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Imperial victory

Mark Mardell | 10:29 UK time, Tuesday, 11 September 2007

So the European Commission has decided not to make Britain get rid of pints and miles and selling in pounds. It's a victory for common sense. Well, I'm pretty sure about "It's" and "for" but not so certain about "victory" and "common sense".

It is a victory for those who want the decision to keep or get rid of miles and pints to lie with the British government, not the European Commission - although the commission has gone on the attack saying it was the Brits who wanted to go metric all along.

But shops will still have to display metric measurements even if they sell in pounds. So only half a victory perhaps.

But the government could now scrap the rule that makes them use metric (introduced in 2001 by the British government) and go back to pounds and ounces... as far as I can gather they wouldn't face opposition from the EU, at least not on the face of it.

Would you want them to do that? Would the supermarkets? Would the market traders?

peculier_203.jpgAnd common sense? Certainly a victory of dogged British sentimental attachment to our system rather than one dreamed up by the pesky French. A priest Gabriel Mouton first put forward the ideas behind the metric system and it was adopted in the French revolution. It never caught on for clocks, but did for just about everything else.

But of course the history of weights and measures is a history of standardisation.

First of all, if you measure weights in stones (invented by the Babylonians) and I use the Greek Karob, we'll quarrel about how many aubergines I get in my shipment.

Worse, if we mean different things by "a yard", confusion reigns. Hence the "yardstick".

I love my pint, confuse my children when I talk of feet (although they still know "six foot" means "pretty tall"), get muddled when American authors describe characters in pounds (having to work out from context whether they're built like a bear or a butterfly). And living on the continent, they think in kilometres quite naturally.

But surely business would rather go metric?

And what about those Eurosceptics, who insist Britain's future and present and past lie with trading with the whole world, not just Europe, and rules should be based on what is good for business not political allegiance? Some things I have read suggest the USA, which made the metric system legal in 1866, will in two years' time get rid of imperial measurements, apart from miles. If so, we will stand alongside Burma and Liberia?

Quirky, loveable… but common sense?

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 12:42 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Lawrence Taylor wrote:

Of course it's common sense to to keep the mile.The cost of changing all the road signs would be astronomical! Money would be better spent on other things .As someone who has spent most of his life in metric countries I have no problem going back and forth,But I prefer my beer in pints!

  • 2.
  • At 12:43 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Ian wrote:

Personally, I think a single common standard is essential for world co-operation. But there are honest exceptions: To change miles to kilometres is seriously impractical and expensive. As far as the pint is concerned, it's just a name to me, but a simple and useful one. I do get confused though - I buy fuel in litres, but measure my car's efficiency in miles per gallon...go figure...

Going forward, I do believe that in education we need to have a single approach, and it simplifies matters if that is essentially metric, perhaps with a few local differences being taken into account.

  • 3.
  • At 12:43 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Martin wrote:

Common sense? Yes. Allow a country to do what it pleases, we are not in the United States of Europe, so, if we deem it to be prohibitive to our ability to trade internationally then we shall do something about it.

Common sense doesn't even figure in a situation where displaying one's wares in pounds and ounces constitutes a criminal offence!

  • 4.
  • At 12:45 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Richard Browning wrote:

It was, in fact, that introduced the metric system to the French.

In 1668 the Englishman John Wilkins invented a system of measuring which offers properties identical to those of the metric system.

e.g.

http://www.metricationmatters.com/articles.html

I would also commend this website to you that you can better calm your fear of alternate bases:

http://www.lloydianaspects.co.uk/opinion/imperial.html

(i.e. to mutiply something by six in base six, you add a zero just as you would if you wished to multiply a base-10 number by 10.)

  • 5.
  • At 12:46 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:

"Certainly a victory of dogged British sentimental attachment to our system rather than one dreamed up by the pesky French."

Surely the Imperial system to which we are all attached is French also, as it is based on the Avoirdupois system of measurments?

  • 6.
  • At 12:47 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • MJM wrote:

Seems fair enough to me.

I'm sure importers/exporters etc will still quantify their products using the metric system but consumers will be able to continue purchasing in pints and pounds.

There is no point in using a measuring system people can't easily picture in their minds.

  • 7.
  • At 12:48 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Gareth wrote:

I am 26, was taught metric in school and am perfectly comfortable with using kilos, metres etc. It is important that we use metric measurements for standardisation. But if we people want to buy things in pounds etc. let them.

What I do object to is the media hype about this in which our ears are held hostage by vociferous, reactionary pensioners whose concerns, in my opinion, result rather more from dated 'imperial' mindsets rather than imperial measurements themselves.

  • 8.
  • At 12:49 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Ian Prior wrote:

Thought: Get the decimal point one place wrong, and you've got an error to the power of ten. Generally, errors with Imperial units are less, as they normally involve dividing in half, then half again, etc etc. Much easier to comprehend, I think!

  • 9.
  • At 12:50 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Lissa wrote:

The US has been saying it would go metric since before I was in primary school there in the 1980s. Even though we all learned the metric system, nobody there uses metric on a daily basis. That this will change in two years is a laughable proposition.

  • 10.
  • At 12:50 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Kenny MacLeod wrote:

Everyone in the country who is 40 and under have only ever been taught the metric system. The full conversion to metric should have happened a long time ago. This is bad news.

  • 11.
  • At 12:52 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Roger Canton wrote:

It is about time we joined the rest of the human race. Miles per hour for example: when everyone in the world uses Hours, Minutes, days of the week ect. ect. Everyone accepts Hours as a standard for measurement. Why don't we join them in their common acceptance of Kilometers? This would result in another part of the British Isles using a measurement accetable to everyone else. I call this a common-sense approach, they have no plans to revert back to using miles, so perhaps we should change after all?
Roger 9/11 2007

  • 12.
  • At 12:53 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Jack wrote:

Surely it would make sense for us to adopt a free market approach to this issue and allow the consumers to vote with their feet. The system to be used by the British public should be that which they want. People know how much they are getting with a pint, they know how far a mile is, so let's stick with imperial right now as it is a system that people can use. When enough people have been educated in the metric system, no doubt the public will demand that the metric system is adopted for everyday life. In the meantime, there will be a transitional period where we will no doubt have an overlap. But what's wrong with that? Since I was old enough to read I've known that a pint of milk was 568ml because it's embossed on the bottle. Just one example of the happy juxtaposition of imperial and metric.

Personally I think it's a shame to lose the intricacy and symmetry of imperial measurements - Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man being a beautiful example of how relevant these measurements are tied to man. Also I think it is to the detriment of coming generations to lose the measurements which make learning your times tables so important, but that is obviously something the political and educational establishment have not been worried about for quite some time.

L.S.,

I've recently discovered that for the first 50+ years after the end of French occupation, the Netherlands used a sort of mixed system, whereby a Dutch mile was a kilometre long, and a Dutch pound was a kilo. (These days, a lot of people still use the word pound to describe a half kilo, though.)

On a related note: correct me if I'm wrong, but I've always had the sneeking suspicion that a lot of containers, such as for milk, etc., contain metric quantities even if it says imperial on the outside. Eg. if you buy two pints of milk, you get a litre instead, simply because all these containers are made in one or a few places for all of Europe, and the only thing British about them is the lable, and possibly the milk inside.

  • 14.
  • At 12:56 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Anthony Reid wrote:

There should be no black and white attitude towards this. It is important with the unification of Europe that individual states maintain their own identity/culture and the British "pint" is, amongst many others, part of ours and should be protected.

However, the metric system is both easily workable and logical, and any argument against it (other than financing maybe) is based on simple-minded patriotism and anti Europe attitudes.

Europe is the most wonderful, diverse, culturally rich continent and we should be embracing what it has to show us and offer us.

  • 15.
  • At 12:57 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Mare wrote:

I have been sewing using both forms of measurments for over 30 years. It makes no difference to me which is used - when I sew it depends which side of the tape measure falls face-up as to whether I use inches or centimeters.
When I was a child I learnt imperial because thats what my parents used. At school we used metric. I have grown up in a metric society and have spent many years living in countries that only use metric.
If I had to choose I'd use imperial as its a more 'natural' scale (an inch being the length of my thumb joint, a yard being from my thumb to my nose, etc) and I can estimate much more accurately with imperial.

  • 16.
  • At 12:57 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Peter Moore wrote:

I think that the current system is alright - I work mainly in metric, only knowing my height and weight in cm and kg but I'd also hate to have to ask for "473 centilitres" instead of a pint when I go to the pub.

Why not just use what's easiest? Using miles and pints doesn't hurt us and as long as we measure things like the things we buy in the supermarket, petrol and carpet in metric measurements, we can compare to the continent. And that's the real point of any conversion to metric, the comparisons with other countries and making it easier for foreigners to understand our measurements.

  • 17.
  • At 12:58 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

It certainly is an imperial victory if, like me, you see the EU as imperial. Being told by an overseas power that we may continue to use our own weights and measures is as humiliating as being told that we may not.

  • 18.
  • At 12:58 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Paul Chapman wrote:


I much enjoyed Mark's contributions to This Week on BBC2 especially after 70cls of wine, or 250mls of fine Belgium Lager. On occasions I'd watch after drinking pints of English Ale. No matter how it was measured it all had the same effect. For goodness sake! Pick a sensible, common standard and use it every where.

I never learnt how to visualise temperature in Fahrenheit and now find it impossible to understand a weather forecast proclaiming temperatures over 100 degrees. Isn’t that boiling point? It’s the same with area’s. Test yourself. Can you describe an acre to me. You can’t huh? That’s how I feel about lbs and shillings. It is all just nonsense to me.

Abandon the stoneage legacy measurements now!

Just to demonstrate how European/Australian/South African I am, I even measure fuel consumption in litres per 100 Kilometres! (So there).

  • 19.
  • At 12:59 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Marwood wrote:

Of course it makes no sense but makes a perverse kind of sense because it's what the majority are used to. However many of us cannot go 'back' to imperial measurements, because we've never really used them.

I was schooled in the UK from the early eighties and think of everything, with the exceptions of long distances and beer, in metric.

I can no more understand the connection between feet, pounds, yards and stones than I can the intricacies of pre-decimal currency.

Although it's not ideal, it makes sense to turn a blind eye to the mile and the pint and keep everything else metric, even if it means a few illogical but comprehensible compromises such as miles per litre.

  • 20.
  • At 01:00 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Charles Brecknell wrote:

As an engineer who has worked with American & European colleagues for many years, I've got used to the various measurements in use. The British have a definite advantage in being conversant in both sets of units. One advantage of the old system of units is the numbers tend to be more convenient (0-16 oz of flour is a lot easier than 0-500 grams). This is creeping into the metric system too- European engineers still prefer Calories in preference to Joules, & use Bar instead of Pascals, both of which are non standard units. Errors are easier to make in metric units as you tend to be wrong by a factor of 10 or 1000.

In 1965 there were no calculators or PCs, so there was some sense in reducing the mount of calculation required (2 st 3 lb 5½oz at £4 6s 3¼d = how much?). We don't have that problem today, so let's have no more metric martyrs.

  • 21.
  • At 01:00 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Mark Chisholm wrote:

Interesting.
I was brought up in teh metric system which is clearly easier to use. I first went to school in 1972 which was the start of what was going to be a revolution. Unfortunately the reality is that metric has not fully taken over, even in the mainland Europe. Certainly industry has not embraced it fully and they are the ones holding back the sensible tide. Hydraulics - mostly imperial where ever you are. Pipes and fluid transfer - it's in inches once you move out of teh domestic scene. Work in the oil industry and because it's US dominated everything is in imperial - barrels of oil anyone? If you nip to your local electical shop you could buy a 42" screen or perhaps a computer with a 3 1/2" drive? If you really look at it carefully we still use imperial for 50% of measuring, even in the so called Eurozone countries.

  • 22.
  • At 01:01 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Gospel of Enoch wrote:

The plan was to prevent supplemnary, explanatory descriptions of goods sold using imperial units within three years, and that has now hopefully been rightly stopped.

You're quite right that the then British government was to blame - the MP who chaired the relevant committee was Francis Maude, the traitor who signed the Maastricht Treaty.

  • 23.
  • At 01:03 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

Excellent news. I love our miles and pints, they are part of us. Despite the best efforts by our "European" brethren we still have these measurements as part of our language. Long may it stay that way.

  • 24.
  • At 01:04 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Jo Edkins wrote:

I have a (neutral) website about Imperial Measures, giving tables and some history. I say there that Imperial Units are more fun, and have better history, but metric measurements are more sensible. I've had aggressive emails from both sides assuming that I disagree with them. Well, I do! I don't think it matters, frankly - as long as we agree on a system. People who get upset abou how you measure things are a little silly.

  • 25.
  • At 01:11 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Mr. David J. Sweeney wrote:

Metric vs Imperial is a strange contest. In engineering and science there is no contest. A uniform system, with simple relationships between the various units. Its very well suited to the kind of calculations and measurements that these subjects require. However, the imperial system grew up just as you suggest, with traders and common folk exchanging goods and money. The units were convenient for the types of transactions. A pint of beer or gallon of fuel were handy, human-related measures.
So the relationships between units, and even their subdivisions, take some effort to learn, but nobody needs to know all the relationships, unless that is their business (I do not know the number of pints in a pin, for instance) just those that are most useful. Business is more and more automated these days in any case, and modern appliances can all have converters built in if necessary. I see nothing troublesome about using one unit in preference to another. Its nothing to get het up about.
By the way, when we talk about 'metric' system, we do need to remember that there was c.g.s. then m.k.s. then S.I. and that there are calories and Calories and neither of those heat units are as well defined as they were supposed to be. How many Joules are there in a calorie again?

  • 26.
  • At 01:11 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Jonathan Rogers wrote:

Perhaps we in the UK should take a leaf out of Canada's book.

The Canadian government began metricating in the 1970s, but soon found that imposing an all-metric solution was impractical, expensive and, frankly, unwanted.

So in the same way that the Canadians have embraced two official languages, they find no contradiction in using kilometres for roads, but miles for aviation, shipping and railways.

Similarly, fresh fruit in Canada is widely sold by the pound, the kilo, the pint, the quart, the litre and the bushel as circumstances dictate.

I don't find Canadians remotely 'confused' on these matters nor do I think of them as 'backward' - they are simply free-thinking citizens of the world with a truly global outlook. Perhaps we would do well to emulate them!

  • 27.
  • At 01:16 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Brian O'Callaghan wrote:

How short sighted can people be?
It is absolutely inevitable that we will not remain in the old fashioned laughing stock situation for ever, so why do we not just get on with it and convert to metric measurements for distance and speed on our roads, volumes for our beer and milk, etc.
The Irish changed road signs etc not long ago, no idea why we did not do so at the same time.

Good article... the problem is you miss the fact that it's recently been discovered that the metric system wasn't actually invented by the French, but by an Englishman (John Wilkins, founder of the Royal Society).

Hopefully we can move forward now we've decoupled this silly argument from the "EU vs UK" thing - the fact that it's illegal for my local to sell me 1/2 litre of beer is just stupid. Even worse is the fact that the DfT consider 1 yard to be the same as 1 metre but won't allow the latter to be shown on road signs! Like so many people of my age (40) and younger I know that there are 1000 metres in a km but I don't know how many feet or yards in a mile... nor do I know how many are in 1/10 of a mile shown on my dashboard!

I really do hope for some sanity now!

  • 29.
  • At 01:20 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Tom wrote:

It has to be common sense. Let local people decide - isn't that what's subsidiarity is all about? Businesses will be keen to sell in whatever measure their customers want. Bureaucrats would love to standardise to justify their existence. But it's not always common sense to do so.

  • 30.
  • At 01:23 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Charles Jenkins wrote:

Mark Mardell heavily implies that 'common sense' dictates that we implement the metric system.
What he seems to overlook is the 'devil in the detail'; as with all good ideas the 'implementation' is fundamental.

Like it or not, news stories about 'metric martyrs' (ie those who refused to drop imperial measures) were bad for the European cause. Enforcing the metric laws were clumsily applied with some non-adherents receiving an anti-hero status.

Mardell would do better to ask whether it was appropriate to use criminal law as a means of enforcing the European metric policy.

Perhaps if the metric law had been passed in Westminster, as opposed to Brussels, opposition would have been less vehement.

  • 31.
  • At 01:24 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Andrew Leach wrote:

Much of business has already gone metric. Science has been metric for more than forty years.

Apart from the loss of heritage, which I would argue always has at least a subliminal effect in England (and probably the rest of the UK), the problem with metrication is the ridiculous units.

Even those on the Continent use feet and pounds, because there is no useful equivalent in the metric system. There are no matches for the inch and the gallon, which are just useful sizes.

And that's without the cost involved in changing every road sign for metric distances and speeds.

PS: I'm only just over forty. I didn't have to learn how to do Imperial arithmetic at primary school. But I can't see a problem in allowing consumers to choose the units in which to buy and compare prices.

  • 32.
  • At 01:24 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Glad to see not everything has to be about common sense. A little variety is good in life, and Europe.

But the point is, by allowing us to continue to use imperial measure where we want, we avoid the ridiculous. Nothing in this ruling stops industry or business using metric tonnes, metres or kilometres - what was wrong before was the prohibition, indeed the criminalization, of those who wanted to use an alternative.

I was only ever taught metric at school, but grew up in an imperial world, and I can imagine a mile but measure small distance in millimetres, and am happy with the contradiction! (And very happy to drink in pints, but that’s another story…)

  • 33.
  • At 01:32 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Graham Sinclair wrote:

To those fearful of losing their cherished pint of bitter, think on this. Metrication should make no difference whatever. To get a 500ml measure just ask your barman to pour his usual "short pint" into a pint glass/mug and he should be about spot on.

Meanwhile, can the rest of us escape from this quaint theme park?

  • 34.
  • At 01:33 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • David Sumner wrote:

It's the little differences such as these which make relations with our continental neighbours all the more enjoyable. Only the other day when accosted by a couple of French students looking for the Planetarium I pointed them in the right direction, by sending them along Marylebone for a furlong before turning right and following that road along for a couple of chains.

  • 35.
  • At 01:35 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Gavin Whittem wrote:

Yes, I totally agree with Mr Mardell. Lets stick rigidly to an out-dated Roman system of confusing measurements. The rest of the world with their new-fangled metric system are all wrong and we are right.

Utter Nonsense - It's about time we grew up as a nation and accepted that we are now in the 21st Century. Foreigners laugh at our stupid addiction to feet inches and miles!

  • 36.
  • At 01:36 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Luís Vicente wrote:

While I must confess the sort of "victories" England (or do the scots care aswell?) wins agaist the EU these days always make me smile, such is the diference between real importance and englander joy, one thing I have to coment on:

Pints. Why on Earth would a general incorporation of the metric system stop you from drinking a Pint. Cause you can drink them prety much everywhere in the metric continent already...

There's a German style micro-brewery here in Glasgow which got into trouble for selling half-litres of beer on tap. For a country that's meant to be ostensibly metric I find this ludicrous.

  • 38.
  • At 01:37 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Joe wrote:

And of course there was the case of the module produced jointly for the International Space Station by the Russia and the US that didn't fit together properly because the US engineers confused imperial and metric!

I learnt the metric system at school but you just get used to understanding the imperial measure that are part of every day life. However the metric system - mathemtically speaking - is clearly more logical and easy to work with.

  • 39.
  • At 01:39 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Paul Gwinnett wrote:

I have to agree, personally I don't understand why we persist with them.
We've been teaching metric in schools since the 70's but, we still insist on confusing our children with imperial measurements.

  • 40.
  • At 01:39 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Martin wrote:

As an American working in a metric industry and living on the Canadian border, I find it odd that after years and years of metric living, my friends in Canada still make and buy 2" by 4" inch lumber in foot lengths. Casual distances are still refered to as "about a mile". This is in a "metric" country. Imperial will die hard.

  • 41.
  • At 01:39 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Martin wrote:

I actually think that now that the European Union has backed off the UK is more likely to go metric. The metric system is simply much more sensible.

I asked a friend recently how many yards there were in a mile since he claimed English units worked perfectly for him. He had no idea... guessing at 1000.

The sole reason for keeping imperial units is nationalistic, obstinate defiance in the face of that hated enemy Europe.

It's the "empire" mentality at work; the unspoken fear that if we give up our units we'll truly, finally no longer have our empire.

  • 42.
  • At 01:40 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Chris Wharam wrote:

I think your missing the point entirely. On a day when it is reported that both Leicester and Birmingham will soon become plural cities – that is not any longer be English but made up of different ethnic minorities – shouldn’t we be celebrating something uniquely English the imperial measurement system.

I am currently staying in Thailand, and like many parts of the world the measurement system here is metric, something I have no problem with. However if I walked into an English pub and could no longer order a pint of bitter because of some EC bureaucratic dictate then I would know the last bastion of Englishness had fallen and England, having managed for so long to fight off invasion, had finally been taken over.

The irony is that France, along with many other EU countries, doesn’t abide by EC regulations. They soon get on their tractors and fishing boats and cause havoc with blockades until they get their way.

If we take you to mean that there should be standardisation throughout the world for the convience of trade you would no doubt want the world to use the same currency, the same language, the same food, religion etc etc. A totalitarian bland world of sameness – heaven forbid.

  • 43.
  • At 01:40 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Mark Thompson wrote:

The government has been deceitful by gradually quoting more and more data in metric. It also presides over a schools system where only metric is taught yet foreign languages and history are covered. With road signs still being in imperial (thank goodness) it is frightening to think that many of today's drivers don't know how far away that is if it's a potential danger or side road etc.
It is obvious that when over half of the population only understand metric there will be some kind of referendum which the government can't lose. So much far looking after the older generation or minorities

  • 44.
  • At 01:41 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Julian Rowden wrote:

Now that the issue of whether we use metric weights and measures has been de-coupled from our membership of the EU, perhaps now is the time to follow the rest of the English speaking world in adopting the metric system
(apart from the US - which has its own system of US miles, quite different in length from our imperial miles).

It would be a retrograde step if retail goods were to be sold in imperial measures again, but, in truth, it matters little whether beer is served in pints or litres.

It is in the area of traffic signs, however that the current system is, frankly, dangerous as well as insular and stupid.

There are ever more foreign registered vehicles on UK roads, especially lorries (just check the registrations of the HGVs on the motorway), and almost none of them will have a miles per hour readouts on their speedometers - yet we expect all of these vehicles to comply with our speed limits!

This is particularly so in Northern Ireland, where thousands of vehicles cross every day from the south, and since 2005 all new cars and HGVs in the Republic have been fitted only with km/h speedometers.

Some backward thinking local authorities still erect height and width restriction signs only displaying feet and inches - even though dual signage has long beeen legal in this country for this purpose. What is a foreign HGV driver supposed to make of these?

Isn't it strange that authorities go out of their way to publish material in all kinds of languages to help visitors and immigrants to this counntry, but cannot or will not help them by adopting a measuremnets system that virtually the whole world understands and would make our roads safer too?

If the rest of the world can learn English because it is the world language, we can at least learn to use the world weights and measures system.

  • 45.
  • At 01:42 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Rick wrote:

As a naive and young school leaver, I've pretty much grown up using metric measurements. If given imperial figures I need to convert them to metric just to understand the quantity they're describing.

Horrifying, perhaps, but maybe a sign that metrification is inevitable, though probably something primarily for the new generations for now. And it does mean I appreciate when stores provide metric measurements.

Of course, this isn't total - I still measure my beer and milk in pints, but I don't see how the EU could change that. Even if bars were forced to sell in 500ml, i'd still be nipping out for a "pint". Big deal, to be honest.

  • 46.
  • At 01:43 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Oscar from Spain wrote:

I think the UK should not be allowed to "opt-out" the metric system. I think it should be part of the package of being in the EU, like adopting the euro.

If people in the UK don't want to use metric system, drive on the right lane and use euros, they should just leave the European Union altogether.

Along with a lot of people in the rest of Europe, I'm tired of the UK (and the Poles more recently) always complaining about everything the EU does and trying to clip its wings.

  • 47.
  • At 01:44 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Australians have managed pretty well with the metric system. I mean, come on: 8 pints in a gallon (UK gallon, of course, US gallon is larger - I think), 14 pounds in a stone, 1760 yards in a mile, 12 inches in a foot, 3 feet in a yard! Wouldn't metric be simpler?

10 millimitres in a centimetre
100 centimetres in a metre
1000 metres in a kilomtre
and 1000 grams in a kilogram

You just need to remember that. And it's more accurate. Shouldn't be too taxing, really.

  • 48.
  • At 01:45 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Julia wrote:

My generation (early 40s) has grown up with a mish mash of imperial and metric measurements, with parents talking in feet, gallons and fahrenheit and school lessons given in centimetres, tonnes and celsius. Result? I cannot estimate height or distance for toffee, and do not instinctively use one system or the other. After years of driving holidays on mainland Europe however, I am a dab hand at dividing by 5/8...

  • 49.
  • At 01:47 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • stuart wrote:

When it comes down to it, what is being taught to children determines the future here - eventually the weight of opinion will shift across to metric completely as all those that use imperial retire (and/or die, depending on what particular measure is in question). A few elements of imperial might remain - so like the distance between stumps in cricket is still retained, you might also drink pints in the future despite everyone thinking of liquid volume in litres - but broadly in a generation or two metric will be used for almost everything.

  • 50.
  • At 01:47 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Dr Mark Savage wrote:

Mark, You are absolutely correct..except the metric system was invented in England and presented to the Royal Society, several years before the French revolution; so the French, or a French priest, (bless 'em all) stole a brilliant ENGLISH idea!

