Is now the time to ditch imperial and go fully metric?
In a jubilee year it seems almost treasonous to suggest it, but a pro-metric site has calculated that a ‘metric majority’ has been attained. So, with most Brits brought up metric, is now the time to ditch miles and pounds?
In figures from the 2011 census released this week, most people in England and Wales (and, assuming the demographics and education are similar, the whole of the UK) were schooled in metric, not imperial. Does it make sense to switch?
Many are now preparing to drive in km/h on holiday, and at the Olympic Games next week athletes compete in 100m events, high jumps are measured to the centimetre and boxers square off against their kilogram peers – only the marathon has an imperial hangover, but at 26 miles and 385 yards that makes no sense in any unit.
Tons and tonnes of arguments
Last year we asked if you’d prefer to buy fruit by the pound and most of the metrification arguments have been discussed before. Which? doesn’t have an official line, but the (very) general view of most arguments is that metric is more widely used, easier to understand and Ireland and Australia’s switching hasn’t caused problems.
Opponents, on the other hand, say that other countries (including the US) still don’t use metric and that imperial measurement is part of our heritage. Reader Adel said:
‘Imperial measurements are part of British culture and life! Are the USA going to be the last defenders of Anglo-Saxon heritage as they are the last English speaking country to use lbs, oz, pints and gallons?’
However, Marcus stated:
‘Imperial measurements are part of British culture and life, even though they were introduced by foreign invaders. The class system and the reluctance to speak foreign languages is also part of British culture and life so not all traditions are good traditions.’
New rules, new rulers
There were also concerns that older Britons may have difficulties adjusting. The Master told us:
‘I was born in 1970 – so mainly taught metric at school […] I can’t be described as ‘stupid’ – but I find metric so confusing. Imperial is so simple. With metric you get lots of very similar names that refer to multiple/divisions in the 10s or 100s or 1000s etc.’
By contrast, Kurt, born in 1948, claims he has used metric since 1970:
‘The metric system is elegantly simple and easy to use which is why the world uses it. Like the pounds, shillings and pence of my youth I find imperial units cumbersome and nonsensical and cannot believe that anyone would find them simpler.’
Cliff Steele contributes to the schooling debate, saying:
‘Would an English teacher see nothing wrong with young people using bad grammar because it’s part of everyday life? Running two systems of measurement is ridiculous. The sooner all imperial measurements are taught in history classes instead of maths classes the better.’
As for me, I see no harm in going metric on our roads and elsewhere… but I want to have my pound-cake and eat it by keeping some of the quirks, mainly the pint of beer. There’s nothing unusual about this, even big changes aren’t all done at once – for example, US revolutionaries, those anti-monarchists, apparently continued to toast the king long after declaring their independence from him.
So, perhaps we’ll see the day when we toast metric roads with a hearty pint?
Should Britain go fully metric?
Yes - metric all the way (44%, 297 Votes)
No - we should keep the current mix of metric and imperial (34%, 228 Votes)
Neither - there should be even more imperial measurements (22%, 141 Votes)
Total Voters: 675
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