I’ve lost a stone!

If my son was going to say that to me it would be something that he would feel kind of sad about. He loves collecting stones. In fact, he loves collecting a lot of things.

If, on the other hand, I heard this sentence from anyone else around here it would probably be followed by cheers, congratulations and ‘way to go’s.

I confess that I find that confusing.

metric 1

Which one do you prefer?

Why on earth can’t you island monkeys use the normal metric measures that everyone else in the world is using? Ehem. The normal metric measures that everyone else in the world but the US of A is using?

Sure, I am a reasonably bright girl, I can figure it out.

But why?! I mean, don’t you know that the metric system is actually your official system of measurement? You should have thought of the consequences before you joined the European Community in 1973. For crying out loud, British scientists like Joule and Lord Kelvin used to be pioneers in metrication in the 19th century! What happened? Did you just want to be different from everybody else?

What’s worse, you guys just take our universally recognised unit symbols and employ them for your own purposes.


16 metres? How on earth am I gonna brake quickly enough to pull into this service station?!

metric 2

See, even the Chinese get it right! (Image: Wikipedia)

Admittedly, the metric system is not free of faults and hiccups. But adhering to a set of units that are not immediately understood by most other people in the world and very impractical to boot seems a bit… excuse me, obstinate and childish to me!

I can somehow relate to your resistance to joining the majority when considering the recent misery of the Euro currency. But in the case of measurements, going metric would actually make sense because it does make everyday life simpler. What is easier to calculate: the number of metres in a kilometre or the number of feet in a mile? And how many inches are in a yard again? What if a measurement is smaller than 1/2 inch?

Or, coming back to my initial example, how heavy is a stone? How many ounces in a pound? Can ounces have babies with fluid ounces?

And why the hell is a British pint that much bigger than an American pint? Questions upon questions.

You see, metrication is not really the same as Europeanisation. And while it takes a bit of effort, it’s also not that painful, promise! Take temperatures, for instance. While the Fahrenheit scale is still sometimes used as supplementary indication, you are mainly dealing in °Celsius now. Way to go! So much more intuitive: everything below 0 °C means you are freezing your appendages off.

If you could now convert in the remaining areas, too, that would be just swell. Would have saved us some trouble, you know? Here’s why:

When we got a new bed for the little monster who had outgrown his cot bed, it was an IKEA hand-me-down loft bed and we needed to buy a new mattress for it. So we went and got a bunk bed mattress at the friendly mattress store across the road. Standard length, we were assured, 6 ft. Rattle, rattle, went my poor, continental brain before spitting out an answer: that’s pretty much 2 metres, in other words, standard length. Result!


Well, until we put the mattress into the bed frame and… Surprise! The mattress was too short. Some 17 cm too short, because that is the difference between a Swedish 2 m bed and a British 6 ft mattress. Dang!

Mind you, I consider myself a bit of a maths wiz (please don’t shun me!), but even I don’t generally have the completely random conversion factors to 4 decimal places ready for retrieval. So much for being reasonably bright.

But the worst thing was that I couldn’t even blame hubby for the calculation fail. He couldn’t have known either because he grew up in South Africa. Make an educated guess which system they are using down there!


22 thoughts on “I’ve lost a stone!

    • My words exactly! We have saying in German: ‘Warum einfach, wenn es auch kompliziert geht?’ (Why do it the simple way when you can have it complicated as well?), I guess that’s the rationale for the whole imperial nonsense.

  1. I had no idea that a British pint is larger than an American pint. Does that mean the Brits consume more beer than the Americans? Can’t be.

    I agree with you. Life would be so much simpler if we all went metric. That said, I grew up in the American paradigm and I’m a math idiot so I’m totally confused by conversions….especial farenheit to celsius. But if I’d learned it the “proper” way, hey…I like your analogy. Anything below 0C is literally freezing.

    • Ha, there is a blog post in the making about British drinking habits. Yes, one could say they are a rather boozy people. You Americans with your women’s beer (my sister’s coinage) don’t really play in the same league I’m afraid to say.
      You see, the funny thing is that since the 1970ies the metric system is taught in British schools, exclusively, as far as I know. But even though kids who went to school back then are still using imperial measurements in certain areas. I guess old habits die hard.

