This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

For Americans - and a few Canadians

Before I begin:  I don’t mean this for all Americans here. But I do mean it for certain people – and I think those whom I mean will be able to see themselves in what I’m about to say.

Look, don’t get me wrong on this. You’re free to write whatever you want in your blog posts, to claim the sun goes round the earth or the world is flat or whatever else you want. You’re even free to say that the Universe is limitless and that spacetime is curved and that black holes exist and evolution happened, if that be your choice. 

Now, one assumes that you aren’t writing for your fellow Americans only. There are many of us from other parts of the world who read your posts. From my personal  point of view,  there’s very little more irritating than reading a well-written blog post, whatever viewpoint it propounds, only to come up against a statement of this nature: “...and that’s like trying to fit a five quarts into a gallon.”

Do you understand what I am talking about? We, 99% of the world, use a system of weights and measures that is scientific and logical. We call it the metric system. For whatever bizarre reason, you choose not to use that system. That may be foolish, but it is your right. But if you want us to appreciate your posts, you should explain what you mean by the measures you put up, because they are wholly incomprehensible to us.

No, it is NOT for the rest of us to adjust our thinking to yours. We are in the majority, you aren’t. We are the ones using the modern system, you aren’t. We have no reason to put up the equivalent in Farenheit when we mention a temperature in Celsius. But if you put up a temperature in Farenheit, if you want any non-American to appreciate what you mean, you ought to put up the equivalent in Celsius.

Because of constant repetition, most of us have got inured to milesand pounds. One can work out briefly that since a mile is equal to 1.6 kilometres and a pound is 453 grams, it's possible to do the mental arithmetic and move on with only a flash of irritation. But what the hell is a gallon? How much does an ounce weigh? Is a long ton a unit of weight or length?

It isn’t just a matter of semantics. You remember that some years ago a Mars probe was lost because the American technicians confused metric measures with their own incomprehensible inches and what else.

I’m sure a lot of you have no idea about the metric system. But it’s never too late to learn.

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