The EU gives up on a metric Britain

Well, this BBC news story says that the EU is giving up on converting Britain to the metric system. There go my metric dreams up in smoke!

The US and the UK are two of the very few countries in the world that don’t use the metric system. There’s a reason it’s called the ‘Imperial’ system, after all…

I can understand the hesitance to metrics – the British in general really do seem to love doing things their own way. Just look at the Triumph TR7, or the original Mini Cooper. Or the old money system, with 20 shillings to the pound, 12 pence to the shilling, 6 pence to the sixpence (duh), 2 halfpennies to the penny, 4 farthings to the penny…and you get the idea. It wasn’t until decimalization in 1971 that British coins became the pound (which remained the same as before) and the smaller denominations became the 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p and 1p pieces used today. Check out the full list of old British coins here – prepare to be amazed and confused. Oh, the Scots also had their own pre-decimalization money system as well.

The problem is that the UK currently has a crazy mix of metric and Imperial measurements that just confuses people, even if they’ve been brought up learning both systems. The now-renounced EU directive said that fuel is to be sold in litres, but road measurements are given in miles (apparently, mile markers were to be changed to kilometers a few years from now, but that’s gone out the window too). Fuel consumption for cars (in advertisements and reviews) are given in miles per gallon, but no mention of if this is Imperial gallons or US gallons – yes there is a difference – but I can only assume they are Imperial gallons.

In America, the confusion exists as well, but not to as large an extent. It’s mainly import car fans (17mm wrenches for draining the oil on Hondas), members of the military (they’ve been using ‘klicks’ since at least Vietnam) and scientists (astronomers, natch) that are familiar with the metric system. I had to try explaining the length of a millimeter to a southern good ol’ boy one time over the phone, and that was about as fruitful as explaining who Carl Sagan is to my cat.

One of the claims of the UK ‘metric martyr’ was that beers wouldn’t be sold in traditional pints, among other things, and it was this particular argument that really highlighted to me how much the British value their independence from the EU (don’t ever call a Brit a European, by the way!). A grocery merchant in the north of England got quite famous for being arrested for selling a pound of bananas. With this latest ruling, his widow is now calling for the courts to clear his name.

Of course, the pint argument is moot because Ireland sells their lager and ales in pints, and they are a member of the EU, and they even have kilometer signs on their roads. So…why are the Brits so against the metric system? F*** knows, as the common British saying goes. They just love doing things their own way.

So will confusion reign, and everything sold in grocery stores that’s measured in liters and milligrams (that is, everything) now be noted with both measurements, or just one? And which one, if it is to be one or the other? Gah.

I suppose as long as I can still get fruits and vegetables in the shops it doesn’t matter in the end.


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