  • 51.
  • At 01:49 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Bruce wrote:

This whole thing smacks of an own goal proclaimed as a British victory!

Firstly, although the French were the first to introduce the metric system to their public the basic ideas were first proposed by Oxbridge scientist and Royal Society founder John Wilkins in 1668. We had the idea first. In contrast, the so-called "patriotic" imperial units were imposed on our poor population by Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman invaders. Hardly "made in Britain"!

Secondly, metric is easy to use which is why most of the world uses it. Why should we be held to ransom by a minority of noisy Luddites and jeopardise our education, retailing, manufacturing and internation trade by sticking to obsolete units.

I am 50 and I know how bad it is to learn imperial properly from my junior school. Thank goodness I had metric for secondary school, what a shame we still do not use it in this country!

  • 52.
  • At 01:52 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

What an utterly infantile and pathetic 'victory' this is. I was born in 1971. I was taught under the metric system, obtained swimming badges for 25 and 50 metres as a child, and worked for a manufacturing company using metric measurements. I did a 10K run on the weekend. What possible logical reason could there be for me (along with millions of others under the age of 36) STILL having to convert imperial measures into the metric ones that have been hardwired into me? It's akin to teaching us one language and insisting that we use another. Let's just do the intelligent thing and GO METRIC NOW!

  • 53.
  • At 01:52 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • NorthernMonkey wrote:

It's a triumph for the ignorant over the intelligent once again. What a surprise.

There's no hope for Britain because we're constantly held back by chavy, right-wing morons.

Anyone who thinks the 'imperial' system is easier to use and understand than the metric system should have their sanity questioned.

I don't understand pounds, ounces, fluid ounces, furlongs, gills, hundredweights and all of the other useless, out-dated methods of measuring things and neither would anyone of my generation or younger - but still we're forced to stick with dismal imperial for a few years more because the UKIP-voting imperial fascists tell us to.

Despite the fact that all of our former colonies from Ireland to Australia to South Africa to Jamaica have gone fully metric, we still associate the 'imperial' system with British sovereignty.

But then again we're British - why should we let intelligence and science rule over ignorance and nationalism eh? We're British, we're ignorant and we'll do things our way even though we're wrong. How depressing.

  • 54.
  • At 01:52 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Anthony Gooch wrote:

Mark:
We're delighted to play our part in saving the British pint and nailing the myth that we were ever the ones behind moves to ban it or the use of the mile and pounds and ounces.
That said, you give readers the misleading impression that pounds and ounces alone could be used by the UK.

The UK decided to go metric in the 1960s. What has effectively happened ever since is that it realised there was a proportion of people who wanted to continue using imperial aswell. As your online poll shows, most Brits use metric or a combination of both systems leaving those who only use imperial very much in the minority. To trade in the Single EU market and beyond there is no question that the UK would not label products in using, say, metric weights. What today signals is that the UK will continue to be able to also include the imperial weights alongside the metric for as long as it wants.

As far as pints and miles are concerned though, there is no requirement to offer half-litre glasses/bottles or kilometres alongside pints and miles.

Cheers!

  • 55.
  • At 01:52 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • james wrote:

First of all: what is metric?
The metric my parents learned was cgs which is obselete now. I learned SI but this is not used in Europe let alone here. Eg why are the road signs not in m/s (metres per second)?

SI is illogical: why is the unit of area not 1m² (square metre) and why is the unit of volume not 1m3 (cubic metre). The density of water should be 1g/l, where a gram would be a tonne & a litre would be 1m3

And the way areas and volumes are denoted is bizarre. km² in algebra would be k times m² but in SI it is (km)². This leads to huge jumps in quantity between m² and km² etc. Instead of km² being 1000m² it is 1000000m².

I work on railway bridges and whenever old drawings are retrieved they are in inches, feet, yards, chains & miles, & weights in pounds & tons, so I can't forget about imperial anytime soon.

  • 56.
  • At 01:53 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Keith wrote:

The issue is no longer about the metric system.

The point is we're supposed to be grateful that our own parliament is at last allowed to decide something. Could that right be taken away again if we decide the wrong way?

  • 57.
  • At 01:54 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Bob Orr wrote:

The US won't get rid of imperial measure. I live in Canada, which is metric...yeah? You buy lumber (wood) and it is displayed in centimeter sizes. But when you actually measure a plank it is 2 by 4 inches...or else the Americans wouldn't buy it.

You know, there is nothing intrinsically superior about the metric system (I'm a physicist). So, it involves multiples of 10. So what? Imperial Measure has its advantages since 12 or 16 have many more divisors than 10. The French were wrong about their revolution, and just about everything else... including the metric system.

  • 58.
  • At 01:55 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

Surprisingly, it’s a victory for common sense by the Commission. After all, why fight to the death for things that don't matter?

They have won the battle that mattered and furthered the single market, by insisting packaged goods must be metric. This means you can use the same machine to package goods for anywhere in the EU, without alteration or change.

But who would be blamed for upsetting people by insisting small niche markets must change, (e.g. serving pints of beer must end,) - step forward, the Commission.

Some sense at last!

  • 59.
  • At 01:55 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Kevin Boak wrote:

Can we now expect BBC reporters to use feet, yards and miles consistently, rather than the muddle of mixed units we hear in news reports at the moment?

  • 60.
  • At 01:55 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Donalda Bint wrote:

*sigh* - we only learn metric in school.

I am over 30, and metric is all I know, I have no idea why people keep using non-metric, but the media is also to blame, they talk in news reports of yards and feet and God knows what else, I assume they do not want to speak to the folk under 40.

I am happy using metric, why teach the kids it and then have all the signs up in miles? It is nonsense. Metric all the way!

  • 61.
  • At 01:57 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • P halford wrote:

Having just finished education i have no time for feet, inches and especially yards. when i buy petrol its in litres and wouldnt have a clue how many miles to the gallon. A pint should be changed to half a litre 500ml but keep the name. pounds and ounces need to be scrapped along with yards, stone and feet. lets hope they change them soon, having to learn to convert them was a pain in the backside. metric is more logical and easier for people to figure out.

  • 62.
  • At 01:59 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

What everyone fails to realise is that the UK Government abolished the pound and yard in 1963. The Weights and Measures Act 1963 replaced the old independant imperial pound and yard with ones based on the kilogramme and metre.

The Act states that: "The yard shall be 0.9144 metre exactly and the pound shall be 0.45359237 kilogramme exactly".

From that point on the yard and pound were mere abreviations for their metric definitions.

This means that all imperial scales (including the metric martyr's) in use since 1963 had been calibrated against the kilogramme and so were implicitly metric scales.

  • 63.
  • At 01:59 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Ian Young wrote:

First of all nearly every country in the world uses the metric system so to see as some totem of anti-EU seintiment is absurd and highlights the sort of bufoons attracted by Euroscepticism. Just grow up.

  • 64.
  • At 02:00 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • PHIL BROWN wrote:

The idea of the USA converting from Imperial to Metric measurements is just plain pie in the sky.
While industry and scientists use Metric units, the vast majority of the American people have little or no knowledge of, or interest in Metric units.
When my American wife asks me what the maximum temperature will be today, I have to convert the Celcius temperature from the weather forecast into Fahrenheit or she'll have no idea what to wear.

  • 65.
  • At 02:02 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • alan wrote:

Do we all wish our children to be mathamatically handicapped? When I was at school we worked in so many different mathamatical bases - ounces, pounds, stones, cwt (hundredweights) and tons - not to be confused with tonnes, pence, shillings and pounds. Inches,feet, yards, chains, furlongs and miles. In those days our minds were very active. Now, under E.U regulations all you have to remember is to multiply or divide by 10 (ten). How boring - enough to make even the least intelligent mind go to sleep!

  • 66.
  • At 02:02 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Simon Price wrote:

A pint of 20 fl.oz of beer would be good start.

  • 67.
  • At 02:02 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

I cannot drink a litre but a pint is just about manageable so alleluya!

  • 68.
  • At 02:06 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Liz wrote:

My 'metric-imperial confusion' is perhaps even more marked than some people's. I think of veg in £/lb...but weigh it out for dinner in g. Aged 33, I think of my bike rides in miles and height in feet & inches, but wouldn't be able to tell you how many feet there were in a mile--while it's obvious with m and km.

The 'problem' is perhaps that while metric is good for measuring the world (my 71yo dad is quite happy to survey trees in metres), the one aspect it's less intuitive for is things relating to humans. The foot was, after all, originally derived from someone's (rather large) pedal limb.

  • 69.
  • At 02:07 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • roger meyts wrote:

We will say goodbye to the Imperial measurements any time soon. The French still refer to prices in 'ancient francs' which were abolished in the 1950's eg the price of a second-hand linen turning machine (after being cut in the field) is currently around '80 millions' e.g. around £80,000.

  • 70.
  • At 02:07 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Steve Hackett wrote:

Common sense? Surely common sense == one system?

It is the fear of change that provokes the most irrational responses, hence the current messy half way house. Clearly we need one system - are we the only place left in the world to have a mish mash of two?

Every change towards metric provoked hysterical comments which then in the longer run turn out to be exactly that!

Put it back to what it was or move on, what shall it be?

  • 71.
  • At 02:12 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • T Hare wrote:

Our traditional measurements are also a history lesson.

Rods (poles or perches) at 16.5 feet (5.5 yards) were the length of a stick a boy would use to guide a team of oxen ploughing a field before ploughshares became efficient enough to pull with horses.

Four rods linked together will give us 22 yards or a chain. 10 chains make a furlong. One team ploughing could plough an area of one chain by one furlong (furrow long) in a day. This area became the acre.

The dimensions of such an area tell us about the shape of early mediaevel fields, long and narrow and evidence of such farming can still be seen from arial photographs (especially in dry years when the soil shrinks back)

Eight furlongs to a mile (1760 yards or 5280 feet)

OK it is cumbersome to learn such units but when a wealth of other historical and social knowledge comes with the package it is worthwhile.

We all memorised up to the 12 times table because of pennies and inches and our mental arithmetic is all the better for it.

People learnt to think in multiples of 12 and 14 and 20 (or even multiples of 21 when we had Guineas) as well as in multiples of 10 (I was at school for years before decimalisation and for some years after it so we learnt the lot!)

If every measurement is metricated then there will be no more questions left to ask about the origins of our units of weights and measure.

I am not very old (the clue is above) but I remember a time when a group of workmen in a pub on a Friday afternoon would be able to calculate the tax and national insurance on their wages in their heads (to check their paypackets) whilst simultaneously keeping accurate score of a game of 501 and work out what change to expect from their round at the bar and still have room to argue the higher maths of how much timber they would need to get for that weekend's DIY project and what it would cost before and after some discount.

They lived and worked in a world where they would measure and calculate everything themselves and pencils were a permanent fixture betwixt cap and ear. Rare was the fag packet that got thrown away without any calculations scrawled on it. (And even kids who left school to start work at 14 in the old days had long division burnt into their very soul.)

Today there are two generations of people who probably cannot even do all that with the aid of a calculator and get the same answer twice in succession.

  • 72.
  • At 02:20 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Ian Price wrote:

I agree, quirky and loveable but hardly common sense.
I sat my O Levels in 1969 in metric units, my working life has always been fully metric, the DIY shop is fully metric, most of my supermarket purchases are in metric units, etc etc but, yes, I still think of my weight in stones and distances in miles.
I've never had a problem with market traders working in lbs but isn't it time we moved on, not because of the EU, but because it makes a lot of sense.

  • 73.
  • At 02:20 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Jake Visser wrote:

It all sounds innocent enough at this point I'm sure. hang on to pounds and pints as well as the metric system. But you might want to look at Canada. We converted to the metric system in 1976 but the pound hung in there as a measure in the grocery store. Other concessions were made to traditional measure, especially in construction and farming, with the result it's now a complete muddle. Additionally concessions were made to the auto industry to use litres per hundred kilometers as a measure for fuel ecomony (this produced a nice large number for the gas guzzlers at the time) The only result of all of this is confusion, not culture.
Don't make the same mistake. Dump the imperial system entirely. Accept the metric system, unmodified, and in a generation or so the furlong will be forgotten, as it should be.

  • 74.
  • At 02:21 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • plkrtn wrote:

Roger:
"It is about time we joined the rest of the human race. Miles per hour for example: when everyone in the world uses Hours, Minutes, days of the week ect. ect."

I'm not sure what you are trying to suggest here... We now measure distances in units of time?!

Whilst I have no problem with the keeping of imperial measurements in a dual role, if we were to go to just one of these measurements, metric is the way to go. The imperial system is far more confusing than base 10, and anyone who thinks the 10 times table is harder than the mixed imperial system is living in the past.

  • 75.
  • At 02:22 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

I can't believe the 'little Englander' rants being levelled at anyone who wants to retain the right for the UK to choose its own system.

I simply believe that every country in Europe should be free to choose the system that works for them. I'm under 40, am perfectly at ease with the metric system but still like to order pints and pounds and travel over miles.

