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.

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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.

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

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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!

Until…

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!