Looking back at imperial measurements

I still remember quite a few imperial measurements, even most of them have not been used in New Zealand for nearly half a century – metrication began in 1969 and was completed on 14 December 1976.

My kids never experienced the challenges of just about every measurement being different – 12 inches in a foot, 3 feet in a yard, 1760 yards (5280 feet) in a mile etc etc.

I remember in the late 80s my son wanted to rearrange his bedroom. He wanted to shift a small chest of drawers. I told him not to bother because they wouldn’t fit.

A few minutes later he cam to me and said that it would fit. I asked him why he thought that, and he said that the gap was 38i and the drawers were 36i wide. I asked him what an ‘i’ was an he had no idea – but his method was sound and he got his rearranged room.

‘moth dad’ must have also grown up post-metrication.

SIXTEEN???

WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF NUMBER IS THAT

i have had no reason to actually look into imperial measurements until now and frankly i immediately regret it finding this out

it makes some sense though because a pound is defined as being 7000 grains so that makes each ounce a nice round…

437.5 grains

and then, oh my word, oh my fucking actual god

GUESS HOW MANY POUNDS THERE ARE IN A STONE

you’ll never get it, it would be fucking impossible to guess this

THERE ARE FOURTEEN POUNDS IN A STONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THAT’S A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FUCKING NUMBER! FYI!!!!

THERE’S LITERALLY NO WAY TO KNOW HOW MANY OUNCES ARE IN A STONE!! NO-ONE CAN KNOW THIS

“but innes you can just multiply up the fourteen by sixteen and you’ll g-” NO MATHS HAS CLEARLY ABANDONED US. NUMBERS MEAN NOTHING AT THIS POINT

WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF ANTIQUATED JOKE SYSTEM ARE PEOPLE WORKING WITH

my mum: wow count yourself lucky you only need to learn your 10 times tables, when i was a kid we had to go up to 12

me, a child: oh, for weights and stuff?

mum, a liar: sure

TURNS OUT NO-ONE ON THE PLANET IS TRAINED TO WORK WITH THESE FUCKED UP NUMBERS. THEY JUST MAKE STUFF UP. NO-ONE KNOWS HOW MUCH A POUND IS BECAUSE IF THEY’D EVER USED THIS BULLSHIT SYSTEM THERE WOULD BE RIOTS

so what’s heavier, a ton of feathers or a ton of gold?

IT’S THE TON OF GOLD BECAUSE UNDER IMPERIAL MEASUREMENTS THESE ARE COMPLETELY FUCKING DIFFERENT SCALES

SEE ALSO: WOOL, COINS, MYSTERY ENGLISH ILLEGAL POUND, MISCELLANEOUS

THE ONE JOKE WHICH MAKES IT CLEAR THAT MASS IS A UNIVERSAL METHOD OF COMPARISON REGARDLESS OF MATERIAL HAS NO BEARING ON THE FUCKED UP BIZARRO WORLD OF YESTERDAY THAT IS THE IMPERIAL SYSTEM

I AM 30 YEARS OLD

I’VE GONE MY WHOLE FUCKING LIFE BELIEVING THE IMPERIAL SYSTEM WAS DIFFERENT, SURE, BUT I THOUGHT IT HAD AT LEAST SOME GROUNDING IN REALITY

but NO

I AM SO ANGRY RIGHT NOW

THIS IS WHY IM NOT TAKING ANY OF YOUR SHIT WHEN YOU TRY AND TELL ME FAHRENHEIT IS A MORE LOGICAL SYSTEM

The first computer program I wrote, using punch cards, was converting Fahrenheit to Celsius.  The freezing point in Fahrenheit is 32 degrees, boiling point is 212 degrees (at sea level).

Could anything be harder to keep track of than imperial measurements? at least the Magna Carta standardised one set of weird measurements”across the realm”. Try pre-revolution (pre-metric) French measurements.

Although in the pre-revolutionary era (before 1795) France used a system and units of measure that had many of the characteristics of contemporary English units (or the later Imperial System of units), France still lacked a unified, countrywide system of measurement. Whereas in England the Magna Carta decreed that “there shall be one unit of measure throughout the realm”, Charlemagne and successive kings had tried but failed to impose a unified system of measurement in France.

The mediaeval royal units of length were based on the toise and in particular the toise de l’Écritoire, the distance between the fingertips of the outstretched arms of a man which was introduced in 790 AD by Charlemagne. The toise had 6 pieds (feet) each of 326.6 mm (12.86 in). In 1668 the reference standard was found to have been deformed and it was replaced by the toise du Châtelet which, to accommodate the deformation of the earlier standard, was 11 mm (0.55%) shorter. In 1747 this toise was replaced by a new toise of near-identical length – the Toise du Pérou, custody of which was given to l’Académie des Sciences au Louvre.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Units_of_measurement_in_France_before_the_French_Revolution

It gets complicated – and of course in French settlements in amreica (Quebec, Louisana) they had more variations.

I learnt imperial stuff the hard way, memorising all sorts of odd scales. Including specialised ones, like hands (4 inches) for measuring the height of horses (I don’t know if they still use that). I had a pony that was 13.2 hands high (at the wither), which was 54 inches. Anything over 14.2 was a horse.

This would have made lengths much easier (not):

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49 Comments

  1. Geoffrey Monks

     /  November 28, 2018

    What would one charge for a quarter ounce of pepper costing two pence three farthings an ounce? Even shop-girls could work that out in the 40s in the UK. We had it easy here in NZ, never having adopted the farthing (or the Groat).

    Reply
    • We did have halfpennies.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  November 29, 2018

        You couldn’t make the measurement accurate with 2d 3 farthings unless you had groats which would have been long gone by then, as it would be impossible to divide it by 4.

        For the uninitiated, a groat was half a farthing.

        Reply
  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  November 28, 2018

    Can you please put moth dad back in his cot.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  November 28, 2018

      … but tell him what Pi is before you do – that should send him right off his rocker

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  November 29, 2018

        Back in his padded cell, you mean.

        ‘The circumference of a circle is Pi R squared.’

        Reply
  3. Geoffrey Monks

     /  November 28, 2018

    Moth Dad. That is so sweet. Wonder if today’s university entrance aspirants not knowing what “trivial” means is significant. Just asking

    Reply
  4. Ray

     /  November 28, 2018

    And then there was money with with three different bases.
    12 pennies to a shilling, 20 shillings to the pound and 21 to a guinea.
    Stud stock were sold in guineas up till 1967 and still are in Blighty, don’t know if it was true but I heard it said the shilling represented the agents commission.

    Reply
  5. duperez

     /  November 28, 2018

    I was invited to be a guest judge at a school science fair during the year. I was surprised at the number of kids who’d copied references to measurements and used them as they were. You’d have 12 year olds writing things like “12 feet long.” Interviewing them and getting them to explain what they meant was fun.

    Having said that it’s interesting when kids say things like “miles away” as an expression of generalised distance.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  November 28, 2018

      A cricket pitch is still 22 yards long.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  November 29, 2018

        Things like ‘there was a queue 5 miles long’ will be around for a while, I think. Or there was a huge man 10 ft tall in front of me at the pictures 😀

        If I said that my dog jumped out of the bath and ran away at 100 miles an hour it’s obviously hyperbole. but 100kph sounds strange.

        Reply
  6. Geoffrey Monks

     /  November 28, 2018

    Also just saying; Pi is as relevant today as it was when first conceived.

    Reply
  7. robertguyton

     /  November 28, 2018

    Luddites! (You’s ones)

    Reply
  8. robertguyton

     /  November 28, 2018

    You’re all miles off. Watch the footage!!

    Reply
  9. Gezza

     /  November 28, 2018

    I still find a foot a more useful handy quick estimating some distance measurements than a decimetre (which no one seems to use except the French – if they even do) or than trying to work out decimal fractions of a metre. I often have birds or eels only one or two feet away from my camera, for example. I just find that easier to picture than “0.3 to 0.6 m” away. But I dunno how kids who’ve grown up with decimal measurements only would express that distance.