Why are there people who want to force counties to conform in areas that have minimal impact on the workings of europe? I've not heard of Europeans coming to the UK and speeding/causing accidents in numbers because they don't understand our signs or getting excessively drunk because they ordered the wrong drink size!

If at some point the dual systems cause a problem then change them but until then the 'little authoritarians' should relax and enjoy each country's individuality.

  • 76.
  • At 02:24 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

I did an English coursework on the mile issue, and how it represented the issue raised by Mark about European control over Britain. I asked my class which they prefered, with 14 out of 15 saying they prefered miles and one even saying 'I don't know how far a Kilometre is' so all this about old people only understanding and using imperial measures is not exactly true.

  • 77.
  • At 02:24 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Joanne Watkins wrote:

As a 25 year old I don't think anything of the argument as I have grown up with the two systems side by side... I drive in miles yet I run in metres and kilometres, I buy a pint of milk yet I drink from a 2 litre bottle of lemonade and I weigh myself in stones and ounces yet I cook using measurements in grams!

All the calculations I hopelessly try to do in my head to get from one to the other can only be good for my brain power, even if it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever!

  • 78.
  • At 02:24 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

I think at supermarkets, markets (whatever remains of them), pubs, etc. they should use both measurements, road signs should be in both also. I can empathise with the point of view of the people who don't understand metric, I can only understand metric but I live in London and when people tell me they or their sister had a baby that weight seven - eight pounds (or whatever, it all sounds like blahh blahh in my head) I have images of them with a cute little elephant next to them. So I'd say have them both at least until people feel comfortable with the metric system.

  • 79.
  • At 02:41 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Paul Odtaa wrote:

What I like is the fact Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Malta and other Commonwealth countries decided to go metric to harmonise with - er Britain - because we were going to change over about 45 years ago.

  • 80.
  • At 02:42 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • RJ wrote:

The Irish changed from miles to kilometres without the sky falling in. Anybody who says it would be confusing is calling me thick.

  • 81.
  • At 02:43 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • JB wrote:

The conversion of our measuring systems is not really about changing to 'the' metric system. There are many metric systems and there are two in common usage in the UK (the cgs and MKS systems). For example, the calorie is the unit of energy in the cgs system and the watt is the unit of power in the MKS system and both units are in common usage. It is not a French plot to change British tradition or confusion. The media and some politicians are being irresponsible in distorting the issue. None of the lager swillers or politicians would notice the difference between a pint or 1/2 a litre.
The issue is more complex than that and relates to the adoption of the SI system which is metric, but more importantly, unifies the various energy systems so that we have the same units for the same quantities. This removes the need for extremely cumbersome and unnecessary conversions. It is used by the UK and US physicists (since 1948)and other sciences as well as many engineers. We need informed uniformity in the world on this issue...not the word of the UK market stalls!

  • 82.
  • At 02:46 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • David Rose wrote:

Imperial will die a natural death over time - my kids only understand metric - so the change will happen all by itself eventually.

  • 83.
  • At 02:49 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

Who says all the Brits want to keep the Imperial system. I was taught cm, m, g & kg at school, frankly I don't have a clue how to calculate a mile or a foot. It is absolute garbage - a complete anachronism.

Nobody really bats an eyelid when they are served a Czech beer from a 500 ml bottle into a large glass. They don't even realise it is not in a pint glass.

It is just downright confusing having to guess measurements such as pounds and ounces, when we taught (sensibly) in metric.

  • 84.
  • At 02:51 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Dave Brown wrote:

The imperial system is neither common nor sensible. The metric system is common to about 96% of the world's population and it makes complete sense - it is a real system. Common sense? that'll be metric then.

  • 85.
  • At 02:51 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Joanne wrote:

I am in my late thirties and can therefore happily function in both metric and imperial. There is one exception to this rule, however - temperature. High temperatures are measured in Fahrenheit ("it's 90 today!"), whereas low temperatures are in Celsius ("it was minus five last night!"). Why is that?

  • 86.
  • At 02:58 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • David wrote:

Although loose produce may only have been allowed to be priced in metric measures as recently as the year 2000 (despite many other foodstuffs and products being metric for several decades), let's not forget that we had been preparing for this since before the 1970s and that since that time every Briton has been educated in metric at school: over two generations of students and fast approaching half of the population.

Many of us cursed the Government for its slothfulness in sending us out of school into the supposedly "real" world which had not caught up with what we had been taught! What were these strange measurements the old folks were burbling on about?

Having committed such resources to teaching and using the world's standard system of measurement (that the rest of the EU is metric should not really be the issue at stake: think of all of the Commonwealth nations which successfully made a smooth transition to metric, in the seemingly misguided expectation that the "mother country" would also do the right thing), there is no way we should or could go backwards.

Despite the claims of imperial supporters, most people who were not taught in imperial do not understand its myriad of measures and confusing conversion factors (how many ozzes in a pound, again?). Evidence of mistakes caused by this is seen almost every day in the media. Metric, on the other hand, is easy to learn and use, and while "imperial-native" people may need a short time to re-acclimatise, these are the people who managed to make the transition to decimal currency without any difficulty. Nobody would ever suggest reverting that change.

While Commissioner Verheugen may consider imperial measurements a delightfully quaint jolly jape to encounter when on holiday for a few weeks, he obviously doesn't realise the confusion that they cause when they continue to butt in to a mostly-metric measurement system every single day. We may walk a few hundred metres to the railway station, but then travel at 100 mph over several hundred miles (but at 300 km/h when travelling to France, or indeed, to Brussels). We buy our tv stands measured in cm, but what size do we need to support a tv screen measured in inches? It's a mess!

For all that it matters, keep the pint of beer for those that really want it (an extra 68 ml mouthful is really neither here nor there, and the beers I prefer tend to come in 1/2-litre bottles in any case), but we must finish the long overdue task of completing going metric in all other regards, including a gradual transition to km distances on our road signs, and metric height warning signs to help prevent bridge bashes by confused continental lorry drivers: a very real cost of keeping imperial measurements around long past their use-by date.

  • 87.
  • At 03:01 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

I'm in favour of changing imperial system for metric, simply because it is more useful. But we can keep some traditional units, because they are part of our culture. Pints for example. You can't imagine how many people visit England in order to get a "pint of beer". After all, a pint is more then 0,5 a litre :)

  • 88.
  • At 03:03 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Val wrote:

The commentary only serves to illustrate that sense in Great Britain is far from common! I am proud to be multilingual, and rather enjoy being fluent and literate in more than one language that is written in more than one alphabet. In addition, I am fluent and functional in more than one system of measure, and can be equally comfortable and accurate with it in the US, in England, and in continental Europe, so whatever you decide is perfectly suitable for me. What shall we debate next? Shall we row about whether to use the Gregorian or Julian calendar? I have no problem whatsoever celebrating Christmas on December 25 or January 6! Just take care how you direct your contempt. Like it or not, the United Kingsom is a part of Europe! It can't be a part of Asia, or Africa, or North America, and the climate would be totally unsuitable for Antarctica. Common sense indeed!

  • 89.
  • At 03:08 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Natalia Brittain wrote:

I prefer the imperial system, but can use the metric system also...whats all the fuss about!!!!

Lets just all be friends xxxxx

  • 90.
  • At 03:12 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Tom wrote:

I must admit, I used to be rabidly anti-Imperial - until I moved to Japan and found that here, although metric is the dominant system, the old Japanese system of weights and measures co-exists quite comfortably alongside it. I know what a of saké, rice or beans looks like - I'm not sure I could visualise 180ml with the same ease. Similarly, I know that my apartment is 53 square metres because it says so on the rental agreement - but I think of it as being composed of a certain number of rooms all of which are multiples or fractions of a - the standard area of a tatami mat. I think of beer in pints in the UK or half-litre or third-of-a-litre cans in Japan because that's what I'm used to. I don't use a car here so I measure distance in terms of time taken on the train or on foot, rather than in miles or kilometres. I know my height and weight in both metric and Imperial as I have to translate from one to the other whenever I talk to my parents. The Canadian system outlined above by another poster makes a lot of sense to me: basically I think we are all capable of handling two or three different systems at the same time as long as we have some kind of personal experience of the thing we are talking about. The only thing I have never been able to grasp is Fahreheit: get rid of that and I don't care what you measure anything else in!

  • 91.
  • At 03:12 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Alex, Paris wrote:

The british people seems to be obsessed by the EU. I think, like every other country, they should freely choose to stay out of the Union. Nobody will miss them!

  • 92.
  • At 03:14 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Ian Beech wrote:

I was brought up with the Imperial system, but then started work in Laboratories using the Metric system. I can work in both, but not at the same time. Now in my sixties I still tend to use Imperial most of the time and my (American)Motorcycle has an engine of 88Cu.Inches. Base 12 is much easier in many ways being divisible by 2,3,4 and 6 whilst base 10 is only divisible by 2 and 5.We had it right with quantities based on quantities that people could recognise on a day to day basis.

  • 93.
  • At 03:16 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Matthew Seigel wrote:

In these days of calculators, mobile phones that can add, multiply, divide etc and even have conversion rates, is it really that difficult to convert? Or is it just down to being brain lazy? Just let people have what they want...I, for one. am against dumbing down...I can actually use my brain to calculate something outside of base 10, but if you cant, use your PDA....

  • 94.
  • At 03:20 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Richard Quin wrote:

It is a fact that despite eleven years of compulsory education no one can use imperial measurements. How many fluid ounces in a pint? How many pounds in a ton? How many yards in a mile? How many gallons in a barrel? These simple questions are all impossible of answer. I have been asking imperialists for years - what is the length of a side of a garden that measures one acre? To date I have yet to receive an answer that is remotely accurate.

We had a similar reaction when the currency was decimalised. But now everyone understands the advantage of a metric currency, how many would want to return to pounds, shilling, pence (and farthings)?

The reason why we must change to metric is simple. The cost. The cost of doing calculations in imperial is many times that of metric; even if you can find someone who can carry out calculations in imperial. Quick now - add 12st 11lb 15oz to 11st 13lb 10oz. Multiplication using imperial is even more difficult. A room measures 3yds 2ft 7ins by 2yds 1ft 5ins. What is its area?

To frame it as 'no longer able to buy a pint' is just rediculous. Of course you can buy a pint, you just would call it something else. Given as there is slightly more in half a litre than a pint I would have thought more people would have been up for it. I think it simply narrow minded stubborness the refusal to change over. It wasn't even a british measurement to begin with. So I suppose in 50 years Brits will still be talking about Sterling, pounds and ounces and eating fish and chips in the Costa del wherever? Nice to see you are just as human as the rest of us. Get with the program and stop being silly about it.

  • 96.
  • At 03:24 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Anna wrote:

It's true that the UK did choose by itself to switch to metric before it joined the EEC (as it was back then). And to say that the USA uses imperial measurements is not quite accurate, when not using metric they use a system called "United States Customary Units" (USCU) which is based on imperial but has some significant differences.

Many other countries have switched successfully from miles to km on their roads with great success, we could too if we had the will to do so.

The sooner one system is used the better it will be. Sadly UK governments have failed to adopt full metrication.
With two systems it produces confusion.
The cost of changing to all metric road signage will be high; to delay this will mean even higher costs in the future.

  • 98.
  • At 03:31 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Conan, Dublin wrote:

Changing from miles to kilometers is neither impractical or confusing - we did it in Ireland a few years ago - no problems!

  • 99.
  • At 03:34 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

Well if our government gave us a vote on it, like it should, we would leave and we'd be much better off. I doubt we would be missed, then again we wouldn't miss you lot either so there you go. We signed up for a common market, not a European Union, in the 1970s so how the British Government can claim a mandate on the issue is beyond me. On the metric issue (as my last comnment didn't post) the view that imperial will die out with the old generation isn't exactly true. I asked my English class, as I was writing a coursework about metrification and the loss of British sovereignty, which they prefered: Mile or Kiolmetre. 14 out of 15 said Mile. We've gone Metric where we need to, why not just leave it as it is?

  • 100.
  • At 03:46 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Elizabeth wrote:

To all those who are "under 40" and complaining about having to still use the Imperial system despite having grown up and been educated in the Metric system - well I am the same as you!

I am 32, was educated in the Metric system but am completely at home in both systems depending on what I am doing at the time!

I am also a seamstress (making historical costumes) and cannot imaging a 28 inch waist in centimetres. It doesn't visually make any sense to me! Neither does height or weight. Prefer imperial for those.

I really can't see what the problem is. Let the two systems work side by side.

The whole "metric martyrs" effect occurred because the British People were being TOLD WHAT TO THINK!

To those of you who are wanting and demanding a wholesale turn to Metric, are you really wanting your fellow country men to be told want to think? Are you going to set yourselves up as some kind of Thought Police, throwing people into prison because they have muttered about measurements in inches????

Shame on you.

Why not work with both units of measurement - then everyone gets exactly what they want.

