/ Food & Drink, Shopping

A kilo of strawberries – or would you prefer a pound?

Punnets of strawberries

Asda’s experimenting with imperial measurements by selling strawberries by the pound. Is this something you’d like to see rolled out, or are weight measurements an entirely outdated concept when buying fruit and veg?

If you’ve been shopping in Asda in the past week you may have noticed something strange – the supermarket giant has started selling its strawberries in 1lb punnets.

If that sounds a little like a blast from the past, that’s because it is – this is the first time the shop’s used imperial measurements in over 10 years. The plan is to see if there’s enough shopper demand for the old system – and if so, it could be rolled out to other fruit and veg.

Having grown up with metric measurements, being presented with food weighed by the pound isn’t going to make my life any easier. A pound of sugar is about all I have to draw upon as a comparison tool, which isn’t going to help me when I want to buy a couple of apples or a bunch of grapes.

Is buying by weight going out of fashion?

I’d even take it a step further and say there’s a whole generation of us who don’t pay attention to weights at all when shopping. Most fruit and veg is pre-packed in supermarkets nowadays so we don’t have a clue what it weights.

Take many people to a market and they wouldn’t have a clue what their punnet of strawberries or shrink-wrapped broccoli equates to, grams or ounces. I tend to ask for ‘eight carrots’, ‘four onions’ or ‘a few handfuls of potatoes’ when I’m at my local farmer’s market – it works for me.

But, if Asda’s research is anything to go by, there’s plenty of demand to bring back the old system. It found that 70% of its shoppers were confused by metric and would prefer products to be labelled in pounds. And 20% even said the confusion was taking them longer to shop.

Metric devotees needn’t worry though – all packs are required to display metric weights by law, with imperial an optional extra. But, with so many confusing logos, lists and schemes already competing for space on our food labels is there really room for two different weight measurements as well?

Comments
Guest
Emily says:
6 June 2011

I’d definitely prefer a kilo of strawberries to a pound, as you’d get about twice as much! 🙂

Seriously though, I have no mental concept of how much a pound is – though I’m completely fine with kilos. That’s likely because I’m from Australia and in my 30s, so metric is all I’ve ever known!

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Guest

Emily – I sympathise entirely with your point, but for the exact same reason I’d prefer a Pound. I’m only just 40 and was educated entirely in metric all through school from age 5, but until the late 80’s / early 90’s it was still UNcommon to find foodstuffs and medical things expressed in metric in the UK, so I have no concept whatever of what a kilo of strawberries looks or feels like, but I know exactly what a pound is.

For what it’s worth I think we have the whole metric / imperial problem in the UK simply because the government decided NOT to go metric in every aspect of life back in the early 70’s and then in recent years have tried to “finish the job” thus creating the same havoc we had in 1974 all over again.

Guest
michduncg says:
15 June 2011

Dave D

You are right to say that the Government in the 70s didn’t have the courage of its convictions. After recommendations from 1899 onwards that Britain should go metric, Britain decided in 1965 to accept the advice from the CBI to go metric in the interest of British industry. I was born in 1967, and have never been taught anything but metric. I have a great knowledge of imperial, that I have read myself but absolutely refuse to use it. Its rubbish, and certainly not something we need to burden our kids with. Yeah, an inch may be a nice size, but what happens when you want something smaller – try teaching kids today about eights or sixteenths!

As for visualising metric meaurements – well pretty much 1 Litre of any water like liquid is going to weigh a kilo, as is a bag of sugar. simples.

I am confused about your comments regarding metric in medicine not happening til the 1980s. I was on medication throughout the 70s and know that the doseage was 50mg from 1972 to 1980. I also clearly remember all medicine spoons being clearly marked 5ml.

At the end of the day, we were meant to go metric with the rest of the Commonwealth in the 1970s. They achieved it, we didn’t. Our future lies in international co-operation like we see in Airbus, BMW-Mini, Nissan, Honda etc. We need a metric conversant workforce and its a real waste of time to even get them bogged in Imperial twaddle.

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Guest

No thanks. Tesco will manage to show the price per pound as higher than the price per kilo.

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Guest

But that’s because Tesco are profiteering unmentionables, rather than because either weight measurement is inferior or superior ……….

Guest
pickle says:
7 June 2011

Being an oldie, I prefer the pound.In fact it makes little difference – you can see how much you are getting and for a single oerson a kilo of strawberries is too much to eat in one go – probably could manage a pound….
Which raises another point – single persons are faced with buying a lot of food in such large packs that they can eat only a pert and the rest goes to waste – we need smaller packs for single persons.

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Guest

Absolutely agree PIckle, but my solution is not smaller packs for individuals but to say that we should have the option to buy the weight we want, weighed out at the point of sale, like we always used to in proper shops. This would also have the huge benefit of reducing packaging and waste which would mean that prices could be reduced (or held for longer) as the packaging won’t have to be bought by the suppliers / retailers.

Win all round!

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Guest

I think item weights should be in both pounds and kilos.
Older people happier with the old imperial system would feel comfortable while younger metric thinkers won’t be inconvenienced.
But however we do it we do need a weight so we can compare this six apples with that six apples to be sure we’re getting fair value.

