Friday, 30 November 2012

British Imperial Measures

Imperial measures are still being used in Britain, even though there's no empire any more. European legislation is slicing the official use of these awkward measures away bit by bit, but speed and distance are still measured in miles and beer in pints. A road sign saying "Wickhill 1m" doesn't mean that you'll find Wickhill 1 metre ahead of you, but 1 mile. Angry readers have complained to newspapers for years about the ongoing conversion to the more practical metric system. The official use of the Imperial measures may go away, but try changing it in the heads of the British.

Obviously, if Imperial measures were to disappear completely, daily language might suffer a bit. Instead of saying "the cat was inching its way across the lawn", one would have to say "the cat was centimetering its way across the lawn", which sounds a bit awkward. Also, "yardstick" would have to be "metrestick", you'd have to order 568 millilitres of beer instead of a pint at the pub, and airmiles would become air1.6kilometres. Car mileage would become 1.6kilometreage and a milestone a 1.6kilometrestone. The English language might end up taking up as much space as French, so many Britons might wonder if the metrification is just another French plot meant to reduce British competitiveness.

The real problem that the British have with the metric system is that it was invented by the French and so by definition must be suspicious. While trying to figure out where the catch is, the British prefer playing it safe and stick with their Imperial measures that have served the Empire so well for centuries.

See full article at

No comments: