# How much of the Metric system do Americans use now?

I’ve noticed that despite US citizens’ reluctance to adopt the metric system with alacrity, some of you at last refer to capacity of bottles of drink to be in litres, or I should say liters, which is, as far as I know, a metric measurement. I believe you used to talk in quarts and gallons and suchlike.

Are there any other instances where metric is creeping in at last? I’d like to hear you use kilometres (kilometers) for example, though I can see why miles are a hard one to leave behind.

How about kilograms? Or centigrade? Any likelihood of them finally reigning supreme?

We use metric (kilos) to measure illegal drugs.

We tend to have 10 fingers and 10 toes.

I think that’s the extent of it.

Soda comes in 1, 2, and sometimes 3 liter bottles, but it also comes in 12 ounce cans and 20 ounce bottles. Bottled liquor is sold in metric amounts - 50 mL miniatures come to mind. Milk, and nearly every other liquid, is still sold in quarts and gallons.

Illegal drugs are measured in grams and kilos, though not always: sometimes they’re sold in nominal fractions of an ounce (“Hey smokey, gimme an eighth”), but actually weighed out in grams.

Legal drugs and chemicals are measured in metric units - one Advil has 200 mg of ibuprofen. Metric is a lot more common in the American medical and scientific fields than in the lives of average Joes.

Um… computer hard drives are measured in metric megabytes (1 million bytes), and CPU temperature is measured in degrees C.

Kind of an related question, but isn’t time (hh:mm:ss) considered to be metic measurements? Or maybe i’m just a tad misfangled.

No, time is not measured in metric units. Metric is all based on 10 or multiples of 10. Time is still 60 seconds, 60 minutes, 24 hours, etc.

No, metric has not made much of an impact on the US. A fair number of us either work in an area where metric is required, and a few of us have interests where a familiarity with metric is either a good idea or maybe required, but the vast majority of Americans are still using the English system for everything but buying soda and marijuana.

The fact that one of the few contacts with metric that the average citizen has is illegal drugs might not be helping the “adopt metric” cause. It’s to the point that if someone says “I’ve got a couple grams here” the immediate assumption is something illegal is going on.

The people that make nuts and bolts, etc, prevent us from conversion to metric. Retooling is too expensive. But considering the future of manufacturing in America, that will probably change by default. I spent 7 years in quality control arguing that anyone that can make change can work in the metric system. You don’t need refrence tables and calculators. However when you consider the fact that the average high school graduate cannot make change without a cash register to calculate it, the ability to convert units is still a problem.

I am now learning civil engineering and I find that going from centimeters to metres to kilometers is much easier than links to chains to rods to miles. You move the decimal. Calculations concerning mass/density are really easier. A move to metric is more probable where everything is on paper.

As far as I know, all cars and trucks made in the US have had metric hardware in them for the past 10 years or so.

I had to laugh at what KenGr said about only using metric measurements to measure illegal drugs, coz in australia the only time we use imperial is for that reason
that and measuring mens erm… inches

Foreign cars use metric measurements for various things, bolts for example. So, a typical tool kit contains metric wrenches.

Food is sold in real units, but the metric equivalent is almost always noted incidentally.

Of course, the sooner we dump this nonsense the better. The metric system may have been useful back before calculators were invented, but that’s been thirty plus years. Very archaic logic behind it and pretty much zero value today.

Here’s a website with a list of some typical things sold in metric measurements in the U.S.:

http://lamar.colostate.edu/~hillger/products.htm

The statement that only soda and illegal drugs are sold in metric units is blatantly false. A lot of things are sold in the U.S. in metric units. It’s not obvious because people, when they’re shopping, are not looking for measurements on the packages that they are buying. They are just saying, “O.K., I’ll get the large rather than the small version of this.” Some more examples are that all medicines are dispensed in metric units and all scientific research is done with metric units.