    Reply
    • Missy

       /  November 29, 2018

      “I just find that easier to picture than “0.3 to 0.6 m” away. But I dunno how kids who’ve grown up with decimal measurements only would express that distance.”

      ummm…. that would be 30-60cm G.

      I grew up in the metric era, my dad would still talk in terms of imperial meaning metric (e.g.: use the term miles when referring to kms), with one exception. In our house our height was always done in feet.

      There is a push in the EU for the metric system to be adopted across all countries, except the UK is resisting, however, by law everything has to be sold in metric (but they still also keep imperial). So, you will buy a pint of milk, but it would have the metric measurement on it as well, buying loose fruit and veges means the price is given in both price per pounds and price per kg. One of my neighbours didn’t even have a clue that a km was 1000 metres, and she is younger than me!!

      For the selling of loose fruit and veggies the market stall holders refused to put prices per kg, so have got around it by selling their wares by the bowl (no weight).

      I struggle with distances here, when I see .6 mile I think 600 metres, but then discover it is closer to a km.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  November 29, 2018

        ummm…. that would be 30-60cm G.

        Yes I know, Missy, but a cm is such a small unit of measure that for many practical purposes that measurement to me is difficult to immediately picture whereas a metre or a foot for such distances is easier.

        I mentally picture a metre as roughly a yard and a bit – 3 foot 3ish – but they are so close I can easily use metres for distance, and metres per second when estimating how fast an eel is swimming or an object is travelling in the fast channel, for example, past a distance of 2 metres on the opposite bank, for example.

        Kilometres and half-kilometres I’m happy enuf to use because so used to reading the speedo and estimating how far I can travel at a given speed.

        Reply
        • Missy

           /  November 29, 2018

          I cannot picture feet and inches at all for measurements, and I have no clue how far a yard is!!!

          I grew up completely with metric, so get really confused when looking at imperial measurements, which isn’t easy in the UK as they still use imperial. At a medical appointment the nurse asked if I knew my weight, I gave it to her and she looked at me blankly, she asked if I could tell her in stones and ounces, I looked at her blankly. Kind of funny really, ended up converting on my phone app!!

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  November 29, 2018

            For heaven’s sake ! It’s basically a yard, woman ! How difficult is that? 😉

            Reply
          • Gezza

             /  November 29, 2018

            Whoops – I’ll just do that again. Forget you even read the above.

            For heaven’s sake ! A metre is basically a yard, woman ! How difficult is that? 😉

            Reply
        • Missy

           /  November 29, 2018

          In NZ it is definitely a generational thing on whether you use imperial or metric. I can always tell the oldies by how they measure distance and weight. 😉

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  November 29, 2018

            A metre is too long to be quickly useful for shorter distances. It should have been based on something practical like a pace for an average height man (women are too short 😉 ).

            A useful measure of distance that is not currently used could also be how far one can travel before a lady needs a loo stop.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  November 29, 2018

              That last one could also be a useful measure of time perhaps.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  November 29, 2018

              An elderly friend said that with imperials, everyone carried or was, I forget which, their own tape measure,

              A foot is about a foot, a yard is an arm, a thumb an inch…

              I am bi-lingual in measurements, and still regret the imperials because of their history.

  10. Griff.

     /  November 28, 2018

    20lb snapper is the mark to beat (my biggest 29lb)
    You still buy pot in oz’s.
    A nautical mile = one minute of latitude .

    Reply
    • Geoffrey

       /  November 28, 2018

      Nope. One minute of longitude at the equator 😁

      Reply
      • Griff.

         /  November 28, 2018

        Nope one minute latitude at 48degrees latitude one nm 6080 feet.
        One degree latitude is 6050′ at the equator.
        No one is that accurate using a sextent so it makes f a of a difference when you are navigating.
        Charts are in degrees so you get your distance from the latitude lines .
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nautical_mile

        Reply
  11. Gerrit

     /  November 28, 2018

    When you are dealing with USA customers the imperial measuring system is still very much alive.

    As one of only three countries in the world still using imperial measurements, its bleeding hard work still having to use the old imperial system for the USA customer and metric for every other customer.

    Made worse by the USA engineering field decimalising their imperial measurements.

