Re: Metric Time (was Re: Why not 13 months? (Was La Systeme Metrique))

Peter Ceresole (
Sun, 08 Oct 1995 09:36:56 +0100

In article <457e55$>, (Don Stokes) wrote:

>I think there are five issues that keep feet & inches alive for "casual"
>i. Familiarity (self explanatory)

But short lived. I can't really *think* in feet and stuff any more.

>ii. Divisibility. 10's integer factors are two and five; 12's are two, three
> four and six, making a halves, quarters, thirds, sixths and twelths of a
> foot easily represented.

Again, metric quarters are easy (two and a half tenths) and so are thirds
(three and a bit tenths). And it ties in with ordinary mental arithmetic. A
totally trivial business, easy to visualise. I always found that in
practice the divisibility argument was irrelevant; if you're measuring
things up, you have to divide anyway, inches or centimetres; and if the
measure has feet in it you're straight into nightmare territory, all those
bloody twelves fouling it up.

>iii. The size of the relationships; to represent say a person's height in
> feet and inches requires two numbers to be remembered.

I have no trouble remembering that my height is one metre eightythree (1.83
if you prefer). Does six feet and half an inch sound better? I think it's
much more confusing. Nobody brought up in the metric system has any problem
at all with human scale measurements- and neither do I, who like you
converted when I started to do science in school.

As for kilometers, if you want a shorter version what's wrong with
"klicks"? In French they say "kils". No problem for anybody. As for "mils"
the meaning depends on context, and can be made explicit at once if needed.
Which is true of any of these words.

I think this all smacks of rearguard action. I actually remember the relief
when the Brits gave up duodecimal (errr... ignoring the 20 shillings in the
pound of course) money and suddenly money calculations became instinctive;
do you remember having to use ready reckoners or dedicated calculators to
handle routine financial transactions like tax and percentages in shops,
because I do, and it was horrible- just horrible. I can't imagine the
nightmare of ever seriously using the Imperial system (oh shit, the thought
of it) ever again. I only drag it out when talking to some old fart who
clearly won't function otherwise, and then I am doing conversions in my

Nobody who never had to learn and use the Imperial system can ever know how
bloody awful it was... at every level, including human.