Americans and the Metric System

As an American who grew up with United States customary units, but learned the Metric system in grade school, I find this cartoon terribly amusing. It’s a sad, but true, observation of many Americans, as can be seen from the comment below the cartoon. :rofl:


Speaking as a life long resident and citizen of the US, that 2nd panel hit me hard!

A bit of it was due to my personal regret that we didn’t “Go Metric” back in the early 70’s after a LOT of education in my school on the Metric system - but most of my shock/regret/resignation on seeing the 2nd panel is that it so perfectly encapsulates the willful ignorance/denial of basic, verifiable facts that is held by a small minority - but a very vocal and politically powerful minority - in the US today.

@jimhami42 Are there any copyright issues - that you’re aware of - if I want to use this picture to send to some of my friends?

I have no idea if it’s copyrighted or not. I first saw it on Twitter and then did a Google search to find it later.

As a Brit I grew up with the original Imperial [’/"] system !
At school they had obviously decided to align with most of the rest of the world and so I learnt the metric system [although much of my early applied maths was BTUs and foot-poundals !] - which was initially poorly thought out as in was in cm/gm/sec - before I left school it had become SI-units - m/kg/sec - which was more logical.
I went to university the year the construction-industry ‘went-metric’…
So drawing scales swapped from 1/8":1’ to 1:100 etc and all dimensions became metric…
Surveyors used metres, but for the rest of us in construction-docs it was mm [with no fractional parts as you can’t measure that accurately on site anyway ! Perversely much of Europe chose cm which forces a fractional part !
Even today EU and UK goods are often out of step. e.g. replacement door-leavess are converted imperial sizes 760mm == 2’6" etc
In the UK we are all now ostensibly metric, but I’m still 6’1" tall, drink pints of beer and weigh 13 stone [for US readers a stone is 14lbs] etc…

On a side note the UK currency went decimal in 1971.
£/s/d became £ & new-pence [later to be ‘p’]
It is much simpler but when there are 20s in pound, 12d in a shilling you learn the tricks-of-the-trade…
It does allow for detailed subdivisions not possible with 100p = 1£… but who cares now?
There were even subdivisions of pennies - e.g. farthings and halfpennies.
The florin introduced in Victorian times was worth 2s [now 10p], and said on it 1/10 pound - early decimalization !
We had all sorts of coins, all now long gone - like the half-crown - a crown was 5s so there were 4 in a pound - so there were 8 half-crowns in a pound - when I was a kid the slang for a half-crown [following the US military presence] was ‘half-a-dollar’… back in the days when there were about 4 dollars in a pound not <<2 !

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Hey guys… math is hard!

As a life long “foot/incher” I will say that i DO have a hard time remembering how big certain metric units are… I can remember centimeters, a little because all the rulers I used growing up had inches on one side and centimeters on the other. I do know that KM are smaller than miles because every car I have had has KM on the inside of the odometer.

I will also say that, when forced to use metric, it is SO much easier to use! Everything being based on increments of 10 is way easier than breaking a mile into 5280 feet… and a foot into 12 inches… and inches into… 1/16th? 1/32nd? 1/64th??? and where does a yard fit in there?


When I was the first time in Britain as a kid some prices were in guineas. If I remember right, they were in use still in 1977 even when the currency was decimal.

Everything is bigger in America used to be the saying.

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Nowadays, only Texas uses that phrase.

Guineas survives still in special circumstances, such as certain horse races. And when you chat to a long dead relative in a seance of course.

Guineas were a special invention for expensive purchases - e.g. race-horses - they held a certain caché.
A guinea was 21s - £1+1s.
So you brought the race-horse etc at auction for say 200 guineas and the vendor got 200 pounds - the difference of 5% [£10] was kept by the auction-house as their fee/profit…
Guineas do still persist, but now always for ‘posh’ purchases…

I always carry a half-guinea gaming-piece in my wallet as a ‘lucky-charm’… - given to me in change when I was a kid - it’s about the same size as an old halfpenny…

What fact is being denied or ignored? Who is this minority and where are they being vocal about it? What does it have to do with politics? I can’t imagine it has any connection nor that this imagining of yours is remotely true.

Well, I grew up with Imperial units. My first exposure to the metric system was in Germany late 1970 for about a year. (US Army) After I got back to the states the movement to metric happened and later fizzled. As a mechanic I struggled with fasteners, some were metric, some Imperial and others a combination. For example, the head bolts on GM engines had metric heads and Imperial threads. A head-scratcher. Later as imported products showed up they were all metric. My life is still a mix of adding 3d printing to the mess. Oh well, things, times and people, they all change. Might as well go with the flow!

It’s all about politics, or the US would have switched. I remember the debates well.

If I remember the USA did switch to metric and immediately decided to carry on with '/" anyway !
1866 Metric Act…
Since 1994, both metric and USCS have been required on commercial packaging under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act.
Read this America Has Been Struggling With the Metric System For More Than 200 Years | Smart News | Smithsonian Magazine

Metric vs imperial is political? What debates? Are we talking about the very vocal minority that dorst is speaking about or some other group? I don’t believe either of you are being honest here.

Yes. It is about commerce. Some powerful lobbies deem it is to their interests to limit international competition in their fields by adopting incompatible standards. Obviously it is not about export-centered industries - they are harmed.

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I seriously doubt this the very vocal minority dorst is referring to.

Watch this:

Well it’s political in the UK.

Boris wants pubs to be able to sell proper, actual pints of beer to us so-called Brits.