When I buy loose fruit/veg or ask for meat or cheese in weight in the shops, I religiously request it in Imperial. Because it is NOT illegal and has not BECOME illegal for me as a customer to ask for it in Imperial. Only one time did I get a young baby behind the counter say nervously that he didn't know what half a pound of cheese looked like. I directed him and was spot on when it was weighed! He said what a good idea that was!

Electronic weighing scales can easily show measurements in imperial and metric - so it really is not an issue in itself.

It becomes an issue when it criminalises what people are thinking. THAT was the real reason for the Metric Martyrs.

  • 101.
  • At 03:51 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

My husband and I were pleasantly surprised when we visited England and realized that we could read the road signs (although figuring out how much "petrol" we were purchasing, and how much it cost, and how much we were using per mile, was beyond us). I know, we Americans are hopelessly backward, we use yards, feet, inches, gallons, quarts, ounces and pounds. I know for myself, if the perfume or wine bottle, the cereal box or the cheese round reads "European", I go looking for something marked in measurements I can read. Keeps me drinking California wine and eating English cheese! In the US, this decision would be determined by the cash register, not our neighbors or even our politicians.

  • 102.
  • At 03:51 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Dom wrote:

I'm a 32-year-old Briton and I'm as familiar with imperial as I am metric.

Many people of my age group use a hybrid of the two systems. I think of weights in pounds and ounces and measurements in feet and inches. However, below an inch, I tend to think in millimetres.

I think of liquid measurements in pints, but also in litres and millilitres.

'Not standard,' perhaps, but so what? I know I'm six foot one tall. I have no idea what that is in centimetres and I really don't care! If I read that a room is 10'x12', I know exactly how big that is!

The country near to us to whom we are most tied, in terms of language and culture, is America and the chances of them changing to metric anytime soon, nationwide, are pretty remote!

And, at the end of the day, given some mean remarks here about our already much-abused pensioners, who cares?

Are people going to be tortured to death because many of us still prefer imperial measurements?

We have bigger things going on in the world that require British tax contributions than busybody inspectors and spies being sent into shops to see what their weighing scales look like!

  • 103.
  • At 03:52 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Dan wrote:

I am in my 40's was only taught metric at school but was then expected to operate in a world were the previous generation only ever talked in Imperial.

The majority of the Commonwealth has changed. The US has agreed to change but it will be decades before they actually change.

Give it another generation and there will be no one left ever taught imperial.

We will still order pints of beer, in some pubs we will get 500ml in others it will be 568ml and we will not care.

With the number of European HGV drivers around gradually replacing the road signs with both measures probably makes sense.

  • 104.
  • At 04:07 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • ward wrote:

To all those people who say "it can't be done", it can. Australia decided in the early 70s to convert to metric, and just got on with it. There was no changeover period of using both systems, they simply woke up one day and were metric. People very quickly got used to it. Britain supposedly went metric 42 years ago, and still has not managed to complete the transition. What on earth does this say about us as a nation?

  • 105.
  • At 04:13 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Bill Brown wrote:

The most important "standardisation" that the EU should be aiming for is that of language, which is the biggest obstacle to a fully-integrated and uniform Europe.
Without any disrespect to my Netherlands friends, it might be very appropriate to adopt Double-Dutch as the standard European language !!

  • 106.
  • At 04:14 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • John Harvey wrote:

Interesting timing of this announcement. Wouldn't have anything to do with that pesky EU treaty would it and thus enabling His Scottishness, the great GB, to claim a significant victory against those un-elected bureaucrats in Brussels?
One of his 'red lines' still intact? Surely not!

Thanks to everyone out there who has supported the campaign.
We couldn't have done it without you.
Neil Herron and Leigh Thoburn

  • 108.
  • At 04:17 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • steve wrote:

The biggest barrier to movement of people is language, not measurements. I don't travel to france to buy my weekly shop so why change it?

  • 109.
  • At 04:19 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • charles wrote:

new members are being admitted in the eu..the blueprint for a common constitution has fallen through.. uk has stronger links in political, economical and cultural aspects with the u.s than with the rest of europe..and now this..this is not important for domestic business, but what about the exports.. is it not the moment for europe to get rid of britain?

  • 110.
  • At 04:28 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • B Selman wrote:

To those who think metric is simpler- do you really find it easier to understand the weather forecasts when they talk about "80 millimetres of rain" instead of "3 inches"

  • 111.
  • At 04:31 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • B Selman wrote:

Who is our biggest single trading partner? The US.
What system do they use?
Imperial.

  • 112.
  • At 04:33 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Alexander wrote:

I agree that this should be our decision, not that of the EC.

However, I think we should switch to metric as soon as possible.

  • 113.
  • At 04:36 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • John Tait wrote:

The pint in the pub is a volume as well as a unit, i.e. it is specifically one pint, and it isn't just a unit - so of course we keep it. And of course it's impractical and pointless to change the road signs and the literature associated with the road.

However, we should have the foresight to ditch this complex imperial insanity. No wonder the UK is becoming a scientific backwater since we can't measure anything properly. We are a global laughing stock.

"My Grandad died in the war defending the British thermal unit per square foot hour degree Fahrenheit" - good grief.

  • 114.
  • At 04:38 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Michael Commdon wrote:

Instead of complaining about the "Pesky French", you should instead realise that the metric system was invented by an Englishman!

John Wilkins, the founder and first secretary of the Royal Society, created a base-10 system in 1668, over a century before the French proposed and adopted their system in the 1790s!

It's this kind of blatant disinformation that keeps the UK and even the US from finishing their conversions to metric. By demonising the system as a tool of the evil, sadistic French, you instead hamper England's discovery and hold back everyone who wants to use a unified system of measure.

Let's hope those at Westminster don't let us down. Pounds & miles are familiar, sure, but it's time to let them go! Same goes for the septics across the Atlantic.

  • 115.
  • At 04:40 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Joanne B wrote:

The US convert to metric within two years?

You need a new information source. Most people here have no clue when it comes to the metric system.

Metric is definitely better, but conversion should not be forced. Displaying new mileage signs in both miles and kilometers would allow for the gradual integration of the new system.

  • 116.
  • At 04:45 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • NorthernMonkey wrote:

To B Selman:

Yes, 80mm is 8cm - easy.

What's the problem?

However, if someone were to ask how many yards are in a mile or to visualise a fluid ounce or a furlong then I wouldn't have a clue.

I wish this country would wake up, join the 21st century and adopt metric entirely.

  • 117.
  • At 04:51 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • SG wrote:

I'm 29 - with the exceptions of my own height and weight, mileage when driving, and the pint of beer - I always use the metric system for measuring stuff because, and even the most diehard Europhobe would admit it, it's simpler.
I have never been taught the imperial system, and that has nothing to do with Europe, but the education system in the UK.
I'd suggest that those wanting to safeguard the system should fight their battles elsewhere!

Having lived in the US for a number of years now I cannot foresee the US switching to metric in 2 years time. A number of years back an attempt was made to introduce metric and it hasn't caught on. And it isn't going to in the the next 2 years either.

  • 119.
  • At 05:04 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • peter wrote:

80 mm is 80 liter per square meter.
3 inch is what? barel per square yard????

OK, the little Englanders have had their symbolic victory. Can we have the euro now?

I've just got so fed up with the whole thing that I decided to take decisive action.

I do not have any non-metric measuring instruments in my house - most things including my bathroom and kitchen scales were purchased in France so I cannot measure things in imperial units.

When I deal with anybody else I will only talk in metric. If somebody quotes me prices or speaks in imperial units I tell them I don't understand. Usually I get what I want.

In my car I have my Sat Nav set to metric. I only think of distances in metric and I know what all the speed limits are in km/h.

I've actually found life a lot easier. I never make mistakes because I won't convert. I have a clear understanding of the relationship between my weight and the food I eat. I never need a calculator and I don't need to know how many furlongs there are in a fortnight!

Anybody can do this if they want... the more who do, the quicker we'll change!

  • 122.
  • At 05:20 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Ronald Grünebaum wrote:

What a silly little country the UK is!

The national well-being depends on keeping some bits of an inferior measurement system. The British are not the strongest on logic, but this is a real beauty. First, the UK decides in 1965 (no EC involved, obviously) to go metric and then stops doing so in 1972 (again no EC involved). Now in 2007 the Commission just grew tired and allows these silly people to keep their silly measurements.

But again, many europhobes find nothing better to say than that this is just another example of the EU meddling in British affairs. You guys need therapy, urgently.

  • 123.
  • At 05:22 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • tony burleton wrote:

The height reported by aircraft has always been and will always be in thousands of feet, regardless of pressure from Russia and China to use metres. For the separation of aircraft flying on instruments under air traffic control 1000 feet is a very convenient measure to use. Trying to work out separation at 500 metres complicates the system and has been the cause of accidents including one in Hong Kong where there was confusion between metres and feet. I find it annoying that news reporters insist on using metres in reference to altitude.

  • 124.
  • At 05:25 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • David wrote:

The whole fuss is ridiculous - I think it's been British government policy to move towards the metric system since before we even joined the Common Market.

Does anyone seriously regret decimalisation and believe we were better off with guineas, shillings and half crowns?

No. I didn't think so...

  • 125.
  • At 05:33 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • David wrote:

I am one of the oldies [67years old] who tended to think quite naturally, in Imperial measurements.
However over the years I have trained myself to think in metric because I have come to realise that it is by far the most sensible system.
What I cannot stand is the UK’s years of indecision, whereby we still have the two systems. I think it is sheer madness and very confusing and frustrating.
I would prefer to go all out for metric, including getting rid of the pint and miles AND driving on the left hand side of the road.
I just do not understand why this is supposed to make me feel less British.

  • 126.
  • At 05:41 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Oliver wrote:

Given that large scale commerce and trade is already done in metric largely, this probally won't make too much difference, accept to market traders. I remain a man of the simpler, easier to calculate metric system, for those reasons and because a common system facilitates international trade better.
I guess the loser out of today's announcement will be the Euro-sceptics, as it rather underminds the point the EU doesn't care or doesn't listen.
It also draws attention to the fact this was an issue started by British government, and ultimately, if the law is finnally changed, will be finished by the British government.
In addition, there is no reason why pints could not be sold. In Finland in fact, despite there not be a strong tradition of imperial measurements, beer companies sometimes release special cans of beer at 568ml, or 1 pint, apparently in a reference to the UK. Infact, were the law to change there is nothing to stop you from walking into a pub and ordering a pint, you'll get what you want, it will simply be considered legally to be 568ml.
That said, I think this rather delays the inevitable, given that people whined and moaned before decimilzation of money in the UK, and now would never consider going back, I'm sure similar things would happen with metrics.

  • 127.
  • At 05:50 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Lee Hootnick wrote:

The Canadian experience may be a useful guide for those wishing to change over to metric.
It works best when it is mandatory and is enacted through a government/industry collaborative effort.
Examples are:
- gasoline (petrol) stations sell and advertise in litres ONLY.
- road signs read in kilometres ONLY both for distance and speed limits.
As for the propects of our American friends to the south executing a metric conversion in the near future - not likely, given the fact that most Americans, even those living near the Canadian border, are clueless and uninterested in metric. It is not ususual for a Canadian to politely inform an American that Toronto's temperature in July can often exceed 30 degrees (Celsius) but that doesn't mean you have bring along a winter coat!

  • 128.
  • At 05:53 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Lee Hootnick wrote:

The Canadian experience may be a useful guide for those wishing to change over to metric.
It works best when it is mandatory and is enacted through a government/industry collaborative effort.
Examples are:
- gasoline (petrol) stations sell and advertise in litres ONLY.
- road signs read in kilometres ONLY both for distance and speed limits.
As for the propects of our American friends to the south executing a metric conversion in the near future - not likely, given the fact that most Americans, even those living near the Canadian border, are clueless and uninterested in metric. It is not ususual for a Canadian to politely inform an American that Toronto's temperature in July can often exceed 30 degrees (Celsius) but that doesn't mean you have bring along a winter coat!

  • 129.
  • At 06:01 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • John Wells wrote:

Being in my early 60's, I was educated in imperial measurements. However, I am equally at ease with metric. I often use a mixture of standards when measuring lengths; whichever bit of the tape-measure happens to round up or down to the nearest inch/centimetre. Temperature is a bit of an oddity. I grew up with Fahrenheit, but have got used to Centigrade.

But the imperial/metric debate comes apart at the seams when the media insist on describing area in 'football fields', length in 'London buses' and height in 'Nelson's columns'. Which system is that?

  • 130.
  • At 06:06 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Regis wrote:

Well, all this fuss about the pint...
And why then did nobody complain when at the pub spirits switched from being sold in fluid ounces to mili-liters?
Could it be because 25ml is bigger than a fluid ounce?
I bet there would have been less complaints had the UK pint had the same value as the US one (US Pint = 473 ml < 1/2l = 500ml < UK pint = 568ml).

If when the Imperial units were redefined relative to metric ones they had been rounded like 1 pound=1/2Kg, 1 pint = 1/2 liter, 1(fluid)ounce = 0.25g/0.25ml, 1 yard = 1 meter and so on the switch to metric would have been a whole lot easier.

  • 131.
  • At 06:14 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Deb wrote:

I'm a Brit living int he US, and having been taught at school only in metric, it has taken me some time to adjust to the exclusive use of imperial here. It's far more than miles, they do not use metric anywhere other than the medical field, that I have found!

If the UK moves back to use of the imperial system exclusively the youngest generations will have to adjust, to what is really a more complicated system of measurement!

Give it a few years and numbers of those who grew up exclusively using imperial in the UK will [however sadly] dwindle, and it will be less of an issue!

  • 132.
  • At 06:30 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • malcolm wrote:

The government knows that it would never get support to abolish pints,miles etc so to bolster its opposition to a Treaty referendum that would give a resounding NO to Europe gets its pals in the EU to graciously allow us to keep the system of weights and measures 78% of the British people want.
Talk about cynicism!
No wonder the EU is so unpopular in Britain

  • 133.
  • At 07:03 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Bernard wrote:

To all those saying it can't be done: ample examples have been given of countries making the switch in the second half of this century.

But let's not forget the many countries that did make the change successfully long ago, in an era when education wasn't as widespread as it is now.

Saying it can't be done is nothing more than a laziness to make the change.

As for the imperial system: which one? There are still a few versions left, and I'm sure we could find out what the many versions on the European continent were.

  • 134.
  • At 07:03 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Nathan wrote:

Ridiculous. It's time you Brits just bit the bullet and moved on with miles to kilometres.
As an Aussie I think beers will always be able to have different names. "Pint" can be your one for "beer size". No big deal.

But miles: come on! As for everyone bleating about replacing speed signs: where exactly do you have proper speed signs? Your current road system is based around knowing (passed down through word of mouth almost) that blue signs mean one thing, the red cross means another and about the only thing labelled is the 30 mile zones.

It will eventually happen, the mile makes as much sense as a furlong or any other bygone era measurement. If "tradition" is the only reason you've got it's a wonder you ever moved beyond slavery and serfdom.

  • 135.
  • At 08:06 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Joanne wrote:

Re Oscar from Spain - for your information, I would LOVE my country to pull out of the European Union! There is nothing I'd want more than not to have to put up with interfering, officious, nitpicking people from Brussels telling my country what to do all the time! I hate the EU and if only it were up to me, I would take the UK out of the EU right this instant. Just because we no longer have an empire does NOT mean we should let any other country tell us what to do! Britain should pull out of Europe and I would be overjoyed if that were to happen!

  • 136.
  • At 08:08 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Eoghan wrote:

To all those who say that Britain is the only country in the EU that doesn't use metric - go to Ireland some time. I'm 19, was always educated in nothing other than metric, and guess what - I always convert signs from kilometres to miles every time. If I ever try to use km in Ireland, people pretend they know what they are, but the truth is that in all but name, we Irish are exactly the same as ye Brits when it comes to units of measurement, with a few exceptions: nobody knows what Fahrenheit is, cars are always measured in metres, petrol is always by the litre, and people do us sq metres for houses from time to time, nobody buys Pints of milk either(well sometimes people will say they bought a Pints, but really it was half a litre).

But here is a list of things we Irish still do the British way:Golf(Yards; I know some courses, including the one where I usually play use metres), Horses(heads, hands, Furlongs, miles,stone), when we weigh ourselves(stones and pounds), measure our heights(feet and inches), Fuel Consumption(miles per gallon), going to the pub(Pints), buying certain items(Pounds of sausages, Rashers etc), Cars/Roads(plenty of people still use mph and miles[especially miles], used cars before 05 will have the mileage displayed in miles), dog races(Yards again), when we go to try on clothes, the size of the waist,leg etc is in inches, Houses(Square Feet), Room diameter(feet and inches), talking about vehicles' power(bhp/hp, kilowatts is the metric unit).

  • 137.
  • At 09:56 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Mike Dixon wrote:

Eleven years ago I left England to live in Spain. At the age of 62 it took me about 3 months to become fully metricated and I am no mathmatical genius!

In July as part of our summer holiday, for the first time in 5 years, I drove from my home near Barcelona to spend a week with family in Wiltshire rather than flying and hiring a car at the airport. This really brought it home to me how non-European England is.

My car, a well known German make, is not only LHD but does not show miles per hour and the cloock is an hour different for no apparent reason. I casnt use Euro so have to pay the bank a tidy sum to convert to Pounds. Cant charge my mobile or camera until I find the coverterplug and so on and so on. None of the problems exist when I travel to France, Portugal, Italy, Germany or Holland.

Never jmind Constitutions, referendums and the like. These dont have much effect on the lives of ordinary folk like me.

  • 138.
  • At 11:29 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Ilmari wrote:

Hello from Finland. We're metric apart from television sizes and computer peripheral dimensions (thanks to USA, I suppose.)

Beer is bought as "small" (1/3l) or "large" (1/2l). Distances are in km or m, heights in cm, weights in kg or g, volumes in l, dl, cl or ml. No-one uses numbers like 568ml - they get turned to 6dl. And dl is pronounced "desi" where context allows.

When I read the US/UK corner of the internet, I need to constantly multiply by 1.5 (mi/km), 0.5 (pounds/kg), 3 (feet/m), 2.5 (inches/cm), 4 (gallons/l), 30 (oz/ml, oz/g). Which is fun in itself, albeit annoying.

I visualize inch as 3cm, foot as 30cm, pound as half a kilo, gallon as four 1l cartons of milk, pint as a big mug and stone as a stone of vague size. I guess it's a pretty big stone. How big is a 6kg stone anyhow? Something like 15x15x15cm?

UK aside, I'd sure welcome US to the metric fold, if only to spare me the arithmetics.

  • 139.
  • At 11:35 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • bill kitching wrote:


i left england in 1956
we have many similar items
us ton=2000lbs
english ton=2240
our mile is 5280 ft
" " " 1760 yds
one side of an acre =200 ft
a great deal of machine shop
work is performed using metric
dimensions including automobiles
i still remember pounds/shillings/
& pence you learn and absorb
whatever you have to.

  • 140.
  • At 11:38 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • John Bull wrote:

How strange that all this is being portrayed by the impartial BBBC as some kind of victory. Even the US is slowly going to metric and will no doubt reach it before us. We've been trying for 30 years to complete this process until we are now in this pathetic limbo of petrol sold in litres for cars sold by how many miles they do per gallon; milk sold in litres by farmers then sold in pints by shops; temperature given in centigrade when cold and fahrenheit when hot because both extremes sound better than each other (although this is thankfully dying out). Why in this being portrayed as a victory of sorts. I hate imperial (by the way, white, working class male) as I (as I suspect many others - just ask people if they know how many yards are in a mile) find imperial confusing and difficult to work in. This pride we take in this country in our resistance to progress is as strange as it is bewildering. Shame on the BBC (although not Mr Mardell who - although his scepticism and sneering would put the most notorious rightwing pundit to shame - is only sticking to his true colours) for playing the anti European card whilst ignoring the fact that our destinies are, and always have been, inextricibly entwined. You do no one a service.

  • 141.
  • At 11:46 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Peter Mason wrote:

What an almighty storm in a teacup is being created by so many bloggers here. British industry uses SI units and has done so for some time and this decision is highly unlikely to change that. Imperial measurements are largely used in 'cultural' contexts such as the pub, road signs, etc. There is no reason why the current system or an improved of dual labelling oughtn't continue for these purposes. Indeed it could be argued that this is the Commission's intention as the EU motto is something like 'Unity with Diversity'. Of course it could equally be argued that as the campaign for a UK referendum on the 'constitution' continues the Commission is merely throwing a popular sop to the UK population in an attempt to help the government argue that the EU listens and isn't a threat to the culture of the UK/England.

  • 142.
  • At 12:04 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Victor wrote:

I don't see any reason why measurements cannot remain imperial, but in fact written as metric, an option called "soft metric". Make sure that "568 mL" is labelled on your beer and milk bottles, but there's no need to stop people from saying a pint.

As a Canadian, what I'm very frustrated about is that lack of metric signing on many common household items. At the supermarket, everything is sold by the pound, or sometimes by odd "100g" for the sake of appearing to cost less to consumers. I believe it is a legal requirement to sell by the kilogram, but none of the signs at supermarkets are metric, which is extremely confusing for a person educated in metric like me.

While I have no trouble with wood plans labelled 2' x 4', I am frustrated that many of them choose only to label it in cm in the French-language instructions (or not at all).

This imperial-metric limbo is not something Britain would want to get into for any extended period of time. With the whole metrification movement stalled, the combination is confusing and costly.

The Ontario government is revising the curriculum to put imperial measures back in. This is a step backwards.

I have no problems whatsoever with the public still saying and buying by imperial measures, but those of us who choose metric should not be discriminated against because we choose to use official units used by 96% of the world's population.

  • 143.
  • At 12:32 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

Problem with all things EU is, for me, symbolized by this old BBC page:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6481969.stm

Whilst all of the things quoted are essentially "urban myths" that the tabloids fed off, there WAS more than a grain of truth in many of them - i.e. at some point some eurocrat DID spend some time (however small) considering the issue, even if they did eventually realize it was stupid.

  • 144.
  • At 02:57 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • David Morrison wrote:

The United States may use metric measurements for many things, but apart from academia, the use is fairly limited. Some labels on products may have the metric equivalent, but it is often small and overshadowed by the English measurement. As for the 2 year time frame, I don't think the US will abandon the imperial measurements in my lifetime (and I'm only a college student). Sure, we use the metric system in our science classes, but almost not in anything else in life.

  • 145.
  • At 05:21 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Jenny Van wrote:

Dear Mark

Again, you have created another... interesting topic. "Imperial measurement Vs Metrical measurement"
I would go to metrical one.
I am currently living in Sydney, I am totally lost in term measurement like inch, feet, pound, pint... when i communicate with some aged Australian. infact, young Australian generation are more familiar to metrical than emperial one.
your blog is very interesting.

thank you Mark

  • 146.
  • At 06:20 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • christos wrote:

Ok, let's face it. It's not a matter of cost it's a matter of losing british identity as the metric system is french and used in the eu. it is not difficult to switch nor expensive as people in britain already are aware of the metric system, conversion would lead to an end of an era. cyprus, where i come from in the past 20 years has gone through a tremendous change of weighing system (from okes to kilos) monetary system from shillings and mils (division of 1000 to cent (no s at the end as it's not us cents) and now from pounds to euro (not sure whether there is an s there... sorry) cyprus is half the size of wales (roughly) have less money and made the change with no problems, so the argument is not valid. as to pints they can be 500ml served in the same glass with no significant visual difference and it can still be called a pint as it is it's traditional name. british oxymoron screens (television and computer) are in centimetres!!! whereas most other countries still refer to them in inches!!! so it's a matter of national identity and not a matter money of difficulty in imposing such system. however as someone has already said here 96% use metric, being different is good, yet money and time are saved when no time is spent on conversions. british identity is so strong that abolishing the imperial won't affect it at all.

  • 147.
  • At 06:40 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Bryan Keller wrote:

To those who claim the US is going to go metric in two years, you don't have a clue what you are talking about. The contrary is true. Congress backed away from metric requirements years ago, and despite repeated attempts those plans have been abandoned. The US will go metric when a one dollar coin is accepted. Since we are on the 4th attempt to have a one dollar coin in my lifetime (I'm 40), which is being promoted to collectors only since the previous 3 coins gathered dust in bank vaults, the likelihood that the US will go metric is practically nil. The billions of dollars needed to just convert our roadsigns can be more effectively spent providing healthcare to the 41 million without.

  • 148.
  • At 07:22 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:

I was educated in the UK - a mixture of metric at school and university and imperial elsewhere. I became a structural engineer working in a form of metric - kg's, kN's (kilonewtons) metres and seconds are some of my basic units, then spent two extended periods in the US where I had to learn kips ("kilopounds" - yes, you can still have problems with decimal places in imperial), pounds, feet and inches (and occasionally slugs, poundals and ergs).

My conclusion - government should go fully metric (including road speed limits and distances - it is no more difficult than decimalisation), and everyone else should be left to their own devices (unusual local units still exist all over the world), with the significant proviso that packaged goods should always include the metric equivalent. Loose weights should be acceptable in any units, but scales used for trading should include a metric scale. The market will drive the switch as appropriate, with the exception being novelty items such as the "pint" and the "yard of ale" or "pound of farmhouse cheddar" (labelled in small print as 454g). Science is metric everywhere, including the US. Kids may like miles now, but that is only because that is what they hear around them. Once everything switches they will switch too. This should not be a UK/EU thing, and the EU has done the right thing in withdrawing from the extreme position of trying to enforce conformity in areas of private preference. (By the way - people in other EU countries hate government meddling too - it's not really us against them).

