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UK to stay with imperial and metric muddle

On the BBC, it´s been announced that there will no longer be pressure from the EU for the UK to standardise its measurements.

The imperial v metric debate was always very impassioned, and I could never work out why. I couldn´t understand why the EU thought it was worth the energy to force us Brits out of our crazy system, nor could I understand why market traders and the like got so inflamed about changing over. I´ve lived on the continent and have no problem whatsoever with buying half a kilo of apples instead of a pound. Nor a half litre of beer instead of a pint (though interestingly, this was one of the sacred measurements that we were always going to be able to keep!)

On the one hand, I´m pleased this has come to an end of sorts. The debate always seemed to throw up the most petty and ignorant comments — like the idea that the metric system is something Johnny Foreigner cooked up to diddle us, when actually it was invented by British scientists. Or the idea that it enables us to better trade with America, when many of the US imperial measurements are different from ours.

On the other hand this leaves us with the same muddle we´ve had for the past thirty years. I know my weight in stones and my height in feet and inches, measure short distances in centimetres and metres and long distances in miles. I struggle to remember how many ounces there are in a pound, or how many pounds there are in a stone, and I have absolutely no idea what an acre of land represents. Some metric measurements seen to have taken well — I reckon most people measure temperature in Celsius here – but others just refuse to stick.

Where´s the beer relevance? Try homebrewing when your references are American and your equipment is a mixture of British and European. Working out how many litres an American quart is to add to your pounds of grain and grams of spices. Or working your way through the mash temperature debate but having to translate everything into Celsius so you understand it. Thank God for spreadsheets and internet ready-reckoners.

Boak (in Spain, not struggling to cope with metric measurement)

2 replies on “UK to stay with imperial and metric muddle”

For my trawls through old records I’ve had to learn I’ve had to learn some of the less fashionable imperial measures – quarters and bushels, for example.

That’s not too bad. Much harder is looking at any German records. Before the introduction of the metric system, pretty much every village had its own weights and measures. They mostly had the same name everywhere – wispel (bushel), for example – but could vary in size by a factor of ten or more. Absolute nightmare.

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