Guest
michduncg says:
15 June 2011

You seem to forget that the ‘older people’ of today, were 36 years younger when we went metric in 1975. They have had 36 years to adapt. There is absolutely no excuse why we need to drag this mess out any longer. A British Government lead the move to go metric in 1975 in the best interest of the country. Dual labelling makes the information difficult to read at a glance, and running two measurements system is a solution only Heath-Robinson would welcome.

Guest
John says:
8 June 2011

Most of us are used to Metric by now. Let’s stick with it and stick with the rest of Europe.
This action by Asda increases consumer confusion.

Guest

And what measure do the French, the inventors if the metric system, use for loose fruit and veg? livres!! (or pounds) which is equivalent to 500g (cf uk lb 454g).

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Guest

buy fruit, veg, meat, etc, all from local markets/butchers. They have always used pounds and ounces.
Cheaper, fresher and better value for money.
Anyone who buys supermarket fruit, veg and meat wants their head read.

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Guest

The barons who forced the Magna Carta knew the value of having one system of measure across the realm. That is still the case today. Having both metric and imperial units gives unscrupulous traders a field day for sneaking in price increases. When the UK went metric, it should have been done properly as was done in Australia and South Africa. Instead the British Government allowed the eurosceptic movement to hijack the use of imperial units as a “badge of honour”. All that is happening is that our school children are getting confused – they are taught metric at school, but people like Asda use imperial units. Unlike their parents, they are expected to use calculators, something that you cannot do easily using imperial units, so those who are promoting the continued use of the imperial system are doing our country a disservice by perpetuating the confusing that our school children are suffering.

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Guest

Although I’m over 80, I’m not one of those Luddites who yearns for past imperial glory. Tje metric system is used almost universally, It’s time we stopped looking back and lived in the present, and that means ONE system of measurement, and it’s metric.Use the kilo- it’s a thousand times simpler.

Guest
gladiator says:
20 January 2012

If every elderly people were like you, the metric conversion should be more smooth and less troublesome for it’s already been.

Guest
Daniel says:
11 June 2011

Keep in mine, ASDA did not switch back to pounds because the customers were asking for it, but because they saw an opportunity in the foolishness of the consumers. They reduced the size from 500 g to 454 g (removed about 2-3 strawberries from the pack), but continue to charge the same price as the previous 500 g size. If some fuddyduddy prefers 454 g at the price of 500, then they deserve to be cheated.

Anyone who is still struggling with the metric system after years of exposure can not be smart and if tested would have the same trouble with old measurements. It isn’t the measurements that is the problem it is the people.

Maybe some people don’t care but not knowing metric is a major reason businesses close up and take their jobs to metric countries. How can you produce metric products for the world market if your workers complain that they are constantly confused by the metric system? You do so by doing it in a country where the people aren’t confused and leave the workers in the home country unemployed and unemployable. Ignorance of the English (and American) is a blessing to the world. Keep it up.

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Guest

Daniel,
I imagine you did not mean to cause offence but your second paragraph is very offensive.
There are lots of us, including those of us with first class degrees in mathematics who find visualising weights of foodstuffs in metric impossible simply because the British system of using imperial for food and medical matters until at least 20 years after it was ditched for all else has left us used to the old system.

Guest
michduncg says:
15 June 2011

David D

How can it be ‘impossible’ to visualise weights of foodstuff in metric? Are you saying that food is ‘naturally’ Imperial? What tosh! I as most prepacked food is packed in round metric packs, its easy to visualise.

I think what Daniel means is that it is not smart not to go metric. within 50 miles of my house, major employers are Honda, Airbus, BMW and Siemens. All metric companies, all investing in our country and our workforce + BMW has just announced an investment of £500 million If we were still teaching kids Imperial I doubt that would be the case.

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Guest

Dear oh Dear – I am in trouble – being called by my Sunday name! LOL!

Seriously, I think that the reason Daniel and Michduncg et al can’t understand what I mean about visualising foodstuffs in metric is probably revealed in the phrase “..most pre packed foodstuffs…”. I’m talking about baking and cooking with raw ingredients from scratch. For example, if you have a tablespoon then by definition it holds an ounce of dry goods such as flour or sugar. Therefore, unless there is a proposal to ditch all existing tablespoons and replace them with new Metric ones, simple day to day measurements for cooking, not to mention billions of recipes, will be useless.

I have no objection at all to a dual system, and I would note that some other posters have pointed out that many local butchers and so on still weight out in metric or imperial as the customer asks. This is surely the best option.

When I first posted on here a few weeks ago I must confess that I never even considered one important point: why is there all this fuss about Asda when Waitrose, M&S and Somerfield (now the co-op) have, for as long as I have shopped (i.e. since the early 1980’s) had dual weights on all pre-packed items and weighed deli items in imperial if asked to ? Why it did not dawn on me that Asda are not actually doing anything new at all I do not know.

It also occurs to me as I type that the majority of pre-packed raw goods are actually sold in imperial anyway: why do you think Jam comes in 454g jars? Because 454g is 1Lb and the glass factories and jam factories were not about to change all their machines to take 500g and 1kg jars when we went metric. Likewise sugar, flour, etc is 454g and 908g bags and milk in 0.568 litre (i.e. 1 pint) bottles.

The more I think about it the more I realise that this is clearly some marketing ploy by Asda .