    1/2″ becomes 0.500″

    You need to be very careful to read every drawing to see whether it is in metric or imperial as at first glance it is not obvious with the decimalised imperial annotations.

    Then we have their software and engineering tools heavily favoured in imperial measurements (the default setting).

    For some reason they stubbornly cling to their imperial system. I guess the cost to convert would be massive.

    Reply
    • Missy

       /  November 29, 2018

      And if I am correct the US imperial measurements are different again to the UK imperial measurements. That is what I have been told, it could be wrong.

      In every day life the UK still uses imperial, though officially weights and measures are meant to be in metric, even though distance is still in imperial. It is all very confusing for a girl who grew up with metric.

      Reply
  12. Geoffrey Monks

     /  November 28, 2018

    Sorry Griff, perhaps it’s spell checker, but you longitudes and latitudes are jumbled.

    Reply
    • Griff.

       /  November 29, 2018

      Hope you dont ever try to use celestial navigation.

      Reply
      • Geoffrey Monks

         /  November 29, 2018

        Upticks Griff. For all practical purposes, a ship steaming around the equator st one knot would cover one minute of longitude or one sea mile per hour.

        Reply
  13. I don’t waste my precious life reading people who cannot get through a sentence without saying “fuck”, or “fucking”, but perhaps someone might point out to this retarded cretin that the Imperial System was based on real life measurements that normal humans could easily visualise, not some trumped-up meaningless artificiality like the Metric System. The latter is useful for scientific measurements, but not for visualising things in the real world.

    If I look at an acre of my property I can immediately tell that it would take me a day to prepare it for tatties using a horse-drawn plough; and Gezza can estimate the distance to focus on his eels by visualising how many of his shoes would fit in the gap. Indeed, the left feet of sixteen men, toe to heel, leaving church will show him that his eel is precisely a rod, pole or perch away from his camera. Beat that with the fucking metric system. And I haven’t even touched on the versatility of furlongs per fortnight, a non-metric unit capable of measuring speeds with somewhere vaguely approximating 365 times the precision of millimetres per millisecond.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  November 29, 2018

      You’ve reminded me I invariably mentally measure the length of my eels in feet (and inches). Metres is too awkward. Ella is four feet long – she’s easily longer than a metre. So is Elvira, but not by much she’s about 3 feet 10 inches. Eli is 3 feet long, he’s not a metre. Granville – the only shortfin so far – is probably a little over two feet. Tameiti is about the same length as Granville. Nuthafulla is two feet.

      For those of us who’ve used imperial measurements those lengths are much easier to visualise and much more practical, as you say. Height is another one. Ma was measured at hospital yesterday. The nurse gave her her height initially in cm but there was a chart on the wall and she straight away moved her finger across to the feet and inches one. I didn’t even register the cm measurement – 5 foot 1 was what ma reckoned she was and that was correct.

      Tall people I instantly try to place between 6 and 7 feet.

      Weight’s not such an issue because kilos is a handy enough size and a kilo or half a kilo (or “500 g” is a common weight for many grocery or household products are relatively easy to estimate for practical purposes. Litres and mls are also relatively easy to use.There is a decilitre but I’ve never heard or seen it used or cited as a measurement.

      Reply
  14. robertguyton

     /  November 29, 2018

    My Khmer foster children measured eels by their girth – they’d show the size of a big eel by encircling their thigh or calf with their hands.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  November 29, 2018

      Yep. Elvira is getting bigger. Her maximum girth when she first showed up was originally that of a Golden Syrup can. I could still circle my hands around her, but Ella, when last seen, I don’t think I could circle my hands around.

      Reply
      • robertguyton

         /  November 29, 2018

        Small hands, huh?
        🙂

        Reply
        • robertguyton

           /  November 29, 2018

          Just joking, Gezza.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  November 29, 2018

            Thanks – taken as one now. I have big hands actually Robert – well, long fingers. Easily span 9 white notes on a standard piano. Can do 10 sometimes. Good reach on a guitar fretboard. I didn’t realise how long my fingers were until a guitar friend said I can’t play that chord you’re playing, my fingers aren’t long enuf.

            Reply

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