many kettles are there in a hogshead, again?

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    Quote Originally Posted by glen chapman
    What a backward iliterate argument that article made. Might have helped if the author admited were the metric system comes from.

    So lets do a score check

    Nations with Metric - 198

    Without - 2 - one of which (Burma) is working hard to return to the stone age.

    Glen Chapman
    Number of world superpowers using the English system: 1

    Number of world superpowers using the metric system: 0

    The English system isn't as confusing as all those conversion charts would indicate since no one uses all of the units on them. Depths aren't measured in furlongs and horse races aren't measured in fathoms. There's never any need to convert between them. People use the units they need for the task at hand.

    Besides, the metric system seems boring by comparison.

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