back to article Pints under attack as Lord Howe demands metric-only UK

Lord Geoffrey Howe of Aberavon has demanded that the UK goes fully metric as soon as possible, describing the current mix of miles and kilometres and pints and litres as a "uniquely confusing shambles". Speaking yesterday in the House of Lords, the former chancellor and deputy prime minister insisted: "British weights and …

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Re: Try buying Pipe

Standard gauge is actually 4' 8½"

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Re: Try buying Pipe

Ah, you call it 4 inch pipe, but it's not. It's 110mm pipe now. Much like inch and a half waste is now 44mm waste.

The unit's completely unimportant though, because you and me both would ask for "a full length of sewer pipe mate"

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FAIL

Standard gauge (was Re: Try buying Pipe)

Standard gauge is actually 4' 8½" ? (4 minutes, 8½ seconds of arc??)

Only in the U.S.A.

Everywhere else in the world it's 1435mm (though 4ft 8½in is well within the tolerance allowed).

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Pint

I'm an engineer

But I like to stick to pints for my beverages, and miles for my long distances.

But at the same time I think those bloody yanks ought to use metric for their engineering units.

Sadly though, it seems to be the other way round. Electronic engineers over here end up having to work in mils (thousandths of an inch, not mm) because it's the standard.

You need standards if you need precision. In engineering, it's vital that the world standardises, and I wish they'd use metric.

But for colloquial use, the status quo should remain. Messy or not.

The whole point of colloquial units is that everyone understands what they mean, i.e. the great unwashed. It's the same reason why large areas are often expressed in terms of hundreds of "football pitches" rather than square kilometres.

So get your grubby french hands off my Quart.

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Anonymous Coward

You give them 25.4mm

And they take 1.6km!

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And we thought gay marriage and Lords reform were a waste of legislative time in the current economic and political climate.

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Trollface

This is nothing!

UK should drive on the right, like the rest of the world!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is nothing!

I understand some mad peer is about to encourage us to bring it in gradually, starting with vans and lorries first and see how that goes.

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MJI
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Re: This is nothing!

We defeated Napolian so drive on the left as we should do.

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Anonymous Coward

Daft

It's not confusing, it's called life. Nobody is struggling; in the same way nobody is confused with 'ph' sounding like 'f'.

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Pint

Yus I remeber

2 Liters to the Pint thats about right

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Anonymous Coward

All the "right side of the road" trolls

To all the "we should work on driving on the right side before metric-fication"

Never happen. You start driving on the right side of the road, and speaking English, and people might mistake you for eeeeeeevvvvvviiiiiiiilllllll 'Muricans.

So Brits will never accept it.

('scuse me. I have to run by Wal-Mart, get some Hoppes #9, and clean my guns.)

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Paris Hilton

Sirah!

Dear El Reg

The previous posts and posters have said it all.

What is wrong with little britain?

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Unhappy

Confusion reigns

You youngsters got it easy- O level geography maps had to learnt twice, in case we got a map in inches per mile or centimetres per kilometre. When I got to college for HNC, we had to learn valves/transistors and thyratrons/thyristors because we were in another changeover.

At least electricity goes at a sensible speed; 1 nanosecond per foot, which was fine for a starting point for signal delays across pcbs.

Don't forget the bloody Euro lot do fuel consumption upside down as well as metric, its litres per 100km over there.

Coat, fold-out walking stick, stomps off stage left.

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Thumb Up

Something has gone to sensible units already

Do a blind test at work. Ask people what are the boiling and freezing points of water

When I was little, temperatures were given in Farenheit. There was a time when the weather forecast mentioned both. Nowadays, even my elderly relatives dropped that nonsense long ago.

It can happen.

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Pint

Fine. Agreed.

Imperial is a mess, discard at will..

Other than our pints of beer. Remove the "pint" designation from the glass if you must, but serve us 568ml every time.

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Unhappy

I hope they don't change guitar string sizes to metric

A .009 - .042 set is easy enough to remember but I'm fucked if I can remember what the metric equivalents are, even though some brands have 'em printed on there.

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WTF?

200mm vs 8 inches...... I rest my case

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If you want human-based measures, you ought to move back to Fahrenheit. 0 = very, very cold. 100 = very, very hot. It's perfect.

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We are officially metric

As far as I understand it, Britain is officially metric, other than using miles and yards on road signs.

Given that the metrification process started in the mid sixties, wouldn't it make a lot of sense to complete it? It's been nearly fifty years after all.

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MJI
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Re: My sat nav

I want metres and miles - nope all metric or all imperial.

I just know a yard is just under a metre so I leave it imperial

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Mushroom

We should be progressing further!

I think its shocking that we have 60 second minutes, 60 minute hours, 24 hours in a day, 7 day weeks, 12 months in the year and 365 days (sometimes) in a year, not to mention a ridiculous 360 degrees in a circle.

And fractions! What's that about? What's that you say? Decimal is only an approximation? France tried a 10-day week and failed miserably? An inch is actually a measurement which is quite useful both on its own and in groups? Its actually easier to say "six-foot-one" than "183 centimeters" and indeed, just over 6 feet is easier to visualise than to 183 of anything?

What is so superior about base 10? It doesn't even work for counting fingers & thumbs without going to an extra significant place.

Go away and stop trying to change things which don't need to be changed. There is so much that needs fixing, but this shouldn't be anywhere near the top of the list, even if you think it would be a good thing.

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Re: We should be progressing further!

circles are measure in Pi ;)

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Pint

_1984_ coming a bit late this century?

Anybody remember the old geezer in Orwell's _1984_, complaining he wanted his pints back because his kidneys couldn't handle these damn' half-liters?

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wow, some people really like their beer in pints

Having lived though the change over from imperial to the metric system in Australia during the 1970's I don't know what the fuss is all about.

Just do it. its not like you are going to wake up one morning and suddenly the world is turned upside down, it will happen gradually and with thought,

Yes there will be some extra expense in changing road signs etc.. but this will not be much more than the regular repairs and replacements.

The benefits far out weigh the costs.

AND... i would be very surprised if your local English pub would be forced to stop supplying the pint.. We retained our unique beer sizes.

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bep

Yep

You can still get schooners and middies, they just put the metric measurement on the side; huge sacrifice lads. Not many drank pints in those days, but you get them in 'Irish' pubs now. The reason to change the road signs and speedos is to get people used to the measurements. It's really a lot simpler, believe me.

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Re: Yep

Not true... Depends on the city. In Melbourne at least pints seem to be more common than schooners.

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Pint

Re: Yep

Traditionally the colder the climate the bigger the serve. This is to stop the beer from becoming warm by the time you get to the bottom of the glass.

This is why pints are very rare in Sydney /Brisbane but more common in Melbourne /Hobart

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meh

I'd like the imperial system to become obsolete, and I don't think an effort in this direction is a complete waste of time - but, seriously, the cost/benefit isn't hot enough to do it at this point.

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Re: meh

"I'd like the imperial system to become obsolete, and I don't think an effort in this direction is a complete waste of time - but, seriously, the cost/benefit isn't hot enough to do it at this point."

The sooner we do it the sooner we start reaping the benefits. There is nothing to be gained by continued foot-dragging.

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Go

The reason....

The reason for anyone wanting to finish off the (mostly done) job of getting rid of the last vestiges of the old measurement system is that for Britain to be Great again, we need to be designing, engineering and making stuff to trade with the rest of the world. For that we need a workforce inherently able to work in the same units as our customers will want. Which is metric.

( Forget the anomaly that the U.S. still works in U.S.C; as a trading partner they are well down the list in terms of volume of trade. )

The thing is that while our street signs insist on forcing miles and MPH down our throats, most British people struggle to reckon longer distances in those units that we need for our prosperity. Even those units we need for our own purposes 99% of the time.

Changing the roadsigns need not be expensive. It's not as if you actually have to *replace* the existing signs. Councils use sticky retro-reflective plastic patches all the time to correct spelling mistakes and other minor stuff on signs. All you have to do is change the rules to require new signs to be put up with km distances, and permit old miles signs to be patched to km as part of a rolling refurbishment program. You could also expect central govt. to pony up a bit of cash to allow councils to train up a few extra blokes with "working at height" qualifications just to go and patch the ludicrous signs claiming "junction in XXXm" where "m" means "miles". Which crack-smoking bureaucrat ever allowed that abuse of international conventions I have no idea.

Yes - it will be inconvenient for us drivers for about a month. Just as the conversion from £sd to £p was an inconvenience for a month or two in 1971. I was there. I remember it (just about). But now we reap the rewards of that month or two of inconvenience back then. Same with the roadsigns.

And our children will thank us for it.

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Re: The reason....

Our workforces do work in millimetres and kilos (and Nm-1 and the rest). Unless they are dealing with the US when they might work in inches and feet and lbs as well.

British engineering companies are not losing out on sales to our European neighbours because we are using Whitworth threads - we use M4 and M12 and every M inbetween like everyone else.

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Re: The reason....

Yes I always thought buying beer in litres was getting in the way of us returning to greatness. Not to mention how confusing having road signs in miles, I bet most engineers never even manage to get to work, let alone build anything. I bet they spend most of their time parked on the hard shoulder converting to km's.

Of course, our fall from greatness has nothing to do with us offering degrees in pub management rather than ensuring our kids can read, write and count. It has nothing to do with all those parents who rather spend all their money in gala bingo and on bargain madness booze rather than ensuring their kids get off the playstation and do their homework.

There are very few vestiges of the imperial system left. The areas of our life where it did matter, where it did confer a competitive advantage to change, have already been changed. The problem with our country is we are carrying too many lazy bugger, too many people have rendered themselves unemployable and far too many people are simply not educated to a high enough level or are educated in a less useful field of study.

If we want to be great we need generations of chemists, engineers, mathematicians and for those not suited to university, we need people who understand what is required to hold down a job. That you have to turn up, every day, on time. That you need to be able to read, write, count and talk coherently. Our economy and society are wrecked, but not by pint glasses? It has been wrecked by laze and entitlement.

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Keep it just as it is

It keeps our BRITISH minds more agile than Johnny Foreigner's if we have to understand and use both systems. Personally I use whatever seems most appropriate; millimetres are more useful for small things than fractions of an inch (32nds anyone?) or thou, but inches work better than centimetres for medium-sized things. The metric system has nothing to rival the foot, although metres and yards are equally useful in a welly-wanging contest. Kilometres are too small and I dismiss them. People are weighed in stones and pounds, unless you're American and can't cope with base-14 units. Everything else can be grams, kilograms or metric tonnes; the latter is as near as dammit the same as a long ton anyway. Finally, fathoms are the most logical way to measure depth ever devised; most people can imagine how many men standing on each others' heads it would take to reach the surface.

I like the current mess better than either system on its own. Of course, if you're doing SCIENCE then you should probably stick to SI units, otherwise the distinction between lb and lbf is going to turn around and bite you, and energy calculations never work.

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FAIL

Re: Keep it just as it is

It doesn't keep our minds more agile - it just means that most British people can't use the system we need if we're to be meaningful in the world any more.

Inches don't work better than centimetres (or millimetres). That's just you.

People are not weighed in stones - go to the gym for a workout, you'll weigh yourself or be weighed in kg. Go to the doctor's - you'll be weighed in kg. And if you're not familiar with your weight in kg, and your doctor makes a mistake, how are you to point out "hang on, I'm 72kg, not 82kg". Such a mistake could kill you.

You're obviously trolling with the fathoms bit, I'll pass on that!

But no - it's not about "just using SI for science". We all need to use it for everything. That way, when we use it for something serious and make a mistake, we'll notice that the answer is absurd *before* building the doomed bridge (or whatever we were doing).

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Go

Where else in the world...

...is it actually illegal for a pub to sell beer in metric units or to put metric measures on a road sign? There is no such prohibition on either of these anywhere else in the world, even the USA has some road signs (although hard to find) with km on them.

And come on Zog, if British minds are more agile then why is it that Britain and the USA are both way down on international league tables when it comes to mathematics ratings in schools?

A little consistency would go a long way to saving the country money and helping us regain our place in industry. Almost the entire world uses metric, by not finishing conversion we're doing nothing more than cutting off our collective noses to spite our faces.

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Anonymous Coward

international league tables

why is it that Britain and the USA are both way down on international league tables when it comes to mathematics

'cos our education system's shit, and our kids have no respect for their teachers who are devoid of meaninful authority.

fekk all to do with metric/imperial

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Re: Where else in the world...

In AUS it was illegal to use 'imperial' measurements after the change-over. There were prison terms specified for crimes like that.

It was a messy process at times. The initial change was driven by a (Australian from an Irish Catholic background) / anti-American party / Francophile leader, so it had implicit cultural overtones, but they promised we would still be able to use 'imperial' measurements. Except for measuring things. (that is convered by Weights and Measures, the people who make sure scales are accurate etc). Then they went hardline because they could. Then they relaxed because it doesn't matter.

The only thing I am aware of that a significant number of people still use the 'old measure' for is height (medical staff will still accept your height in feet/inches). Bookcases were a 25 year hold-out too, but I think that's gone now. Most tape measures are now metric / imperial again, but most rulers are imperial-only.

Perhaps the worst affected were the people responsible for maintaining road-overpasses. They all changed their truck-height warning signs to metric over a very short period. (Sadly, a typical piece of stupid short-sighted metrification) Then slightly later they all added the imperial measurement back as an extra sign -- most truckies did not at automatically know the clearance of their trucks in metric and there was a lot of expensive damage done in a rather short period.

Nobody here knows what a pint or a half-pint is (most milk is sold by migrants and children), even though the names would still be useful. During the change over the actual volume of a bottle of milk swung around a bit, and we all got used to just saying 'a bottle'. You still have to do that now. You can try a poly-sylabic term like "three hundred mill i litre", but "one of the very small cartons" is more likely to work.

You can get a 'pint' of English beer in some pubs, but it may be a very small pint -- as long as the glass is marked correctly, say '350ml', they can call it anything they want.

There are now a LOT of people here from non-English/AUS/NZ backgrounds, whose parents never used 'imperial' measurements. Is that the case in the UK? Presumably, total metrification will make it easier for euro-zone migrants. Is that likely to be important?

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Re: Where else in the world...

-- most rulers are METRIC only --

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Re: international league tables

Amen, exactly the same problem as the UK. Having lived in both countries, run a business in both countries, I can say that the problems I experienced in both had nothing to do with beer coming in pints. It was entirely to do with poor parenting, under investment in education and people believing that getting razzed every night of the week was more important than earning to money to pay for it.

At no point in the past 10 years have I ever seen a need to abolish the few vestiges of the imperial system. The only arguments I hear for it are basically lies or 'because it hasn't been done yet'. The same type of argument we heard from those that didn't want any metric. We have metric where we need it, we have it where there is a cause for it. the rest simply doesn't warrant the effort.

If you want a public works project that is fine, have one that produces a real benefit. Build a hospital, expand a canal network for freight, rebuild some roads, replace some railway ballast, regenerate some old housing, build some playgrounds. Do something useful, do something that will actually impact positively on peoples lives. Pissing money up the wall on somebodies pet peeve in the middle of a serious financial crisis is utterly irresponsible and personally I find it reprehensible that people would be so selfish. We need people in work, we need them earning and teaching their kids that it is more important to do well in school and earn a wage than it is to play COD 4.

