Re: Measurements in the UK

Subject: Re: Measurements in the UK
From: Chris Gooch <chris -dot- gooch -at- lightworkdesign -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 2002 17:01:16 +0100

I think we discussed this before, but what the hey...

It's a mess, some things are metric and some aren't, plus
even with the that are metric for most people you'll get
the odd "metric martyr" (surely they should be called
"imperial martyrs", never got that one) that use the old
measurements. So you need to know two things:

a) what it is you are measuring, and whether that
thing is usually quoted in one system or the
b) the audience

For example, road signs and speedos use miles, not km,
and sometimes even yards not metres. Beer is in pints
if bought draft in pubs, but ml if bought in a supermarket.

There was recently a hoo har as cheese went from ounces
to grammes. I kid you not. Some idiot shopkeeper went to
jail for breaking the law and not giving prices in kg as well
as pounds. You couldn't make it up.

Here's a quick guide for foreigners to our quirky ways:

* road distances, speeds: everyone uses miles
* beer in pubs: pints only
* soft drinks: litres or ml
* petrol: has been priced in litres for 15 yrs or so,
(74p a litre, americans generally have a fit when they
hear this) but this doesn't stop people quoting
miles per gallon on car adverts
* milk: pints (but the label has to say how many ml that is)
* fruit, veg, meat, cheese, etc.: supermarkets now
pack in kg or g, so you get 125g of cheese rather
than 1/4 pound. But if you ask for a 1/4 pound at a
deli you'll get 120 odd g (ie. a 1/4 pound). And if
you ask for 100g of bananas you'll get 3 bananas :-)
* temperatures: centigrade for most people, but some
people still use fahrenheit. I have to mentally convert
f into c myself (I'm 33)....
* builders, plumbers, etc. All tools are metric, so they
do measure in metric _usually_. Pipes and fittings are all
metric and so on.
* weight (of people): for some reason people say "stone" in general
conversation. We do not understand when americans
say someone weighs 150 pounds. If you say 75 kg
then we'd have an idea how much that was in relation
to bags of sugar, but not whether it was more or less
than 12 stone.
* height (of people). This is a good one. I'm 5 foot 11, but
my 7 yr old son is 125cm ('cos that's how kids clothes
are sold now).

Of course, if you are speaking to engineers or scientists, metric
(actually SI) should _always_ be used.

In summary, when your doctor asks how much you weight and
your height, you'll say 12 stone 5 foot 11 and she'll change that
to 75 kg and 180cm for your medical records.


Christopher Gooch, Technical Author
LightWork Design, Sheffield, UK.
0114 - 266 8404
chris -dot- gooch -at- lightworkdesign -dot- com

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