New here :-)

From: Richard Erlacher <>
Date: Mon Mar 5 11:48:57 2001

What makes the transition to metric units more complicated is the unhandiness of
some of the units, both physically and in terms of the references to them. For
example ... a gallon is a pretty handy unit, though somewhat large, but a quart
is pretty handy. The metric unit close to that is the liter, which is also a
handy unit, though the next unit up is what? ... a decaliter? ... that's a mite
large, eh? Likewise, handy units of measure, e.g. inch, foot, yard, etc, are
not so common in the metric system.. You're always dealing with a milli-this or
a kilo-that and that often makes it hard to visualize, and, consequently,
communicate, not to mention, understand, what's being described. Once you've
gotten used to the new units it's not so bad, but making the transition is what
folks seem to resist.

When you talk about how big something is, in the English system, you're talking
feet and inches. When you say 44 cm, not everybody can immediately envision
what you mean, but when you say "foot," since almost everybody's got one or two,
they have a rough idea. Likewise, a gram, which is a reasonable measure for
something really expensive, like cocaine, gets to be pretty unwieldy when you're
talking about how much flour goes into a loaf of bread. In Germany, I remember
dealing with a pound (half a kg) which, at 500 g is not far off the English
pound (454 g). The fact that the Germans use a "Pfund" as a handy unit suggests
that the metric units do leave something to be desired. After all it's not easy
to grasp what a gigasecond is, nor is it useful to time events in

I have to agree with the remarks about the cup, teaspoon, etc, but, again,
everybody has a notion of how much that is, and anyone who's seen Justin
Wilson's cooking program on PBS knows how easy it is to approximate that without
any measuring instruments at all. On the other hand, how much baking soda is
13.5 g or how much milk is 100 ml? (...see how we're having to deal with large
numbers of small units?...)

The struggle is getting past the period of adjustment. In reality, the term
"mile" refers to the 1000 paces of a marching army, so it's a thousand of
something just as the kilometer is. Evenutally folks will figure out that a
quarter teaspoon (about the smallest amount one's asked to measure when cooking)
is about a cc, (maybe) and a tablespoon is really pretty close to some number
(12 ?) of ml. Then, if a quart is 946 ml, then a cup must be on the order of
250 ml. Not precisely, but sort-of.

In the meantime, here we are ...


----- Original Message -----
From: "Sellam Ismail" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, March 05, 2001 9:08 AM
Subject: Re: New here :-)

> On Mon, 5 Mar 2001, Geoff Roberts wrote:
> > Well, paranoid is a bit strong, however they do seem to show a tendency
> > to regard anything that has
> > A) Originated elsewhere
> > or
> > B) Not been in use in the US for 100 years or more
> > As "unAmerican".
> > Apart from it's local 'mods', like the US mile, US ton, US gallon - we
> > used the slightly larger, Genuine, Unadulterated Imperial measures,
> > 5,280 ft or 1,760 yards to the mile, and 2,240 pounds to the ton - the
> > US system is what the British left them in the first place.
> If you think all that's bad, I still haven't figured out the measurements
> for how many tablespoons in a cup, and how many cups in a
> quart and all that nonsense. Who came up with this crap anyway?
> If I had my druthers, I'd gladly switch to metric for everything.
> American units are stupid, archaic and illogical.
> Call me a Communist.
> Sellam Ismail Vintage Computer Festival
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> International Man of Intrigue and Danger
Received on Mon Mar 05 2001 - 11:48:57 GMT

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