Guest
michduncg says:
14 July 2011

Dave

I too cook from scratch, and if you tell me you still have sugar and flour in your house measured in lbs then I would advise you to check the sell buy dates! I work in food retail and can assure you that these products have been sold in kg’s and g’s for about 20 years. I will take your word for it that a tablespoon is capable of measuring 1oz in dry goods. Tablespoons are very useful as they are defined as they are 15ml, with teaspoons 5ml.

As far as your comments about most items still being sold in 454g or multiples/divisions thereof, I wonder if this varies from retailer to retailer. Certainly most of the products I buy in my weekly shop at Waitrose are in rounded metric measures – pasta, meat, cereal, oils, vinegar, tinned goods, salad ingredients (tomatoes in 500g punnets), meat, bacon (sausages are in 454g in the old style packs, or 400g in new packs of 6), cheese, butter, cider, wine etc. The issue with jam and preserves is that they belong to a group products which can only be sold in particular sizes – bread also belongs to this category. Your comments about jars etc remaining in imperial sizes are dubious given that a lot of UK food in jars is made for a wider market. We could in fact be paying over the odds on some products by forcing food suppliers to run two production lines, one for UK Imperial sizes and another for the rest of the world (except the US)

I simply do not agree that it is in the national interest to run a dual measurement system. No other country does it, our kids are having enough problems with numeracy without us forcing this ridiculous situation on them. And it works the other way. I meet a lot of people in my line of work who request measurements of a product in Imperial eg 150 cm. When I convert that to 5 ft, they will usually ask what that is in inches! Furthermore, running two measurement systems is bad news for consumers – it makes it diificult to compare prices, and price tags are cluttered and ambiguous. We recently rejected a ridiculously complicated voting system that was only used in 3 countries in the world. The same is true of the Imperial system, so lets reject that as well.

Guest
Michael says:
11 June 2011

A terrible backward step. In a week that has seen investment of £750 million by foreign owned and metric car manufacturers into our economy, the importance being fully conversant in metric by the British public is very clear.

As far as weight in supermarkets go, I think that there is now far too much information on dual weighed items to make it clear. Not only have Asda added the imperial weight to the aforementioned fruit, the Co-op have added imperial weight and price per lb as well the metric equivalents to some of their pre packed meat. It is all too much to take in. The Government really should leglislate against this.

Guest
Michael Glass says:
12 June 2011

As an older Australian I am completely nonplussed at the idea of using two competing systems of measurement side by side. There should be just one system of weights and measures in the market and the only sensible choice is the metric system.

Guest
Mike Shaw` says:
12 June 2011

What ever is universal counts. From my point of view one pound weight is roughly half a kilo and that gives me some idea about the products competitiveness.

Guest
Cliff Steele says:
13 June 2011

Because 70% of shoppers are confused by metric there is no reason to pander to their ignorance by giving them alternative units. If 70% of people said that they were confused by reading and writing in English what would would ASDA do about that? Label their products in Latin?
As far as I know, that 70% figure was given by a tabloid newspaper.Tabloid newspapers report WW2 bombers found on the moon and make up stories about bendy bananas being banned by the EU so I would take that figure with a pinch of salt anyway.
What ASDA and all other retailers should be doing is getting rid of all the literal conversions to metric like 0.946 litres of milk and rounding them up or down to sensible figures like 1 litre or 500 ml. Changing the punnet size from 500g to 454g is what NOT to do.

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Guest

I find the whole topic confusing about why it is confusing!.

Strawberries are sold in punnets – the actual weight is effectively immaterial – you can see the amount of strawberries in the punnet. The shops I visit do not give a choice of a punnet in metric or a punnet in imperial. You are given a choice of buying or not buying the punnet in front of you.

The only time imperial/metric comes into play as far as I’m concerned is when I compare the cost of fillet steak today £12.22 a kilo and £1 a lb of yesterday – and noting it is more expensive now.

Guest
Andy says:
13 June 2011

Using a mixture of both systems is ridiculous and just allows us to be ripped off, because no-one is able to compare. Think about petrol: Every motorist knows how much a litre costs – you instantly know at a glance that if you see £1.20 its cheap and if you see £1.40 its expensive. You would not be able to do that if garages used different measurements. Although the cost of fruit and veg is maybe not as critical to peoples wallets as petrol is, most people should have at least a rough idea how much some basic foods cost – but they don’t because a mixture of systems is used so people just ignore the weights.

Guest
Sophie Gilbert says:
13 June 2011

Just a ploy to confuse as many people as possible and make as much money out of it as possible. See Asda pat its own back pocket, it all adds up in there.

Guest
ionlywant trains says:
15 June 2011

Having been educated since the 70’s I wasn’t taught the imperial system in school. So that means anyone who is under 40 has been taught the metric system. So how can the metric system be confusing?
How many grams in a kilogram? a nice easy 1000 (the meaning of kilo)
How many ounces in a pound (is that not the money we use?)? no clue in the name? It must be the same as the number of pounds in a stone? right?

Guest
Dennis says:
28 June 2011

I personally would like to see products measured in the same way ! !
If I buy loose tomatoes I want to know the price per kilo or pound, if I buy packed tomatoes I want to know how much per kilo of those tomatoes are so that I can compare the price of two different ways of buying the same product. Likewise in fluid measurement how can I compare millilitres against ounces for instance. Imperial or metric I want to be able to make an educated assessment on price so as I can buy knowing I am getting value for money.

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Guest

Wild strawberries are only 7 francs a kilo according to a well known song.

Personally my vote is for a wholesale change to metric. Imperial measurements should be consigned to the history books (but not forgotten) to join the groat and the cubit.

Guest
Dennis says:
3 July 2011

I think we should go back to imperial measurement.
At the same time we should get out of the Common Market and stop the gravy train for these
MEP’s and get rid of the beaurocracy and these stupid stupid things they dream up all the time! ! !

regards Dennis

Guest
michduncg says:
3 July 2011

So did the EU ‘force’ Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, India and just about every other country in the entire world to go metric as well? In the same way of course, it never forced us to go metric. That decision was taken by an elected UK Government in the interest of British industry.

And a good thing it id too. Look at how much of our manufacturing is under the control of foreign owned and metrically orientated organisations – Airbus, BMW, Nissan, Ford, Siemens etc – all investing billions of pounds in the UK and all 100% metric businesses. Who require UK work forces that are all trained in metric.

You may also be interested to know that all of HM Armed Forces are metric for procurement purposes, including the sizes of the uniforms!

Guest
Chris Nation says:
6 July 2011

The Imperial system is ludicrous. Nobody under 65 – perhaps older – was taught anything other than metric at school. Even those bastions of tradition, timber merchants, deal only in metric and have done for many years. That the UK is still allowing Imperial measurements to be found on any product is typical of the insular intransigence that bedevils many aspects of British life.

A good example of this was the chance, in 67 to go LHD, at the same time as Sweden did. It’s true that Sweden shares land borders with countries that drove on the right but at that time Britain was slowly winding itself up to join the EU. The change was mooted. It was seen as sensible. The Government [despite its PM waffling on about ‘a new society forged in the white heat of technology’] turned it down. We are all still paying the price for this, from increased cost in making RHD cars to insurance surcharges once on the other side of The Channel.

Metric is unimpeachably logical. Imperial is based on data so ancient and obscure as to be pretty much arbitrary. Retaining Imperial is daft. Bringing it back in any form is daft and peverse.

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Guest

Chris – sorry but I have to disagree with yoru first point: “no one under 65 was taught anything other than metric…..”

Under Thatcher’s education reforms of the late 1980’s the National Curriculum was brought in.

Under the National Curriculum it is a legal requirement that all school pupils are taught imperial and metric and their conversions in Key Stage 3 and 4 mathematics.

This is stil the case.

I am a teacher of mathematics with 17 years of experience. Frankly I would be pleased NOT to have to teach this as the students find it hard and boring, but by law it has to be taught and exam boards examine it as part of the GCSE.

Additionally when I was at school between 1974 and 1986 I was taught imperial and metric,but in those days it appeared to be down to each school to choose which they used. I will say one good thing for the National Curriculum and it’s mandatory content on this topic: at least since 1988 all students have learned BOTH and no one has been left knowing only one or the other and being unable to recognise the one they were not taught.

Your second point about timer merchants made me raise an eyebrow but I am not in a position to make any remark other than that the national timber merchant based in the city where I live sells things in feet and inches, and their metric equivalents (e.g. a 6 foot length of timer is labelled as 182 cm, which is the direct equivalent to 6 feet) , but I don’t really know much about the timber trade and I have no idea how “out of step” they may or may not be. I do, however, know that plumbers merchants sell drainpipes, copper tube and guttering in mm but that if you look at the sizes on sale they are exact metric equivalents of 4 foot, 6 foot and 8 foot lengths.

This is clearly a complex area – much more complex than I or most other posters on here seem to have realised before Asda hit the headlines.

Guest
Andy says:
6 July 2011

Chris, I’m not sure you can compare going LHD to going metric. Half the world drives on the left, we may be out of line with the rest of Europe but at the end of the day the difficulties even back then to switch would have been huge and although it makes sense for everyone to drive on the same side its not worth risking peoples lives for. Going metric on the other hand we are almost on our own and there is no reason to not go all the way.

Guest
SJ says:
8 July 2011

It’s easy to convert between Imperial and metric, and cost comparison is easy to do provided you have *something* to compare. Produce in packs that don’t have the weight labelled, I routinely weigh and then compare against the price of loose. This isn’t rocket science. Asda’s just counting on lazy shoppers who won’t bother price-checking, or even notice that they’re getting 454g instead of 500g. This is evident in the number of times various supermarkets switch prices around so that the best value size frequently changes.

My gripe is that weights and measures are hard to find on many packages – it should be mandatory to be on the FRONT of the package, not tucked away in the fine print on the bottom. Use whatever system you like, or multiple ones, but make it obvious what the measure is. There’s plenty of room for it; there’s no excuse other than trying to pull the wool over shoppers’ eyes.

Guest
Cliff Steele says:
9 July 2011

I agree with SJ that shopkeepers try to pull the wool over peoples eyes and that it should be mandatory for the weight to be shown in the most obvious place but that weight should always be metric because it is simpler and universal. I disagree that it is easy to convert between imperial and metric and I don’t see why the customer should have to go to the trouble of doing so because of stubborn traditionalists.

Guest
michduncg says:
14 July 2011

Hi Dave – its me again!

just to be clear here, are you saying that you have to teach children maths in metric, and then teach them ALL of it again in Imperial? Or do you teach them it all in metric, and then introduce them to a few Imperial measurements that they might encounter and explain the conversion? I don’t have kids so I only see the end product in the work place, where young people tend to understand metric for most things around them except their own height and weight.

So do you teach kids how to calculations in area in sq metres and then do the same again in sq ft and sq yards. Do they have to do calculations on distance and time in m/s or mph? When I did maths and mechanics in the 80s we dealt purely with metric measurements in these subjects as well as in science and physics. Are you saying that these subjects are now taught in imperial as well as metric? Cos that would make them even more difficult lol. And what would the point of that be anyway? No engineering firms use imperial, nor do most other walks of lide.

Mrs Thatcher herself stopped the teaching of Imperial measurements in all English & Welsh schools from 1974 at the latest. I was aware that there is mention in the National Curriculum of Imperial, but not an in depth coverage of the Imperial system. Do you cover chains, gallons, fl oz, CW, and all of those ‘wonderful’ idiosyncracies I was lucky enough never to have to learn?!

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Guest

Michduncg.
No, I’m not saying that ALL maths is taught in BOTH systems, what I am saying is that within the National Curriculum for maths ONE of the compulsory topics that has to be taught is the system of metric measures (predominately linear measure, mass and volume and the parallel system of Imperial measures.
I’m not sure of the original reasoning for this when the NC was drawn up but at the present time the reasoning is that the majority of people (according to the ONS) would be utterly lost of asked to track their weight or height in metric and because “Commonly used units such as Lbs, PInts, Feet and Inches are part of everyday life” (I’m quoting the LEA maths advisor for the area in which I work and she i turn is paraphrasing the NC documentation).

By odd co-incidence I was sitting on the bus home tonight and overheard a conversation between a young man of about 19 and his friend who were discussing the baggage weight limits for travel as they planned a snowboarding trip. One of them asked the other what he was taking and the other listed the items. THe first then said “will that be less than the 30kilos limit?” and the second replied “Year, 30 kilos is way massive its like 60 bags of sugar” – which is a fair approximation as sugar still comes in 454g bags – 1Lb or almost half a kilo). THe first replied “Are you sure, I thought 30 kilos was only about 15 bags of sugar” – which would mean they would be 2 kilo or 4 Lb (approx) bags – not a size I see most people buying in the shops. They debated this for a while before solving the matter by looking up Tesco shopping on their mobile phones and soon discovering that 30 kilos really is like 60 bags of sugar because Tesco on line (presumably) shows 1Lb bags of sugar with the metric equivalence shown.
To me this seems to illustrate the need for us to understand both systems, whichever we believe is most widely used.
Just to add to the mayhem, of course, we need to remember that we are not the only country that uses imperial: the good old US of A retains imperial, but just to make life really fun US imperial is not the same as UK imperial. I can’t seethe US changing any time soon just because quite a few other countries are Metric?!

Another though comes to mind: when did you last see any clothes on sale in metric sizes? If you ask a bloke what size waist and chest he is he’ll probably tell you something like 32″ waist and 46″ chest. If you ask him for metric he’ll as like as not not have the slightest clue. I believe that ladies dress sizes are also based on inches.

I also note that gas is still measured in cubic feet by gas meters (1 cubic foot being 1 unit) and then the gas companies and the customers have to perform elaborate calculations to change this to cubic meters and then to KwH just to lease the bureaucrats. At each stage the calculation the re is a value which usually has many decimal places and it is always rounded UP, which means the gas company gets to charge for more than we’ve actually used and we lose out. If we’d kept imperial for billing for gas we would all save a little money each year.
Finally your comment on engineering using metric – I have no experience in this field at all other than to note that, rather like timber and plumbing to which I referred yesterday, most engineering materials seem to be sold in curious metric quantities which, when you look at the conversion, just happen to be the exact equivalents of imperial measures such as Lbs, feet, inches or cubic feet. I’ll hazard a guess that this, like jam jars, is because it would cost too much to replace all the massive machinery with metric versions? I don’t know – just guessing.

To me the bottom line is, as is the case in so many other aspects of life, we actually need to keep several systems in place at once and use each where they work best, rather than trying to force a “one size fits all” solution onto systems where actually that size doesn’t fit at all

Guest
Cliff Steele says:
16 July 2011

Dave D,
Quite a few other countries use metric? How about all other countries in the world other than the good old US of A which uses the US Customary unit system which is,as you say, different to the British system. Surely a good reason for the UK and the USA to fall into line with the rest of the world.
How sad that you, a maths teacher, should see nothing wrong with young men being so ignorant of measurement and think that the answer is to keep giving them the choice of mixing and matching whichever is easiest for them when it obviously doesn’t work. 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.

Guest
Michduncg says:
16 July 2011

Hi Dave

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry reading your comment. First of all, let me reiterate, no One sells sugar by the pound anymore. I have worked in retailing for 25 years so I knew that anyway. But having checked online at Tesco I can see that all 39 sugar products of Sugar are sold in rounded metric ie 1kg, 500g etc. So if you are using a bag of sugar as a reference then it will be either 500g or 1kg.

