The metric system: Make your case for it and why we should switch to it. (As if we haven't already)

It’s interesting that you linked the Simple English page for the inch, instead of the standard English. If you had linked to the latter, you would have seen the same image I did, with 15 different inches (plus centimeters). Sure, as of the standardization of the inch in the 1950s and 1960s, the US, UK, Canada, and Australia were all still using inches… but Hamburg, Bremen, Bavaria, Austria, Rhineland, Moscow, the rest of Russia, Turkey, France, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Amsterdam had all given it up. And yes, that’s four or five different inches just in Germany alone: It wasn’t even standardized within countries.

You missed some steps there:
(32/8) * 5 = 20
(32/16)* 2 = 6
20 + 6 + 1 = 27/32

Never heard it described that way before. It was always “1/5 gallon” – which, of course, is why it was called a “fifth”. (Anybody know when/why that became the standard size for a liquor bottle?)


That same article says that the fifth dates back to “the late 19th century”.

It makes sense. Seeing as how liquor was already heavily regulated post-Prohibition, that the feds in the 1970s who started on the metrification trend would hit the companies that they could regulate the hardest, first. But again, I know of nobody who refers to the different liquor bottle sizes in anything but their pre-metric designs: half-pints, pints, fifths, quarts, and half-gallons.

ETA: I have heard people refer to the half-gallons as “handles” or some such slang phrase because they typically have a small handle in the side.

EATA: And I’m still confused as to why the two liter soda bottle didn’t get the same push back.

What push-back? You mean the allowance for a 355 ml beer can? Or 750 ml versus 700 ml bottles of whisky?

The pack-size regulations are a bit complicated, for whatever reason.

I mean the fact that the public has not adopted the metric nomenclature for liquor as opposed to 2 liter soda bottles. Beer is still sold in 12 oz and 16 oz cans. Liquor is sold, for example, in a 750ml bottle. Nobody refers to it as “750” or “750 ml.” It is universally a “fifth” of liquor.

But also universally, the soda bottles are referred to as 2 liter bottles. Nobody says two quarts or a half gallon of soda. That caught on very easily and even Trump guys holding an AR-15 on their couch will ask someone to pick up a 2 liter bottle of soda without a second thought.

It’s just the first thing that came up when I searched for treaty of the inch (even though that’s not what it’s called).

I guess I find it less surprising that 19th C “Germans” were acting stupid, than that as recently as 1959 nobody in the British Commonwealth could agree on how long an inch was.

Just a few years ago, I got into an “animated” discussion with an Australian woodworker who was absolutely convinced that an inch was precisely 2.5 cm. It turns out that when he’d been younger, he was tasked with converting a set of old engineering drawings to metric and 2.54 simply didn’t work.

That sort of “push-back” is not an exclusively American phenomenon:

ETA a 3L bottle is a “Texas Mickey”, according to some. No idea about your 2-litre bottle…

My French isn’t very good. Halves of beer, I name them the police???

ETA: They are named the police. Been a long time since high school.

— Bukowski

An occasional poster on this message board published a related article on the topic in 1995: Whatever happened to adoption of the metric system in the US? Partly consistent with the OP:

Most big multinational firms use metric for goods they sell abroad, and some (e.g., the automakers) have abandoned the inch-pound system altogether. Smaller companies serving primarily the U.S. market and of course most ordinary folks have clung to the old system, mainly for lack of a compelling reason to change. If significant numbers of midsize firms routinely had to convert from millimeters to inches (how fast can you multiply by .03937?), opposition to metrication would evaporate. But in the U.S. they don’t, and it hasn’t.

Then again, the author notes that the arguments against metric are mostly specious.

Fast forward to 2001 and SDSAB member Alphagene pens this column: What’s the origin of the meter and the metric system?

Point is, the beer was ordered in “half-setiers”, whatever that is.

As for the quote, I don’t know if Jules Renard was being serious, I don’t have the book handy

But what does it mean, if you know? I’m going on my poor French verb conjugation skills as you can tell. :slight_smile:

Great username/post combo.

Anyways, I think that is mine and the OP’s point. We don’t need a government mandate. When it happens for a business that dual measures are a pain in the ass, then they convert, and the US has done so when needed. Hell, even the UK still has highway signs in miles. No need for a forced change in that, nor when I buy tomatoes from the farmer. He could sell them in Ultravires units for all it matters as long as we both understand the system. The EU went too far with requiring metric at every local fish monger, IMHO.

ok, I foiund it online:

Best as I can make it out, he is saying, “Halves [half-setiers, 250 ml or so] of beer, we call them gendarmes.” My point was about beer still (even today) being ordered in “demis”, not the specific bit about the gendarmes, though that is an interesting bit of slang.

Reasonable people can disagree. Certainly true that the US system hasn’t led to a huge loss of US competitiveness. According to my tastes though, we should make the transition, then reap the benefits over the next 300 years or so. Great nations operate under the principle of continuous process improvement; once-great nations rest on their laurels. But this isn’t a slam dunk; it’s a matter of how heavily you weigh present transition costs for future reductions in inconvenience.

A “growler” is roughly aproximately 2 liters, but that is more slang for a type of beer bottle than a well-defined measure.

You’re right. Reasonable people can disagree. And these are the type of debates that are fun because nobody gets hurt in the end no matter the outcome. If I have to read the speed limit in km/h in my lifetime, then so what? No big deal.

But I do disagree with your conclusion. I don’t disagree that great nations shouldn’t just rest on their laurels, but I don’t understand how me buying meat by the pound at the grocery store is doing such a thing. If there was a convincing argument that the US would be better off in the world if you forced me and the grocer to sell meat by the kg, or for me to think in degrees Celsius, then I would probably go along with it.

But that argument hasn’t been made convincingly, IMHO.

Mine says 64oz right on the side, so…it ain’t communist metric. :slight_smile: