Old Internet Article About the Metric System Nails it

Metric is useful for certain things, but Imperial is more human.

Then I start to realize that for length there is a similar problem in the metric system, in that you can’t divide a meter continuously by 2 without getting fractions. In the English system, the rulers are divided by quarters and eighths and 16ths, but the metric ruler is divided into units of ten, so any fraction of that you just have to guess. It is IMPOSSIBLE to divide a meter by three, because you get 0.333333333 etc meters; using the metric ruler, a third on a metric meter doesn’t exist! So then I start to think, hey, THAT’S why there are 12 inches in a foot, you can divide all sorts of ways, by 2, by 3, by 4, by 6, no problem! Cool!

We have this friend who is a carpenter, and I see him, and I say, “Hey, Freddie, when you have a board a meter long, how do you divide it into 3?” And he sort of gives me a funny look, and says why would he want to do that. And I say, well, “How does that work? Because in the metric system, a third of a meter isn’t marked on your ruler so what do you do? Don’t you ever have a board of one meter that you have to divide by three?” And he says, “No.” And I’m sort of crestfallen, and then he adds, we don’t buy boards by the meter, the standard lengths they sell are in 120 centimeters.

Americans are often castigated for not using the metric system. But we do. Where it’s more useful than the Imperial system. Where it isn’t, we don’t.

1 Comment

  1. Though it’s utterly bizarre metric and imperial measurements are still combined in various ways. With my last employer I worked for a while in their studbolts division – a studbolt being nothing more than a short piece of threaded rod. Threads are given imperial measurements; lengths are given in centimetres. A crazy arrangement, but everyone’s become accustomed to it and there’s no sign it will change soon.

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