Oh - some clarifications -
* a US mile is exactly the same as a UK mile (and is standardised against the metre!), but pints are different. The US may be big in most areas, but its pints are 80% of ours (or should I say four-fifths).
* The US was one of the first countries to embrace the metric system, so learning that a Brit came up with the system in the first place is an added twist that I particularly enjoy. Many US states and government agencies went metric a while back, although I understand that some have since returned to "English units" (I don't know why they have to blame us for that though!).
* A kilogram is not a measure of weight but of mass, so perhaps we should be buying newtons of cheese... but don't worry - nobody except for engineers and scientists needs to worry about that.
* To "B Selman": the US might be the UK's single largest trading partner, but that is a silly statistic - we do more trade with metric countries than with the US, with the EU taking the monster share.
* For those who find a metre too small or the millimetre too small to be human measures - try the centimetre.

  • 149.
  • At 08:31 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Daniel wrote:

It strikes me that the Commission should concentrate efforts on more pressing issues, and not interfere in areas where its competence seems to be in dispute (or at least resented).

D.

  • 150.
  • At 08:46 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Szymon wrote:

It must be a case for some thorough psychological study - the British obsession with being 'different'.

It's fine with me if you keep on using stones, yards, pints, Fahrenheit and separate taps for cold and hot water.

But this has nothing to do with efficiency and common sense.

Perhaps the BBC will now stop insisting in being the only people in the UK to use kilometres.

  • 152.
  • At 10:49 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Simon Stevens wrote:

Imperial Units are much cuddlier!

  • 153.
  • At 11:00 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

I am surprised that those hell bent on forcing metrication, don't want us driving on the other side of the road.

What is wrong in being different?

It was in fact the French who invented the pint and a British bishop who came up with idea for the metric system. Bishop John Wilkins invented a Standard length of what we now call 1 metre back in 1668, before the French ever thought of doing the same.

The mile came from ancient Rome and lots of other non-metric measurements came from various places outside of Britain. Very little in the Imperial system is actually British, whereas the metric system was started, and developed by, the British (along with help from Italy, France and the USA).

We should complete the changeover to metric, started in 1965, and get rid of these silly old foreign measurements like stones, pounds, ounces, miles, etc. (from Babylon, Rome, France) and use the system which we gave to the world (metric).

Seems like it is an English disease to invent great things but then either be rubbish at them or not use them, e.g. football, cricket, tennis, and the metric system.

Britain has given much to the world and we should take the lead in using the metric system throughout society instead of these ancient foreign measures that are not British at all.

The EU should not be telling us to go metric, common sense should have told us that years ago.

Go metric now, it is best for Britain.

  • 155.
  • At 01:08 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Simon Hayes wrote:

Another example of the EU ignoring the wishes of the British people. Of course we want the metric system!

  • 156.
  • At 01:53 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Oscar, Sweden wrote:

You British (alongside the Americans) certainly do have complicated measurements (I wouldn't call it is a system, since it's not). If you want to keep on using them despite the existence of a much better system really should be up to you. I don't mind.

The EU certainly should never have gotten engaged.

However, I would mind if Britain imposed its measurements on the EU and the other EU countries (in publications, laws, etc.) if this resulted in extra costs.

  • 157.
  • At 01:54 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • jeff wrote:

I enjoy very much how a bunch of people that supposedly can't figure out how to use metric measures has somehow figured out how to use the Internet to whinge.

Sentimentality is a poor reason to keep the present measurement muddle. The EU getting itself out of the way will probably actually help the UK finish the metrication job.

And as for the pint, all it really is nowadays is the name for a glass at the pub. Round it up to 600 ml and everyone will be happy.

  • 158.
  • At 01:59 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • JohaM wrote:

I prefer half a litre of good beer over a pint of the same beer. Conversely: a pint of bad beer is better than half a litre. Not that it differs much, but every bit helps...

  • 159.
  • At 02:45 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • john s wrote:

I can understand the British wanting to keep the "Imperial units" since it's all that would remain of the British Empire, but why forget the "guinea", that magnificient symbl of British snobbishness ?
As far as the American measures, they are not the same as the British ones; there is a smalll difference between the British and American inch.
Before WW II, the merchants at the Brussels street markets were selling their produce by the pound, but that pound was worth 500 grams; you didn't buy two kilogs of something, you bought four pound of it. And until twenty yeears ago, Belgian plumbers were still using the quarter inch meaurement for pipes and nipples but it was 2 quarters, not half an inch or five quarters and not an inch and a quarter . The inch itself was totally unknow n to them...Of course, with universal metrication, they now speak of a 15/12 pipe (15 mm outside and 12 mm inside diameter) and any hope of British firms exporting plumbing fixtures to Belgium has gone the way of the British Empire

  • 160.
  • At 02:54 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Danny @ Flanders wrote:

To all you Gabriel Mouton and John Wilkins fans, I'd like to point out that the Flemish Simon Stevin wrote the first text on decimalisation, a pamphlet labelled 'De Thiende' ('the tenth' in english) in 1586, almost a century earlier.

In my opinion, the benefits of the metric system are twofold: first the consistent base-10 prefixes —decimalisation— (which might as well have been base-12, but base-10 is what we got stuck with), and second an uniform set of base units —standardisation— that are expanded upon in their field of reference only by said base-10 prefixes.

Personally, I could stomach Imperial measurements, if it weren't for all the different types of pints, ounces, pounds, and whatnot (half of which the US is to blame for —with their customary units— and rest can be accounted for by the elitist jeweller & gemcutter industries).

  • 161.
  • At 03:01 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • john s wrote:

Hey ! I suddenly discoveered one item that will ressist universal metication: the container. Its dimensions are 8 by 8 by 20 or 40 feet and the world's sea and land transportation system is built around it so a chane to metric would be too expensive for the world business community

  • 162.
  • At 03:26 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

The whole thing is rather silly, really. There might still be some merit in the system if, for example, the inch were still the width of the thumb of King Henry VIII. However, since 1893 if not before, imperial units have been defined as fractions of metric units. The current definition (since 1958) of the yard is 91.44 centimeters. The imperial pound is 453.59237 grammes. The gallon is defined as the space occupied by 10 lbs -- or 4.5359237 kilogrammes -- of water in conditions of temperature and pressure also specified in fractions of metric units.

  • 163.
  • At 05:07 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Dan wrote:

I am 27 and was taught throughout my school life in the metric system, yet I would have no idea how to estimate someone's weight in Kilos, height in metres nor distances in kilometres (nor would most people of my age - it is a nonsense to suggest that those under 40 or 30 or whatever would give anyone's height in anything bu feet and inches and weight in stones). For shorter distances I measure in either cms or inches, depending on which better suits the subject matter being measured. The fact is that I flit betweeen the two as suits me and I think that system works just fine. The problem only came when the overzealous government imposed one system and banned the other.

What's wrong with buying our sausages on packs of 454g or milk in bottles of 0.57 litres - doesn't that keep everyone happy?!

  • 164.
  • At 05:31 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

The method of enforcement will be far more subtle and compelling. The way it will work will be to force anyone wanting to export to most EU countries to manufacture their products in metric units according to what will seem like a reasonable timetable to make the transition. Everything from drinking glasses to shoe sizes will have to be metric. As British industry increasingly adopts the metric system, it will find it too costly to unnecessarily maintain the second more traditional system. It will therefore slowly phase it out and it will wither and die, not by legal mandate but as a practical matter. After a generation or two without it, later generations of Brits will wonder why their fathers and grandfathers used it at all.

Remember your days in school? In every class there is always a 5% group who will never comprehend the most elementary things. Yes, you are one of the last 5% on earth.

http://www.metric4us.com/

  • 166.
  • At 02:05 AM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • Caspar Heetman wrote:

I'm, Dutch and when I tell foreign people about Dutch units of measurement, they look at me in surprise and reply with reactions like "What? I thought only the US and Britain had such units of measurement." But we do have our own units, and they're perfectly compatible with the metric system. Consider also that 200 years after the French revolution forced us to adopt the metric system and also 60 years of European integration were insufficient to do away with them and not just among the old aged.

When you go to the butcher and order a quantity of meat, he will understand you when you ask for it in grams, but most people will ask for it in ounces and pounds. A Dutch ounce is exactly 100 grams and a pound is exactly 500 grams.

When ordering something in a grocery store, be it cheese for example, it is far from uncommon to order in ounces and pounds.

In a pub you don't order Beer isn't ordered in litres or even centilitres. In most pubs, I order a "vase", a typical Dutch measurement for a quantity of beer only. The quanity differs from 0.23 liters to 0.33 liters. The smaller beer quantity is a "flute". It is always 0.22 liters. And in the English or Irish pubs I occasionally visit, I'm familiar to order my beer in pints. They're approximately half a liter.

As a little boy, my father instructed me on the "thumb thickness" as a measurement when working with wood. It is about half an inch. No carpenter or craftsman who is not familiar with it.

We are also familiar with miles. Kilometers don't exist in Dutch fairy tales and medieval stories, but miles do. The word mile means thousand in Latin, and I've been told it relates to a thousand steps in Roman times. Thousand big steps these days, gets quite close to a kilometer. It won't surprise anyone who reads this, that the Dutch understanding of a mile in folklore is "about a kilometer".

What I mean to say is that the old measurements can perfectly exist beside the metric system and in complete harmony. No need to enforce it, but neither the need to fear the metric system. What we only need is a standardization of quantities. I don't mind Britain using miles and pints in daily life, as long as I know that a British mile is about 1.5 kilometers and that a pint is close to half a liter. That's all we need.

And for the sake of unity in Europe, let us please respect and cherish our cultural diversity.

Hold on there! It seems the metric system is suffering from Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. Give up your pint at the pub and you might just get short changed. Fresh off the press it is! The Official Kilogram of the EU has just turned up short 50 micrograms!!!
No wonder they're backpeddling in Brussels.

  • 168.
  • At 04:30 AM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • Graham wrote:

There's much talk of the cost of fully changing to metric. How much will it cost not to change fully. It is going to happen sooner or later. Even the US is adapting the Metric system slowly.
It's a shame for the UK. It used to be a world leader but is sadly now a follower and getting very grumpy when it has to follow on the terms of others.
Adopt full metrication and reap the benefits sooner rather than later.

Mark said: "Some things I have read suggest the USA, which made the metric system legal in 1866, will in two years' time get rid of imperial measurements, apart from miles."

As an American citizen I can tell you with absolute certainty that your sources are quite wrong on this. While we are happy to measure beverages (aside from beer) in liters and fractions or multiples thereof, I do not foresee roadsigns being in kilometers or temperatures being given in Centigrade in the next 20 years, let alone two.

American business, aside from some NASA contractors, has managed to sell plenty of product in metric countries regardless of this. I'm sure UK businesses will manage just fine.

  • 170.
  • At 07:12 AM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • Mark Brandist wrote:

I live in Holland these days, one of the first countries to move to the Metric System. However my Dutch family and I have big arguments about what is a pound. Nearly all people here talk about buying a pound of this or pound of that especially in the markets. To my wife a pound is 500 grams, and not the Imperial weight we think of, perhaps this is a solution for my old homeland? Go Dutch.

  • 171.
  • At 07:14 AM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • Colin Wilson wrote:

New Zealand and Australia both made the change to metric everything about 30 years ago.

Both countries have populations largely derived from the British Isles so we had and still have a similar culture to Britain. But all road signs are, and have been for many years, metric. Petrol is sold by the liter (or litre if you prefer the French spelling).

About the only thing that might get described in both metric and Imperial is engine power : "the sportiest [BMW motorbike] – the R 1200 S – has an output of 90 kW (122 bhp). " -
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU0701/S00107.htm


I live in a 110 square meter house on a 525 square meter site. I'll leave it to you to decide if I am cramped into a dog box or am reasonably accomodated!

A 60 year old builder who did some repairs to my home recently never once mentioned feet and inches; everything was metric in even the most casual conversation.

If you are genuine in your belief that the British system is best then you should be able to relate to one another roods, poles, perches, acres, feet, and chains without using any reference works.

Can you and your friends do this?

Did Britain stop being Britain because metric currency was introduced. It took long enough, over 100 years, but it finally arrived. Or do you think we should go back to the old money? Not just Pounds shillings and pence but what about the long forgotten (English) Mark. Did you even know that England once used Marks? Do you have any idea what it was worth? OK, so what about the Angel or the Unite? What were they worth?

If earlier generations could advance with the times then surely Britons today should do the same.

Get over yourselves and try to join the 21st century.

Go to http://www.bignell.uk.com/english_currency.htm for the answers!

  • 172.
  • At 08:47 AM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • Pete wrote:

Here in Hong Kong, a flat is measured in square metres if you're buying it, but in square feet if you're renting. In addition, ancient Chinese weight measurements are used in the street markets. Everybody copes with the system, so where's the problem? Keep the variety, it makes life interesting.