You mention clothes sizes – I can do either, although are you aware that all of Armed Forces kit is supplied in metric? It’s cheaper to source from overseas that way. And you mention gas and yes, you may be right about that too. But the Imperial system, like Latin, is essentially dead. No institute exists to monitor it’s implemenation and use, no new imperial units have been established for donkeys years. All new measurements are metric based. Even the Imperial measurements themselves are now based on metric – 1 inch is officially 2.54cm, 1lb is officially 454 g etc.
But my main concern is that you, as a Maths teacher, seem happy to send kids out into the world, with a total lack of understanding of either system. I was lucky enough to be taught metric properly, so I don’t need to understand bags of sugar – I know a litre of water weighs a kg. No other country in the world burdens it’s kids with two systems of measurement. There is a one size fits all solution. It’s the same solution that EVERY country that has changed it’s measurements system since 1850 has adopted including all former Commonwealth countries. It’s common sense, it’s metric!

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Guest

Cliff & Michduncg.

I am sorry that you choose to be personally offensive about my teaching of which neither of you have any knowledge. however I would point out that I stated somewhat further up this board that I do not approve of the National Curriculum requiring the teaching of the two systems but, like you, I have no influence over the NC and cannot change it so there is no option but to teach this material.

Regarding groceries – I would not shop at Tesco to save my life and have not verified the conversation which I overheard on the bus, however in my pantry I have the following items from Waitrose and the Co-Op which appear to me to prove that Imperial weights and measures are still in partial use – the measurements in both systems being verbatim quotes form the labels of the products:

Wiatrose own brand flour 454g (1Lb) sell by date January 2012 purchased last week
Waitrose caster sugar 1kg (2.2Lbs) sell by date October 2011 bought about Easter time this year
Julian Graves Glace Cherries 225g 8oz sell by date December 2012 bought 2 weeks ago
Co-Op mixed olives and feta 225g (8oz) sell by date today eat by date July 18th 2011 bought last saturday
Duchy Organic skimmed milk 2 pints 1.12L
Co-Op truely irresistable Strawberry conserve 454g (on front of label) !lb (small print on back of label)

The assertion that imperial is defined by metric is flabbergastingly incorrect but it is true to say that the law requires metric to be shown first or in a more obvious position than imperial (not entirely sure why the Duchy milk shows the pints first that being the case but never mind) and it is true that shops are supposed to price against the metric measurement even if the imperial is what is shown or what is asked for by the customer (e.g. at the deli counter). I also have extensive retail experience from before I trained as a teacher but I’m not going to try to points-score on that as I left retail in 1997 after 12 very happy years of it so I’m not as up to date as Michduncg.

I wasn’t aware that the armed forces buy clothes in metric – must remember to ask my colleague who left the Army 2 years ago if that was the case then – however I don’t really see that any one organisation doing something in one particular way is necessarily a justification for saying that it’s the best way – otherwise if that was the case the fact that milk is still sold in pint bottles would be justification for saying that all food should be sold in imperial measurements and I don’t think any of us would agree with that.
(It does occur to me, though, that the fact you say the forces use metric so they can buy clothing from abroad seems to suggest an unfavourable lack of support for British INdustry on the part of the government and I also find it puzzling that they need to use metric to do so, given that most clothes in high street shops these days are sold with imperial sizes but bear labels stating that they are made in Indonesia, Turkey, Spain, Italy and so on. Don’t know why the forces should have a problem if the high street shops don’t? Maybe you can enlighten me?

Your comment about Latin certainly made me laugh I must say – it is ironic that the current minister for education has a stated intention of bringing Latin back into the school teaching curriculum. Got to be honest, I don’t have much time for his ideas, but it did make me chuckle to read that it is apparently dead when he wants it back. More seriously if Latin was not in use in the medical world we would be in a very unpleasant position with regard to providing health care, so I don’t think it’s completely dead even though it certainly isn’t in everyday use.

I’m afraid I’m not going to make any further comment on this topic since it’s attracted personal and offensive remarks but my final thought myself is that what we do all seem to agree on is that a multiple usage system is confusing – where we don’t appear to agree is that I say one size does not fit all and others clearly think that it does.

Guest
michduncg says:
25 July 2011

Ref the comment ‘The assertion that imperial is defined by metric is flabbergastingly incorrect’ – sorry, but in 1959, the US and the UK Governments officially redefined imperial measurements based on the metric system. So from that date, Imperial has officially been a subset of metric.

[We have edited in the correct quotation of Dave D’s words. Thanks, mods.]

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Longley Shopper says:
25 July 2011

Recently I pointed out some spelling and typing errors in a post on another conversation (Royal Mail) and was promptly shouted at by Patrick Steen of Which? for being offensive.

michduncg has above mis-quoted Dave D in a way which is highly disrespectful and utterly changes the meaning of what he is quoting. I don’t understand why Patrick hasn’t shouted yet?

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michduncg says:
26 July 2011

It was a genuine mistake that I inserted the word ‘stupid’ in place of ‘incorrect’ and if this system allowed me to delete or amend the comment I would.

However, it doesn’t change the fact that I was right in my assertion that Imperial measurements were redefined by the UK & US Governments in 1959, so that they are based on metric measurements.

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Hello both, I have now edited in the correct quotation. Michduncg, if you quote another commenter please try to make it accurate.

Longley Shopper, I’m afraid we’re not on Which? Conversation 24/7, but we try to deal with problems as soon as we can. Your comment on Royal Mail was off-topic and personal, whereas Michduncg’s comment here is not. Sorry if it sounded like I shouted, that wasn’t my intention – we have Commenting Guidelines for a reason and we just like to make sure everyone is aware of them. Thanks.

