Odd Thoughts: Measuring the mystery of fun

The superiority of the metric system was recognized by scientists even before the French settled its details and adopted it.

But the rest of the world… not so much.

In fact, Thomas Jefferson, known more for his political prowess than for his significant scientific contributions, proposed that the American Congress adopt a metric system similar to the one that would be adopted by the French a few years later. But apparently, Congress realized he would eventually become president and consequently ignored him.

Little has changed down there.

It took Canada almost 200 years to follow the French. We were dragged into the metric system – kicking and screaming – in the 1970s.

And people old enough to remember the mystery and playfulness of the former system of weights and measures continue to complain to this day.

Canadian kids who have been weaned on the metric system have little understanding of the joy and contentment derived from mastery of the apparently random tables of avoirdupois and imperial measures.

Twelve inches make a foot. Three feet make a yard.

But then 3-1/2 yards (or 16-1/2 feet) make a rod. And four rods make a chain.

How about 1,760 yards (or 5,280 feet) in a mile?

Compare that to the utterly boring 1,000 metres equals a kilometre, 100 metres is a hectometre, 10 metres is a dekametre, one-tenth of a metre is a decimetre, 1/100th of a metre is a centimetre… all the boring way down to nanometres and femtometres and beyond.

And it’s the same boring progression in every form of measurement: just replace metre with “gram” or “litre” or whatever.

American kids still have the pleasure of learning that a cubic foot is made up of 1,728 cubic inches – reminiscent of yards and miles… but not quite!

Or that a gallon in this country used to be four quarts – but not the same as Americans’ four quarts, because our quarts were each populated by different pints.

Americans have 16 ounces in a pint, while the anti-metric stalwart British have the 20 ounces we used to have in our pints. Cups are eight ounces, while there are two tablespoons in an ounce, and three teaspoons in a tablespoon – but take heed! Those teaspoons and tablespoons weren’t the ones at your dinner table or stirring your tea.

And that ounce… that’s an ounce in volume.

An ounce of weight was another matter. We had 16 of them in a pound.

And if you’re not quite confused enough yet, some of the folks in the British Isles still measure their personal weights in stones – get this: a stone is 14 pounds.

Personally, I just cannot understand why Canada ever turned to the metric system.


Just Posted

COMMUTER ALERT: Serious pedestrian crash closes Pacific Highway

Traffic along 176th Street, 4th to 8th Avenue, is blocked while Mounties continue to investigate.

Giants owner Ron Toigo to get BC Sports Hall of Fame W.A.C. Bennett Award

Head of Langley-based hockey team to be honoured at May induction gala

UPDATED: Touching note left on Langley veteran’s windshield

A veteran hopes the writers of a note know how much he was touched by their kind words. They do.

VIDEO: Young Langley boy uses his grief to help other kids suffering loss

Thursday Langley Hospice hosts its Paint the Town Blue campaign to spotlight child bereavement.

LETTER: Canada should not be selling weapons abroad

A Langley man is critical of Canada for selling arms that are being used to kill civilians.

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Protesters confront Environment Minister in B.C.

Protesters wanting more for killer whales confront Catherine McKenna

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Tubing, skating, light display part of new winter festival in Vancouver

Set to open Nov. 23, the six-week festival will take over Vancouver’s Concord Pacific Centre

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Regulatory confusion over ‘toxic’ stink near Abbotsford school

Officials sniffing out which regulators responsible for enforcing compliance at neighbouring property

Most Read