A recent question put to UKMA via its web site contact form is one that comes up frequently. Some may consider this surprising as the debate has been going on for at least fifty years. Are we missing something?
This is the question recently put to UKMA. The message read:
“Dear Metric supporters, why do you bother? My book is 22.86 cms high by 15.24 cms wide. Can you visualise it?
The imperial system grew up over decades and makes far more sense than metric. Base 12 is divisible by twice as many fractions as metric, making it much more flexible (two thirds of ten, anyone?).
Centimetres are too small, kilometres too short, there’s no equivalent to the handy ‘foot’ and the metre is just a yard that’s got above itself.
How much does a new-born baby weigh?
The metric system is inefficient, impractical and just plain dull. Again, why on earth (24,902 miles circumference) do you support it?
My book is nine inches high by six inches tall.”
Arguments like that expressed above have been aired in public before in those rarely occurring debates on the subject in the media, so the sender is not alone in that kind of thinking. It is doubtful that these views are typical but it probably does reflect a more widespread weakness in understanding measurement and the advantages of the metric system in particular.
The comments reveal more about a lack of familiarity and habitual use of metric units than the merits of the system.
Out of respect for the privacy of the sender, his/her identity will not be published. Answers to the points raised were given in a reply but we leave it up to readers’ comments to provide them here.