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Steve says:
13 January 2012

As a 3rd grader in NY State in 1975 we learned metric along with US Customary, and as an Engineer with a Masters degree I can tell you all engineering courses & textbooks in the US are taught in metric. However in the real world including most of industry (and by the way I worked for Nissan mfg in Tennessee for some time) most measurements and calculations are conducted in US Customary despite the cars being made from parts made using metric measurements. Most of the equipment we built in-house was made using US materials sold in US measurements through US vendors and everything Nissan installed was remeasured into US Customary anyway so it could be modified. If externally-sourced tools, fasteners, toolholders, equipment parts, etc are in metric then they are simply ordered in metric and that measurement is retained. Our biggest problem was the Japanese using Japanese anthropometric data when the plant was built so light switches were placed near waist level, desks were 22″ high instead of the “normal” 28-30″, and overhead conveyors were being bumped into constantly (< 80"). Most auto part attributes which require plant workers to judge weight, length, distance, or insertion force are converted into US Customary for clarity, except discrete parts like bolts & nuts which only have to be selected and placed. I, like many engineers, have most of the conversions memorized anyway so this is not a big deal. Or we just take out the tape measure or scale and remeasure it for ourselves.
Any engineer who designs in this country uses both systems; having a preference to one system or the other is secondary since despite your ego and "principles" you have to deal with what you are handed. I personally prefer inches and feet since they easier to design with. For most manufacturing environments, outside of NASA or precision instruments, building something down to the millimeter is impractical for most tools outside of a machine shop, the closest 1/8" (0.125") or 1/4" (0.250") is close enough for manufacturing purposes.
BTW, the only things metric in Canada are their road signs & temps. I visited Toronto for business and not one thing in the auto parts mfg plant was in metric, including weights. Even in the IKEA store there, furniture dimensions were advertised in metric on the signage but most people were using the paper inch scales to measure the furniture. And for the record, I found the metric road signs confusing despite my ability to convert in my head. When you have exactly 3 seconds or less to see, read, comprehend, and act upon a road sign, trying to convert that while driving at high speeds distracts the driver long enough to create a hazardous traffic condition, in my opinion.

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JohnS says:
5 August 2012

Just to reinforce michduncg’s comments on the 1959 agreement, it was actually a six-party agreement. The other parties were the governments of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. All were using slightly different relationships between the foot and meter(metre) and between the pound and kilogram.

All agreed 1 ft = 0.3048 m and 1 lb = 0.453 592 37 kg and to rely on these declarations and their metric physical standards, rather than Imperial/Customary physical standards. Prior to this the US and UK foot differed by around 3.7 ppm, and we compromised on a value proposed by Canada. The new values are commonly referred to as the International foot and pound, but they are only a six-party agreement. For the US, they were adopted 1959-07-01 by publication in the Federal Register by the Department of Commerce, a rule-making Federal agency. I believe the formal adoption in the UK was a little later, but I am unsure of the details.

The US first used this approach in 1893 (Mendenhall order) but with a slightly different value for the foot, 1200/3937 m. This value has been retained for some land survey work and is known as the Survey foot; it may not be used for other purposes.

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John Gifford says:
24 July 2011

Officially this country now uses metric weight measurement and the educational system teaches metric, so for a reversion to imperial is not beneficial. Although many people seem to prefer the imperial according to Asda’s survey, it would be very interesting to know the age ranges of the people who prefer it. The chances are that the older generations would prefer the reversion but the younger ones prefer the metric or did not have a preference.We need to be dealing with this as an on-going (metric) issue, not going back to an out dated system, unless the government changes its policy for the whole country, including education.

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The Master says:
7 September 2011

I was born in 1970 – so mainly taught metric at school. School was public then grammar and resulted in many O-level passes (A & B) including maths, computing, electronics, physics and chemistry. I also have two AO-level passes in 2 variations of mathematics and have worked in IT journalism. So 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.. It is so easy to be out by a factors of 1000s – above when some says that 150cm is 5ft, I will have to believe them because I thought that 150cm was around 18″. I can easily picture 5ft (I’m 5’10” tall) or 18″ – but not 150cm when I don’t even know which it is. I have to convert everything to sensible measures so that I ‘know’ what’s being used.

METRIC IS BAFFLING – PLEASE BRING US BACK THE SIMPLE IMPERIAL

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JohnS says:
5 August 2012

This is not a slight to you, but to your teachers. You were not taught very well. Students must be taught to use units of measure (actually measure things), not just do mathematical manipulation.

You are about 178 cm (I’m 194 cm, and born well before you, 1944). One tip: although most people are comfortable using centimeters, perhaps it would be easier to avoid the prefixes centi-, deci-, deka-, and hecto-. By using only prefixes which are multiples or submultiples of 1000, a prefix error is so large as to usually be quite obvious. Is 1.78 m any easier to visualize?

We have the same problem in the US. Students are NOT taught to actually use metric. They are taught to answer stupid questions like “how many nanometers in a kilometer.” While the answer is 10^12, the question does not often come up in the real world, so it is not a very useful skill.

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I don’t think there is any chance that we will go back to the imperial system but it will survive in various uses (miles per hour, miles per gallon, pints of beer, birth weights) for years and some food will continue to be labelled with the metric weight and the imperial equivalent.

