Metric vs. American

I think it says a lot about my level of ultra-nerdiness that I had a dream about the Metric vs. the American system and that I woke up MAD ABOUT IT.

This is what I don’t understand:

The American Customary system has no obvious or quantifiable advantage over the metric system.

So why are we using it?

I’ve been living in the US on and off for 15 years, and I’ve somewhat managed to adapt to Farenheits. That’s been a struggle too, because I’m still perplexed about a system where water freezes at 32 instead of zero degrees and boils at 212 degrees instead of 100 in the Celsius scale.

I ask you this, America:

What is WRONG with neat numbers like zero, ten, one hundred and one thousand?

Don’t you see the beauty of ten milliliters in one centimeter, one hundred centimeters in one meter, one thousand meters in one kilometer?

Instead, sixteen sixteenths of an inch in one inch, 12 inches in one foot, 3 feet in one yard and 1760 yards in one mile.


So, I got up, and started reading the Wikipedia articles on Metric and US Customary units.

And here are my favorite tidbits from what I’ve been reading online:

  1. The US and Imperial systems are more “humanistic” because they are derived on from classic measurements of human anatomy such as our feet, arms and thumbs.
  2. According to the US CIA World Factbook in 2006, the International System of Units is the official system of measurement for all nations except for Burma, Liberia, and the United States. (but some sources identify Burma and/or Liberia as metric…).
  3. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not use the metric system in its commercial and standards activities. The metric system is, however, universally used in science, and increasingly in medicine, government and industry.
  4. In the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 the US Government desginated the metric system as the “the preferred system of weights and measures for U.S. trade and commerce.”
  5. The metric system is an internationally decimalized system of measurement first adopted by France in 1791 (though the idea is attributed to John Wilkins, an Englishman).

So, my now educated conclusion is that these are the reasons the US won’t use the metric system:

  • Why change?
  • Apparently, in the carpentry and building trades it’s easier to remember a integer number and a fraction than a measurement in millimeters.
  • Wikipedia quotes that “inch measurements are more suitable when distances are frequently divided by two,” but I have no idea what this means.
  • It’s “European” as opposed to “American.”
  • The entire rest of the world is doing it, so not using it makes us exceptional, in the same way that Baseball and Football make us stand apart.

This is the map of the world’s adoption of the metric system by year, from Wikipedia :-)

Finally, because I started on such a nerdy note, I’ll stay true to myself and end on that note. Here’s an awesome Reddit thread on Obama bringing us to the metric system. I’ve pasted my favorite replies below:

Q: Who thinks Obama should switch us over to the Metric System?

  • I’m with you every inch of the way!!

  • Changing signs is expensive. Who’s gonna foot the bill?

  • It would have to be a metered response, one sign at a time.
  • But we’ve been using the imperial system furlong time!

  • I don’t have an ounce of respect for your stance.

  • If you don’t respect him, I might have to pound you in the face…


7 thoughts on “Metric vs. American

  1. Why Do You Hate America So Much!!!!

    “inch measurements are more suitable when distances are frequently divided by two,”

    …so you can have a half-inch, a quarter-inch, an eighth, sixteenth, etc. of an inch. Whatever.

    Clearly the metric system is a Euro-Socialist plot which Obama the Anti-Christ will stop at nothing to impose on us all.

    6. All those customary units have been defined in terms of metric ones for the past few decades anyway. For example, an inch is 25.4 mm. Exactly.

  2. Since “inching” toward metric would be way too fast to describe our progress (a speed of half a furlong per fortnight) it is more appropriate to describe it as millimetering toward metric!

    I suspect we Americans will EVENTUALLY switch, but the progress will be so slow that nobody will notice until it’s complete. When will the first food store chain advertise meat prices as “$?.?? per half a key” (1.1lb) saying half a key is more than a pound? Note that Americans know what a kilo, a gram and milligram is, thanks to the illegal drug industry!

    1. I just had a conversation about this today!

      A friend just moved to the US three years ago from India and has totally adapted to thinking in Imperial, and no longer thinks in metric.

      I, by contrast, have been living on and off (mostly off) in the US for about 15 years and have fundamentally refused to even understand the imperial system, to the point of resisting any penetration of any one parcel of that entire system. My sole knowledge of it lies in conversions and some basic facts:

      1) there are 12 inches in a foot
      2) 1 mile is about 1.6 kilometers
      3) there are 2.2 pounds in a kilo
      4) 70F is warm-ish, 40 is freezing and 100 is really, really hot.

      That, my friends, is the sum total of what I know about the US system. I know it’s sad, and kind of an embarrassing confession, but I think in metric all the time.

  3. “Inch measurements are more suitable when distances are frequently divided by two.” I.e. half of 5/8 in. is 5/16 in., and half that is 5/32 in. This is easier than dividing mm by two, I suppose? Half 26mm is 13mm, and half that is 6.5mm.

  4. The metric system is a not-so-subtle lever by the one-world-government types to destroy the US economy so that they can impose SOCIALISM on the US and take away the freedoms that we have fought 11 wars for – AND WON THEM! The metric system looks simple, but it would cost TRILLIONS of dollars to convert our auto industry, our highway signs, and every other industry in the US. The metric system mandates that makers of things like nuts an bolts have to convert NOW, and all the tractors which farm our fields, the American cars on our highways, our airplanes, power generators, and all the rest of the things which make America a GREAT COUNTY will have to be abandoned because they can no longer be maintained. If you refuse to convert, you could be hauled before the government Metric Investigation Committee, also mandated by the metric system, and fined or imprisoned. Adoption of the metric system is promoted as a way to put the US of A on a level playing field with the rest of the world, but in reality, it’s the top of a DOWNWARD SLIPERY SLOPE into a Socialist Hell which will make us no different from countries like France, Canada, Australia, Russia – especially the French, who are no more than cheese-eating surrender monkeys!

    God Bless America!!!!

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