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

I love it. When the border reopens (I’m sure the old lady has passed on) I’ll put a bouquet, a dozen, a hectare, or a kilo of roses on her grave.

As a follow up, I started kindergarten in 1981. I went to elementary school in the 80s. My teachers would tell me that “by the year 2000” we would be fully metric.

Well, my father would have none of it. Just liberal egg-headed nonsense he would say (I found out later that he would substitute the word nonsense for bullshit when I was younger)

My grandfather was more expressive. He was in the Pacific Theater in WWII so maybe you could forgive him for his racial slurs, but he said that it was a Jap thing, with Japs wanting to take over the whole damn country after they lost the war. Put 'em all in a big bag and toss them in the Pacific Ocean, many “kilometers” away.

I mean, open hostility…towards a system of measurement. But I was a kid and if my dad and grandfather were against it, then so was I.

Take any person who claims they can’t understand metric units, and you’ll find that they don’t understand American units, either. I’m not even talking about obscure ones like the dram, furlong, or hogshead-- They won’t know things like how many feet are in a mile. Heck, we once had a thread on this board with someone asking how many cups are in an ounce. They just never actually use any units at all, and only get mad at metric because someone is asking them to use units.

It’s three, isn’t it?

I’m pretty sure it’s three.

As someone who has spent most of his life in the time since we started the switch I have a mish mash of usage between metric and the old system that was caused by the mandated labeling and measuring of certain items and the general use of the old system at home. I remember being in second or third grade when the textbooks and questions switched from feet and miles to meters and kilometers. My brain works in Celsius, smaller weights and measures are metric but I weigh myself in pounds. I have no idea how long a mile is, a vague estimate that 3 feet is about a meter, and fluid oz mean nothing to me.

I’m a bastard child of two systems and seem fated to pass the bastardy down to my offspring as well.

When I hear “Mickey’s”.

I have seen many otherwise intelligent Americans not be able to distinguish between fluid ounces and, um, um, weight ounces (see I didn’t know the term and will not google it to illustrate your point). On at least two occasions, I have seen an otherwise smart American who needs 4 ounces (weight) of a substance to use a measuring cup, fill it up and dump out half in order to get 4 ounces. Eight ounces in a cup, so half must be four, right?? :slight_smile:

We had a few of those when we changed, but maybe our shopkeepers are more sensible. I can ask for a quarter of ham at the delicatessen and the assistant will happily weigh me out and charge me for somewhere around 113 grams. It was never illegal to ask in imperial, only to sell.

For a long time after the change - 20 years plus - jam was sold in 453-gram jars. At some point in the last few years, the jars became 250 grams. I suspect that the price remained much the same.

If you ask a British adult their height, they will nearly always give it in feet and inches, but teenager may well give it in centimetres. They have grown up in a mostly metric world - their doctor says they are 160 cms and 60 kilos, and that is what they will remember if asked.

How has this made you more competitive in the world? Because I believe that is the point of the OP and the convincing that will need to be done to the people in the United States to get us to change. How in the hell is it beneficial for us to make it illegal for me and the grocer to agree to sell a quarter of a pound of meat?

There still seems to be a misunderstanding here. The grocer will sell you any weight you ask for. What is (proposed to be) illegal is the calibration of the grocer’s scale (inspected by the Bureau of Weights and Measures) in non-standard units, so your receipt will say that you bought 113 grammes (or whatever mass) of meat at such-and-such a price per 100g or 1000g. (No idea why the Canadian grocery clerk was giving some old lady a hard time because she did not know how much a half-pound of salami was in grams—usually the government distributes a handy conversion table for such purposes.) This is a non-issue even compared to the previous discussion of beverage containers being mass-produced so that they have to agree on a gamut of standard volumes. The advantage is that it is easier to not get ripped off by a wet-market hawker wielding a steelyard balance and a set of homemade mystery weights. I suppose, in principle, the Bureau of metrology could maintain a parallel set of official standards in ounces, pounds, stones, etc., but why would they bother?

First, because the government is the representative of the people, not their overlords. If people want to transact in pounds or half pounds, it is not the job of government to make them artificially transact in 113 gram quantities. That’s how you treat a child, not adults.

Also, nobody is saying that people can transact in “homemade mystery weights.” The government can easily inspect scales and make them honest which is a pretty basic thing of good government. I think that even EU inspectors can see if a small fish monger is really selling pounds or ounces of fish with their smart phones, or if he is really keeping them at 31 degrees Fahrenheit. There is just no damned need for that level of micromanagement to tell him that he needs to say that it is -1 Celsius.