Most people get confused by some things, even if they are well educated, and it can be a difficult problem to cure. I suggest that you forget the centimetres and think in millimetres. This may break the habit and it helps that many things are sized in millimetres when sold.

It is amazing how many people will mix up measurements, for example referring to a a metre of 2×2 timber.

You are absolutely right about similar sounding names and I have tried to help many students who mix up millimetres and micrometres. Perhaps the way is to learn that millimetres are everyday units (whereas micrometres will not be encountered except in a scientific context).

I have no problem with metric and imperial units but my hang up is relationships. I was an adult before I could refer to words such as nephew and aunt without thinking about this. To this day I still can’t cope with terms like second cousin. Enough about my hang ups.

Guest

to The Master,
I was born in 1948 and taught only imperial at school. When I started work in 1970 I had to learn the metric system because the government said we would be completely metric in 5 years and that is what the office I worked in used. I have used metric measurements exclusively from that day. 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. How many feet in a mile? Is it a sensible figure? How many inches? How big is an acre? Why different units for height (feet) and distance (miles and yards). Why have so many units for weight when one would suffice? The longer people resist changing over completely to metric the longer the confusion will last and this will affect the economy of the nation through loss in international respect and trade.

Guest

Good post Kurt. Of course some people like old measures. Its natural for people to be resistant to change. But the way we are going about it prolongs the difficulties. The world as a whole has decided to standardise on one system of weights and measures and the UK decided decades ago to do this as well. I appreciate that some people don’t agree with this decision, but its happened – many decades ago so what is the point in resisting? The refusal of our governments to be decisive and do away with the old measures has been very costly. People won’t gradually switch over to metric until the old measures are gone. Even with temperatures, which are now almost universally in Celsius, you still get occasional people quoting Fahrenheit in the summer because weather reports insist on STILL giving conversions. Conversions are a temporary measure to help people, not a permanent one to allow people to continue using the old! NO other country has dealt with metrication like this and its a great embarassment for the UK. While it will always get swept under the carpet because no-one wants to tackle it and there are always more important issues, metrication is costing us money and will cause us problems for many years to come.

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Cliff Steele says:
22 November 2011

Phil,
A few older rural French people might use ‘ un livre’ .About as many as older Brits who still speak of something being worth ‘half a crown.’ Are you suggesting that loose fruit and vegetables should be sold in crowns?

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James says:
30 January 2012

Metric is far better although it would be even better if we stopped using mass measurements for weight.

Using kilograms as a unit of weight is simply incorrect. You buy strawberries by mass not weight.

Guest
Adel says:
19 May 2012

Imperial measurements are part of British culture and life! Are the USA going to be the last defenders of Anglosaxon heritage as they are the last english speaking country to use lbs, oz,pints and gallons… It’s weird in a way: the UK is largely influenced by US culture (music, movies, vocabulary, fashion…) but it seems to have forgotten that America is not metric. Is Britain waiting to turn completely metric to feel like using imperial again just to be ‘american friendly’. Metric measurements are not english and will never sound english above all in their french spelling (-re instead of -er) and i hope the dual labelling (imperial/metric) will be reinforced! By the way, i am French and i really feel sorry for Britain that is loosing its identity and its particularities. If the UK wants to go fully metric, it must go for it and not just pretend : adopt kilometres and metres instead of miles and feet. The expressions such as ‘inch by inch’ ‘miles away’ ‘gallons of water’ … SHOULD BE eventually forbidden and even lead to prosecution if used… No?????

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You still have miles, miles per gallon, and pints of beer (though be sure to ask for a top up if you are served 500ml).

I cannot imagine many would want to go back to pounds, shillings and pence. If you are old enough to be familiar with the old system, what is wrong with being bilingual as far as measurements go? Give him an inch and he will take 25.4mm.

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In Spain we still use pre-metric expressions which have survived metrication so the French person´s comments about the English losing their traditions have no foundation. Why should 98% of the world have to adapt to 2 countries whose units do differ? It is simply embarrassing, frustrating and incomprehensible that Britain uses ºC, litres, metres for cloth, wood, doors etc… kilos for weight and tonnes for heavier things such as vehicles yet yards and miles for distance. How long can this mish-mash continue. Some government will eventually see the light and consign the outdated imperial units which nobody since the 1960s has been educated in, to the dustbin.

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Marcus says:
19 May 2012

Yes Adele, 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. All countries once used anthropomorphic measurements like Britain but one by one they replaced them with the universal metric system just as they replaced horses as beasts of burden with steam engines and internal combustion engines. It’s progress.There is no reason to remain stuck in an inefficient time warp because The USA remains in one.The USA will eventually go metric, it has started already, but that is their problem.
I see no reason to Anglicise the spelling of the units by changing re to er. We spell centre with an re rather than the American er. Despite what tabloid readers think, we are European too.
I agree 100% with you that the UK should go fully metric rather than pretend to be metric. It should have completed the process of changeover 25 years ago. The present hybrid system is worst than what it replaced. Too much confusion and nothing gained. Another example of a British tradition (compromise) being a bad one.
Nobody has any intention to ban expressions like inch by inch, miles away or gallons of water.We still use words such as fathom in our language but I don’t think we actually use it as a measurement any more.
An international system of measurement is out there and used by over 95% of the world. Britain should accept it with open arms or it will be left in a future dark age.