I have often wondered why the USA does not use

  • Celsius
  • the metric system
  • ISO paper sizes

Is it because the US is so big that it is quite possible to use a system not used in the rest of the world, because you can get by using just what you know?

It must be difficult when travelling abroad or buying things online if the systems of measurement are not the same as what you know. I know how hard it was the first time I had to drive on the right-hand side of the road!

South Africa transitioned from the imperial system to the metric system during the years I was at school, before switching totally over to metric. This means that I can do conversions in my head from stones to kg, ounces to grams, square feet to square metres, yards to metres etc. I never thought I would appreciate that but it means I can figure out the size and weight of things when buying online or reading foreign books, for example.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

4 thoughts

  1. The only conversions I can do in my head are money (pre-decimalisation £sd from post-decimalisation) and temp (only that 16 celsius is 61 fahrenheit and 28 celsius is 82 fahrenheit.) nothing else makes any sense and I know miles more that kilometres, pounds more than grams but I had already left school when everything was changed over to decimal. When our currency was changed instead of 100 new pence replacing 240 old pennies (the d in £sd) we should have introduced a new pound worth the old 10s (120d).

  2. I had to Google which year the UK switched to metric – and it looks like it started in the 1960s, before I went to school. I know decimal currency came in while I was at school – 1972 springs to mind. But we were still being taught in imperial at school, so maybe it was a gradual transition. I think in metric distances, apart from km, which I always have to translate back into miles. I’m OK with grams and so on, but millilitres I still can’t get a handle on – and it led to a potentially serious misunderstanding with my doctor not so long ago over increased dosage.

    1. It was begun in the 1960’s when I was at school but the only person teaching us was the maths teacher. The O levels were still in Imperial measurements and money was still in pounds (£) shillings (s) and pence (d). Currency changed first in around 1972, then after joining the Common Market (now the European Union) everything else began to transition gradually. The biggest mistake (which was sold on a lie) was to leave the EU to go alone in a world where countries are beginning to come together more.

  3. For paper, I think you have to change the machinery you are using in the production, which is why it took a long time for the newspapers in the UK to all change from being broadsheet (based on Imperial paper size) to tabloid (metric paper size). As a knitter for more than 55 years, I have no problem with visualising smaller things in terms of either inches or centimetres and use them interchangeably. Weights are much easier in pounds and ounces than in grams.

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