  2. Same reason you Germans speak your own language at home rather than English or Esperanto, I suppose. Because it’s our culture and because it’s our history, and because we have no need to change the way we do things just to be like other countries. We know exactly how much a stone is (14lb) and that suits us fine. We’ve been using mon-metric measures for a couple of millennia now, sinc the Romans brought us the inch, the pound and the mile

    • That would be a valid argument, Warwick, if the metric system wasn’t so much easier to use. I mean, you don’t still use oxen carts to transport goods around the country like you did when the Romans were there. Sometimes progress is a good thing…
      Thanks for reading and commenting though, and rest assured, I don’t intend to instigate a revolution while I’m here 😉

  3. Warwick Cairns

    Your reasons for shunning the metric system have little to do with what you say, but everything with habit and a large dose of misguided patriotism. Now let me explain why that is so. According to you all countries lost their culture when they switched to metric measurements? Wow, maybe it helps to think a little before you write nonsense like this? As to languages, all of them are equal, none is better than the other, but measurement modes are, so why stick with the inferior? They irony is that neither Britain nor America are able to function properly without the metric system, so why waste children’s precious time and lots of extra money to learn cumbersome measurement languages that nobody on this globe understands? To complicate matters even more, why force children to learn metric, as well, if both countries intend to stick with the old? This seems to me a pretty wasteful exercise? Hey sorry, I forgot that both countries can’t function properly without……….Here is something that may give you the reason why people tend to stick with the familiar, good, or bad. “It is much more difficult to unlearn something than learning something new”.

    • Thanks, Eric, I couldn’t have said it better myself. It seems a bit counterintuitive that these two countries are still holding on to the old system(s). As far as I know, in the UK, metric is even the only system taught in school, and that since the 1970ies, so I don’t quite understand why the imperial measurements are still so widely used. Oh well, I’ll just grin and bear it 🙂

  4. Thanks Sandra, maybe this helps you to understand why imperial is still widely used. British politicians, like all others, are more concerned about their sinecures than peoples welfare. To avoid a popular backlash for forcing constituents to go metric, these cowards used children to do their dirty work. How about teaching metric only at schools to get the parents on side? None of those luminaries could put two and two together to arrive at the long known fact that parents influence their children’s behaviour not the other way around. The irony is that using 2 incompatible measurement modes is the worst of all worlds because it costs heaps of money, causes lots of unnecessary overdoses, even fatal ones and leads to all kinds of industrial accidents. The bonus for all this misery, generations of youngsters that are neither fluent in one measurement mode nor the other.

    • Hi David, so much emotion wasted on silly little millimetres.
      How much do fingernails grow in a week? That picture over there is slightly askew, honey, could you move the bottom a millimetre to the left, please?
      Just sayin’… Thanks for reading.

      • Ohhh, I see! Well, my hubby makes fun of me when I say I swam 2,400 metres instead of 2.4 km. Or a newborn weighed 3,650 grams instead of ‘a bit more than 3 1/2 kilos’. So I suppose I’m in the guilty camp at times.
        I guess it’s easier when a bed is 1.6 m instead of some weird inbetween number, but even then I think I would sooner desribe it as being 1.376 metre wide. Millimetres are reserved for small measurements. I think.

  5. Coming from a science-heavy education, I am all on board with the metric system (it does make calculations so much easier!), until we get to temperature. I know Celsius is more intuitive, thanks to that divine little 0 degrees = freezing point of water, but they lose me at the upper end.

    I live in Texas. It can be abysmally hot here. More numbers are needed to properly convey how uncomfortable I am! The comfort difference between 30 degrees Celsius and 40 degrees Celsius is too big. At 30, I can happily walk my dog outside, at 40 I am drinking iced tea like it’s being outlawed and avoiding the sun altogether. I cling to my clunky Fahrenheit that tells me, in its own intuitive way, that once we hit triple digits I should just stay inside.

    • So glad I am being understood on the other side of the pond as well!
      I suppose temperature gets relatively easy to grasp once you get that other important reference point right. No, not boiling point 100 °C. I’m talking about body temperature. It’s 37 °C and incidentally about 100 F, i.e. the comfort level barrier. Who wants to walk around outside in temperatures warmer than their own body?!
      Thanks for reading and commenting, Grace, I’m a big fan of you and the other spinsters (girls?)!

    • What a splendid idea! Except, my scoops are usually bigger than the ones you can get at our local ice cream parlour. That would have resulted in some interesting mattress buying…

  6. I read the title of this post and thought it was about kidney stones. (I understand that losing weight can be a happy experience, but getting rid of a kidney stone is amazing.) When I was in junior high school, the US began the conversion to the metric system by putting Coke and Pepsi into two-liter bottles. That’s as far as it ever got. I live in Canada now, and after fourteen years, I’ve just reached the point where I don’t have to do the temperature calculation in my head. Metric really does make more sense. But I guess the Americans and British are hesitant about following anything — even a good idea. Great post, Sandra.

    • Thank you, Charles, praise from you is up there with winning an Oscar and being received in audience by the Queen for me!
      Fortunately I can’t relate to the whole kidney stone story. I never had one and to be honest, I can think of more urgent things I want to experience in the future.

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