Again, why does international uniformity require that my local grocer have his scaled calibrated to 113 grams instead of a half pound? How does that harm the country? If the grocer is shipping to Canada, he can hit a simple button on his scale and tell them the weight of the meat in metric. Why does it require us to use metric?

The grocer will not be calibrating his scale to 113g because calibration weights are only available in 10g, 20g, 50g, 100g, etc. However, once it is calibrated, there is no reason why a displayed weight of 113g would be inaccurate or why he or she cannot press a button and get additional readouts, or for the customer to ask for half-a-pound of this or five dollars’ worth of that. I do not think anyone in this thread has suggested there is.

But I think they have. I have my local ads here from this morning’s newspaper. Roast beef is selling for $8.99 per pound at the local grocery store. Such an ad would be illegal under metrification, no? Even though it is accurate, the grocer wants to sell by the pound and I want to buy, no mystery measures, it would be henceforth illegal? Am I wrong?

My naive understanding is that regulatory agencies have backed off of zealously banning any mention of pounds, and your ad would be legal if it were accompanied by “$19.82/kg” marked at least as prominently as the price per pound. Your can of Coca-Cola is allowed to display the energy content in calories alongside that in Joules, and so forth.

Well, and I’m really not trying to be a smart ass, but it comes across that way in typing only, but that it seems wonderful that these government overlords have seen fit to permit free people to sell their wares as they see fit, and to other people who want to buy them in the same way…if they also use our forced system equally! We are watching!

Why are we forcing this system on people again? As I said, for international transactions, sure! If you sell from Montana to the EU, hey, they use the metric system, you have to sell to them in kilograms, pal. But if you are selling to another guy in Montana, then who cares?

Right. Now, with the help of the miracle of the Metric System, the Bureau is regulating wet-market hawkers with an iron fist.

Whether that kind of regulation is good or bad is not really an argument with the metric system, though. Why did Henry VIII force the free people of England to adopt the avoirdupois pound instead of the old-school “tower” pound? How come he cared? And then Queen Elizabeth changes up the value of that very pound?

Or Henry VI: “There shall be but one Measure of Cloth through the Realm by the Yard and the Inch, and not by the Yard and Handful, according to the London Measure.” And it goes back many centuries before that just in England, let alone other empires.

Scientific illiteracy is a problem–everywhere, really, but it seems particularly acute in the US.

It’s not hard to learn the metric system, but outside of a few high-school classes that people quickly forget, the only people in the US that use the metric system are STEM types. Everyone else quickly forgets the details because they don’t use it day to day.

Which means they are that much less able to understand scientific developments, even at a basic intuitive level. They can’t understand untranslated international news, and news that does get translated is often riddled with errors, particularly with false precision (“such-and-such is approximately 328.0839895 feet long, which ten times greater than the previous blah blah”).

All the whining about “how dare the gubmint force us to use this furrin system” is absurd, given that there are already innumerable regulations governing exactly how food and other goods may be labeled, advertised, and sold. Metrification just means there’s one fewer outdated system that the government has to support with standardization. The law already says that your box of crackers must include SI and US customary units. After metrification, only SI would be required.

If you really think all this stuff is just treating adults as children, then why haven’t you spent equal effort advocating the breakup of NIST, or the FDA, or the FTC? How dare they force grocers and drugmakers and everyone else to have a consistent definition of the ounce, and to sell things with consistent labeling, and so on?

Whoops… wow, you were doing great.almost had me, but your argument fell apart. How is it an outdated system when it was in my newspaper this morning? How is it outdated when I know what a pound is…more intuitively than a kilogram?

I’m not seeing the connection. People understand what a pound is or an ounce is. There is and should be a standardization of that. You know if you see “pound” or “ounce” or “kilogram” that the government has inspected and that those weights are good and true. Why does it then follow that the government must approve what standard you use to measure these weights?

Regardless of 19th century practices, are you confused by the weight unit of a pound? Can you not punch in your smart phone to convert it to kilograms if you are lost in the wilderness of the United States?

Hey, in the Old Days, “breaking the assizes” was punishable by fines, imprisonment, and pillory or to stand in the tumbrel or dung-cart. Guess people did not appreciate being cheated by brewers and bakers. “Malam cerevisiam faciens, in cathedra ponebatur stercoris”