I don’t know whether the older units or the metric units are used more in the U.S. Yes, most people know their height only in feet and inches, their weight only in pounds, and the distance between places only in miles. But much of what they buy is actually measured in metric units and a lot of the measuring in industries is actually in metric units.

Flying_Monk is right. GM, Ford, and Chrysler have done all of their engineering in metric for years now.

Scientists and engineers love the metric system because it’s easy to do math with. But the average person doesn’t need to work equations. The only thing that the average Amercian needs math skills for on a regular basis is balancing their checkbook. And money is decimal-based, and has been for a long time. We stick with the English system for most things because there’s simply no significant advantage to switching.

This old Onion article shows that the metric system is thriving in urban America (geocities link, may not work if too many of you overload it).

I think it’d make more sense to measure, uh, a guy in millimeters. You get some really, really big numbers that way. Plus being 25 units, uh, larger than your neighbor just gives you that much more bragging rights.

I grew up and still live on the Canadian border. Kilometers and celcius are quite natural. Kilometers have the advantage of being more precise in whole units; I declare fahrenheit the victor for the same reason (day to day use, nothing technical).

At work we have a mix and match of US-spec machinery and European-spec machinery. It’s never a problem, since we don’t send probes to Mars or anything.

We Americans view the Metric system with suspicion (If we own a foreign car, we have to buy a second set of wrenches, for one thing). We see it as being of a piece with soccer and socialism.

As always, the government has things all screwed up over the metric system! All Federal civil engineering jobs are to be done in metric by 2000, IIRC. Delaware has a long highway half-built prior to this rule with exits numbered by miles. Once completed after the metric deadline, the exits were all renumbered by km!

The kicker is that the mileage markers remain in miles! So, instead of a layman driver being able to USE the exit numbers to determine distances and position, nothing adds up! Ah, a highway built in the government style of doing things! SNAFU!

The House of Mouse might as well replace the House of Reps!

• Jinx

Even though it’s (very) uncommon to see it used with the standard prefixes, the second is considered the base unit for time in the SI system.

When this comes up (as it often does) I like to refer to this. Many 'merkins seem to consider the ‘metric system’ as a new-fangled complication, but in fact it has been discussed for more than 210 years. That link points to a document presented by Thomas Jefferson to the congress in 1790, wherein he suggested a decimalized system of measures. - If it had been approved I’m certain that the rest of the world (with the possible exception of the French) would have followed suit.

I use metric every chance I get. I like it. I just wish I could figure out how to change the display on my YZF-R1 to km/h. (There should be a switch, but I can’t find one. Maybe it can’t be done. I’ll have to look into it when I have a chance, in case I ever ride it up to Canada.)

In day to day life, most Americans almost never use the metric system. Oh, they may buy the occasional 2-liter or 3 liter bottle of Coke, but almost nothing we measure regularly is measured in metric units.

The big exception: science. When American kids take a chemistry class (and when they grow up to become scientists working in a lab), everything is measured in metric units.

IIRC, the metric system (now codified as the Systeme Internationale or SI, which may give you a clue) first came into vogue with that progressive body, the Committee Of Public Safety, in their [some would say presumptuous?] zeal to remake the entire world from scratch. Just as not many people go around saying “Boy, hot Thermidor we’ve been having, ain’t it?” I don’t know that Jefferson’s early sympathy for the French Revolution and related radical innovations would have stood the test of time; I do know that some of his more bloodthirsty statements about the tree of liberty periodically needing watering with the blood of patriots [paraphrase] might make some of the more mushy, lets-all-get-along types who cite America’s metric resistance as more proof of its blocking progress toward One Happy World [disregard any editorializing here, I’m mostly kidding] blanch a bit. My real point: La Belle France was actually in the forefront of the metric movement.

Also, attempts have been made to create metric clocks/time measurement. They seem a bit goofy [see above disclaimer if you disagree].

http://zapatopi.net/metrictime.html

Herewith my cite for the SI as a tool of the Reign Of Terror, hence Americans’ disdain for it.