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Not 'uniquely confusing'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer_in_Australia#Sizes

If Aussies can handle this lots JUST for beer I think we can cope with pints and litres geoff

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WTF?

It's amazing...

Amazing to find *any* readers of El Reg. who actually want to keep some outmoded trash (like the vestiges of the imperial system) when there is NO WAY any of them would be seen dead with an outmoded trash mobile phone the size of a brick with an aerial sticking out of the top!

El. Reg. readers are famed for being right on the ball regarding where to get the utterly utterly latest new shiny Android XYZ phone running IceCream TripleSandwichWithExtraMayo (and all the latest apps) at a good price. Why would any of them admit to supporting a creaking weights and measures system dumped on us nearly a thousand years ago by Norman French invaders?

No - come on guys. We want the LATEST toys. Imperial measures are the equivalent of being the size of a brick with an aerial sticking out the top. Or maybe the equivalent of MSDOS running on a 12MHz 286.

And about as useful.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's amazing...

"El. Reg. readers are famed for being right on the ball regarding where to get the utterly utterly latest new shiny etc..."

El Reg readers are also famed for taking the piss out of anyone who evangelises over such shininess. And so with your attitude to metric measures. Imperial measures will die out as the old fart generation dies out, or sooner if they are as problematic as you believe.

Meanwhile, leave us be. My desire for a pint is not going to cause any bridges to collapse or Mars probes to miss.

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If keeping track of the two systems is too mentally taxing for Lord Geoffrey Howe,

perhaps his title should be removed and given to someone who at least meets the average mental capacity of a British citizen?

Look, I'm a 'Merkin. I've never had a pint, probably never will. (Not because I object to the idea, but because I'm a poor sod who is allergic to hops. And while a pint of beer is something the body can handle, a pint of gin and tonic has a somewhat more dramatic effect.) But even though this whole thing doesn't affect me in the least, it still irritates me when one of these loons takes to the public stage to pontificate such utter dreck.

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Pint

"I've never had a pint, probably never will"

Have this instead, it's made from apples. Mostly apples. No hops

Ignore the foamy head, it just got a bit shook up on the way from the West country.

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Stop

Re: If keeping track of the two systems is too mentally taxing for Lord Geoffrey Howe,

Give the man a break, he is old enough to remember being paid in salt! :) When you are older than yoda just see how confusing it is for you ordering a pint of beer in the heaviness subsidised Westminster bar. He had his mouth switched over to metric years ago, imperial beer just doesn't fit! (at least not alongside all the bullshit making the opposite journey).

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Childcatcher

Metic OK but not Centimetric

I can work in feet and inches meters and millimeters but I consider the centimetre an abomination.

The centimeter can too easily be confused with the good old inch and is not a metric unit. It was introduced during the French revolution with the 10 day week and the 40 day month, 400 day year and should have gone the same way.

As for Lord Howe he has never recovered from Denis Healy's rebuke that being attacked by Geoffrey Howe was like being nuzzled by a dead sheep.

Think of the children - stop teaching the centimeter in British schools. A policy that would appeal to Imperial minded Luddites and Metric advocates alike.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Metic OK but not Centimetric

"centimeter can too easily be confused with the good old half-inch..."

Fixed that for you.

Conveniently for schools a centimetre is a good size for children to read off a ruler unlike fiddly mm.

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Alert

Consistency

My car shows its fuel consumption in miles per gallon. It's about 20 years since I bought a gallon of fuel, and I have no idea how much one costs. Yes, I can work it out, but that uses brain-power that I really should be applying to my driving.

On investigation, it turns out that I can change the units* used to display fuel consumption. I can have kilometres per litre, or litres per hundred kilometer or gallons per hundred miles. What I can't have is the hybrid unit that would be really useful: miles per litre.

*When I recently set the satnav to use Imperial units, it started to display altitude in yards!

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