  • 173.
  • At 09:59 AM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • Edmund wrote:

As a 43 year old, who was taught both systems at school and having spent most of my working career in the building/property sectors, I am somewhat bemused by the calls of all those who wish to live life by the imperial system. Houses, Hospitals and other buildings in the UK, have been built using metric measurements for over thirty years, and more importantly the use of the little "decimal" point allows me much easier use of my calculator and computer. The tired arguments over this subject mirror those used in discussing the Euro.

  • 174.
  • At 02:31 PM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • Michael McCalpin wrote:

I cannot fathom what prompts people to claim that the US is slowly going metric and indeed may get to full metrification (is that a word?) before the UK. Other than the sciences, which largely converted decades ago, the ordinary American's only exposures to the metric system are small-type metric equivalents on food packages and the size of large soft drink bottles: one, two, or three liters. Interestingly, soft drink cans are still in US standard measures: 12 ounces.

Yup, sure looks like a tidal wave of metric to me!

I do find it curious that the pro-metric forces in every English-speaking country I'm aware of manage to claim that all the others have fully converted or are about to. I know when I was in school in the US twenty years ago I was taught that every single other country (other than perennial exceptions Burma and Liberia) had already gone fully metric. I've since learned that this is only partly true, particularly in Canada and Britain; and that in *those* countries people hear things like: 'Some things I have read suggest the USA... will in two years' time get rid of imperial measurements, apart from miles.' There is absolutely no chance of this. None. Not only is there not even a rumbling of this, the conversion would take much longer than this and meet embarrassingly strong resistance. But the US is still used to convince Britons that 'everyone else is doing it too'....

The conversion, when it happens, will come from industry, and it'll be relatively quiet. Many people don't object to metric per se, they object to the *imposition* of metric. When the soft drinks industry introduced the 2L bottle in the US, filling an as-yet-unfilled niche, there was nary a peep. When alcohol started being sold in 750mL quantities in exactly the same bottles that had contained "fifths" (i.e. 1/5 gallon or about 757mL), people kept buying them, and many still call them "fifths" decades later. Just a couple years ago, I happened to notice that the shampoo bottle I had just bought and the one I was about to throw out—though otherwise identical—had *slightly* different quantities: One had "13 fl oz (384 mL)" and the other "400 mL (13.5 fl oz)". The entire hair care industry has shifted their entire industry in the US from basically imperial (and printing corresponding metric) to basically metric (and printing corresponding imperial). Nobody noticed or cared, because they still buy the same sizes they're used to, things are labelled so we can verify if we need to, and slowly but surely we will build intuitions about metric. What's the rush?

  • 176.
  • At 07:18 PM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • Joanna wrote:

There is absolutely no way the U.S. would be getting rid of its yards and feet, etc. anytime soon. We have both systems if necessary and a large, conservative segment of the population will want to keep it. For that matter, even the younger generation is a little shaky on the metric system. While taking classes at a large public university, our Swiss teacher tried to define something in kilometers and we had to ask her to show us how long a kilometer was. If we aren't comfortable with the system, it's unlikely any Americans will be.

  • 177.
  • At 09:33 PM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

"Traditional pints" are, frankly, a bit of a self-reinforcing myth. Relative to the amount of alcohol drunk at home, or to metric bottled beer and wine drunk in pubs, hardly any beer is sold in pints anymore. The unit is very conveniently sized for ales with an alcohol content of 3.5 to 4 percent, or so; but is far too big for strong continental lagers that are sold in Paris or Prague in much smaller glasses.

  • 178.
  • At 10:21 PM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • John Baxter-Smith wrote:

Agreed – why prosecute people who want to hold on to pounds & ounces, but equally why forbid people who wish to use metric? (E.g. the German style brewery pub in Scotland forbidden to sell beer in litres or ½ litres) Why was money on converting road sign, then why also waste money in painting over (pedestrian) signs converting metres back to yards & fractions of a mile (as seems to have happened in Crawley, Sussex).

Where commonsense really went out of the window has been the failure to convert road measurements to metric. By now the majority of the population have been educated in metric with youngsters (including new drivers) having little comprehension of miles, yards etc. Added to this are all visitors to this country, especially HGV drivers, who will have little or no knowledge of the quaint measurements we still use and more importantly whose vehicles will not show speeds or vehicle heights in miles or feet & ins. So on safety grounds, this should have been the first, not last thing to be changed years ago.

  • 179.
  • At 10:22 PM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • Ignace wrote:

This post is a great testimony of the extent cultures are interlinked and how people have been copying from each other all the time:
An Englishman invented the metric measures; The Romans brought the Imperial Measures to the UK (and rest of Europe) .....and we could go on: the Chinese invented pasta more than a thousand years before Marco Polo brought it to Italy; the native Mexicans made chocolade long before the Swiss/Belgians commercialized it; the Arabs used windmills centuries before Holland made it its trademark; The English learned to drink tea from the Asians and made it their national drink. The Romans showed the French how to make wine....I've been lucky to live in a number of countries to learn that people have mostly the same aspirations and that culture and tradition is a thin layer that unfortunaly often gets misused by media, political and religious leaders to further their own interests.

  • 180.
  • At 12:47 AM on 14 Sep 2007,
  • Anonymous, California wrote:

The metric system is much easier to use than the Imperial system (or the American one). Base ten is easy to work with rather than a bunch of varying measurements; i.e. there are a hundred centimeters in a meter and a thousand meters in a kilometer. Plus, centi- and kilo- give very big hints as to how much of the unit they are. In contrast, there a twelve inches in a foot, three feet in a yard, and 5280 feet (1760 yards) in a mile (at least an American one; some of the units have the same name but have separate measurements).

Still, the decision should be made by the British people via Parliament, or even referendum (if they are extremely insistent), and not by the EU where metric has been the standard for some time now and imposing their system of measurement on one 'oddball' member would be easy. That would be akin to if some metric country became a state in the United States and the American system of measurement was automatically foisted on them.

That might happen, but shouldn't.

Yet, if was a Briton, would vote to go metric.

  • 181.
  • At 04:31 AM on 14 Sep 2007,
  • galen wrote:

I can personally say as an American that we will keep our system for at least another 8-12 years. There is no one talking about changing our system and we have plenty of other problems to deal with. The child are taught the metric system in school but it is mostly forgoten by the time they turn 18. Besides if we switched to metric we'd have to redo the football fields!

  • 182.
  • At 07:59 AM on 14 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

Spread the logic, forget the retarded old measurement system... go step by step, but... GO METRIC!

  • 183.
  • At 02:11 PM on 14 Sep 2007,
  • Ellise wrote:

I was taught metric at school in Britain as was anybody else younger than 40 maybe even 45. Yet because of a luddite attitude to change prevalent amongst a small but vociferous minority in Britain we have this ridiculous fudge of using metric for some measurements/products and not for others. A relative of mine works in the building/engineering supplies trade where some items are sold in metric and some are sold in imperial, causing all sorts of conversion problems. I remember hiring a lorry in Britain to move my household goods to Belgium. The maximum size for a lorry on Eurotunnel was given to me in metric, whereas the British hire company could only quote lorry dimensions in feet and inches, how stupid is that? It should be one system or the other in entirety. Canada, Aus and NZ seem to have made a good job of the changeover to metric, so why not us?

  • 184.
  • At 08:40 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Han Maenen wrote:

Mr Weiskotten shows his total ignorance of the metric system and metrology in general. In the first place, there is no such thing as an EU Official Kilogram; there is only an International Kilogram at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris, of which Britain is a member. Secondly, soon the material standard of the kilogram will be replaced by one based on natural constants, which will solve the problem. The material standard metre was replaced by a natural constant years ago. The problem with the SI unit of mass, soon to be solved, only affects measurements of the highest precision, not day-to-day measurements.

  • 185.
  • At 10:21 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Martin Vlietstra wrote:

Responsible drinkers keep track of how many units of alcohol they consume. The British Government do not help by failing to publicise that one unit of alcohol is defined as 10 ml of pure alcohol. If the responsible drinker knows that, then he knows that half a litre of 4.2% beer contains 2.1 units of alcohol. Try doing that using pints!

Sabotaging the ability to do that by insisting on using pints is downright irresponsible. If Her Majesty's Government wishes to encourage responsible drinking then they must supply the tools to do so and one of them is to drop the pint and serve beer and cider by the half litre and encourage drinkers to be aware of the strength of their drinks.

... or does Nanny think that everybody is too stupid to do a few simple calculations.

  • 186.
  • At 04:20 PM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • John Smith wrote:

The Canadians and Australians managed to go fully metric inside a decade with neither error nor complaint.

I guess it's simply a sad reflection of how it was the best and the brightest who saw the opportunities these new worlds had. We who remain are naturally descended from the ignorant, the pig headed, and the small minded who preferred their small familiar island to the world that beckoned.

  • 187.
  • At 10:38 AM on 19 Sep 2007,
  • David wrote:

Grow up! It really doesn't matter which system is used in a particular circumstance, as long as it is consistent. Ultimately, the most useful for a particular job will outlive the less useful.
The reason for the persistance of Imperial units is that they are more intuitive, in that they relate far more closely to body-scale and household quantities.
The reason metric is easier is that the multiplication and conversion is (slightly) easier. Live and let live!
The real problem is that one system was being oulawed. Why not run a parallel system? I suspect everyone could cope with that, just choose the units you'd prefer.

  • 188.
  • At 01:46 PM on 20 Sep 2007,
  • David Pritchard wrote:

1) It's our business to decide. It's bad politics for Brussels to try to force the pace, because it turns the argument into "us-against-Brussels", rather than a debate within Britain between pro-metric and anti-metric groups.

2) It's a lose-lose situation for Brussels and the EU. To persue the matter further is idiotic. Leave it to Britain to decide.

So it is common sense to abandon the fight. Have you seen how we are already beginning to debate amongst ourselves the merits of staying as we are or going further? That debate has been frozen for decades because of the perception that the pressure was coming from outside.

There are serious lessons here for the EU in general.

Since 1983, my body measurements have been metric, as the units are easy to work with. It is true that the numbers would be quite large, but I was prepared for it. I first heard about the metric system in 1975, when gasoline was sold by the litre. This caused great confusion. I was 8 years old then, and very eager to learn to the point of actually using metric rulers which were springing up everywhere. I think this is the best way to learn the metric system. Converting to Imperial slows the process to the point that one never becomes fluent with metric. As for comment #8, if the decimal is in the wrong place, the error would be obvious to someone who normally uses metric.

  • 190.
  • At 09:31 PM on 06 Dec 2007,
  • James Casey wrote:

What "things" have you actually read that indicate the US will get rid of imperial measurements? I am American and first learned the metric system in the early 1970's while attending primary school in Surrey. Richard Nixon stated that the US would be fully using the metric system by 1980! We are really no further along since then. Children learn both systems in school, along with the appropriate conversions used between the two (2) systems. Only in certain sports, such as Track & Field and Swimming, has the US conformed to using the metric system. If you want to see another revolution in the US tell Americans they will now have to buy their Petrol/Gasoline in litres!

  • 191.
  • At 01:42 AM on 04 Feb 2008,
  • Martin wrote:

I believe that the UK has a nice tradition of miles that won't go away anytime soon. However, I think a good suggestion would be perhaps to paint on some road signs next to the miles the kilometres. And if you think it's expensive; do it when you have to perform maintenance at the sign. The costs would be lower, it wouldn't take much longer, and that way the british public slowly can develop a 'feeling' for kilometres! I mean, the british should not only think traditionally but also practically; metric is easier, and most of the world also uses it. Miles are older, and now we have the new metres.

I say, no need to hurry, but perhaps the idea of adding km in every routine sign maintenance would be definitely good. It at least wouldn't do the UK any harm.

~a dutch person

  • 192.
  • At 02:17 PM on 14 Feb 2008,
  • Danny M wrote:

in live in Ireland. We changed over to metric about 4 years ago and it was succesfull. at the start there was some resistance but now the majority of people see the metric system for what it is - a far superior way of measuring things than the old and outdated imperial system. The UK should just get on with it and change to metric completly - like the rest of the world

  • 193.
  • At 11:50 AM on 24 Mar 2008,
  • John R wrote:

I live in metric Australia and grew up in a 'converting to metric New Zealand' in the 1970s and early 1980s. Yes, apparently we did get over it really quickly here and have become officially metric. However people my age (40s) are still a little attached to heights in feet and inches (but express their weights in kilos).

My kids have no conception of any imperial measures and asked why TV screens are still commonly advertised in inches when noone (their age) understands it. The reality is that complete metrication is not a done deal until inch-using applications coming from the USA are metricated at source. In other words until the Americans are serious about metric it will never rise above about the 90 to 95% daily usage as it is now in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other 'properly' metricated Commonwealth countries.

I say pressure the Yanks to get on with it, you Brits finish the job by ditching the miles, pounds and ounces and we have a real chance of a fully metric life in all English-speaking countries in a few decades.

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