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Imperial/Customary vs Metric System

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I love the Metric system, it's great for science and easy measurements, but for whatever reason, it hasn't really caught on in America. Part of it may be that, at least in my brain, it's like a foreign language. I'll have to conceptualize something in customary units, then convert in my mind. I thought of a second reason that's a bit more psychological. For this post at least, I'll stick primarily with distance measurements.

First off, I think most of the units have too many syllables. Meter is the basic distance unit, which is fine, but any other unit is four solid syllables. In common speech, one and two syllable words are generally preferred. Why say infinitesimal, when you can say little? Why say centimeter, when you can say inch? I think mass measurements in this regard are much better, because you have grams, which make for three syllable units. For my next argument, I'll do a side by side comparison.

Big Distances: Mile vs Kilometer

Both of these units are very nice for measuring long distance, however, the tie goes to less syllables, so winner: mile

Moderate Sizes: Foot vs Meter

Here, is the only time the metric has a manageable amount of syllables, but I just don't like the meter. It's too big. Think of feet vs yards. The only two times we really use yards are tailoring and football. Everything else defaults to feet. That's just because it's a better size. It's a better size that fits most things you come across. Take your standard human, between four and seven feet. That's a nice spread, especially when you work in inches, but we'll get to that later. If we go metric, your standard human is almost exclusively between one and two meters, you have to get really tall or short before you get outside that range. Barely reaching the second whole number of a unit does not a good measurement system make. You could hols something a foot or two in your hands. A meter is too darn big. A wish the meter had been what the decimeter is now, but it's too late to change that.

Small Sizes: Inch vs Centimeter

Pretty much the same argument as mile vs kilometer. They are both great for their given jobs, but tie goes to less syllables. It's easier to say two inches than five centimeters.

Inch goes very well with feet. I wish there were 10 inches in a foot instead, but 12 is close enough to base ten to work. I'm 5'11" usually spoken as just five-eleven or five-foot-eleven. The metric 1.81m or 181cm is more unwieldy either one meter eighty-one centimeters or one hundred eighty-one centimeters. I don't usually just hear one meter eighty-one, but correct me if I'm wrong.

Very Small Sizes: Pica vs Millimeter

Here is where the metric system shines. I had to look up pica, because I didn't even remember it existed. So millimeters win by default. It's nice to have a unit smaller than small, so we don't just go saying fractions of an inch all the time.

So by this score it's Customary:3 Metric:1

I love the Metric System and wish it was more commonly used for the sake of easy math, but it could have been better developed for ease of use. Everyone feel free to weigh in.

I wasn't sure if this would be more suited to General or FftF, so feel free to move it if necessary.

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I agree, I prefer the good ol' system America has used for a long time, but they're gradually switching to the metric system all throughout which I don't like. The new roads being built here will use kilometers on the signs instead of miles, for example.

Like you say, the terms in the imperial America system are just one or two syllables and easy to use outside of math. Easy words that even small children can learn quickly. In fact, the only measurement term in this system that ISN'T one syllable is gallon. All the others are just one. The metric system, imo, only has good uses in math and science.

Edited by Anacybele

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I think the foot vs. meter argument is flawed - in terms of actual measurements, the yard is closer to meter. Unfortunately, the "closest" thing metric has to feet is the decimeter, which is a shade under four inches.

Also, the names of the metric system are very nicely patterned - for example, kilo-meter translates to "1000 meters", while centi-meter is "1/100 of a meter". So syllables aside, it's a lot easier to get a sense of how big a unit of measurement is.

Edited by eclipse

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As much as I've grown up with customary and I do prefer using measurements like inches and miles a lot more over their metric counterparts a lot more, metric still wins it out for me by a long shot. Maybe because of my extreme interest in science, but everything makes more sense in metric with the prefixes. It's not hard to remember that 100 centimeters are in a meter and there are 10 liters in a decaliter. Meanwhile, I still don't know how many cups are in a gallon.

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I think the foot vs. meter argument is flawed - in terms of actual measurements, the yard is closer to meter. Unfortunately, the "closest" thing metric has to feet is the decimeter, which is a shade under four inches.

Also, the names of the metric system are very nicely patterned - for example, kilo-meter translates to "1000 meters", while centi-meter is "1/100 of a meter". So syllables aside, it's a lot easier to get a sense of how big a unit of measurement is.

I compared feet vs meters since they are the "basic" measurement used for that range. Yards aren't commonly used and no one uses decimeters, which I think would have been a better standard size.

Yeah, I love the metric system for math, and I think when they put it together, they should have made each unit one syllable and each prefix one syllable, to make it more short and sweet. So kilometer could have been kilmet or something. Then a lot of my argument would have been gone.

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I can use both, but metric is obviously more logical, especially when it comes to scaling. I tend to prefer using metric, but I do measure long distances in miles. I'm pretty good with the calculations, so I don't have too much trouble. It's more a matter of what people are used to. The US and UK tend to go for imperial but Europe and Asia are pretty metric.

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the arguments for imperial are basically "that's what I'm used to" and "durr I can't handle anything longer than 1 syllable"

metric is actually so much simpler, especially for converting from one size in a particular dimension to another, like just knowing that a kilometre is 1000 metres and not having to remember that a mile is 5280 feet.

Also, for anything other than time/length/mass, imperial is pretty unintuitive. How many people even have an idea of what a calorie or a BTU represents?

Edited by BBM

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Personally I prefer Metric.

There's little reason to Imperial, other than simply being the one you're used to.

Metric is much more simpler and more precise, besides it uses much more simpler numbers.

The names may be longer, but they much easier to remember and to tell the difference between dimensions.

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the arguments for imperial are basically "that's what I'm used to" and "durr I can't handle anything longer than 1 syllable"

metric is actually so much simpler, especially for converting from one size in a particular dimension to another, like just knowing that a kilometre is 1000 metres and not having to remember that a mile is 5280 feet.

Also, for anything other than time/length/mass, imperial is pretty unintuitive. How many people even have an idea of what a calorie or a BTU represents?

I think the syllable argument isn't something that should be taken lightly. There's a Youtuber named Lindybeige who was talking about mortar shells in wartime historically. The difference between "Hand me the two inch!" and "Hand me the five centimeter!" could sometimes be the difference between life and death. Short, succinct language is something to strive for.

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I think the syllable argument isn't something that should be taken lightly. There's a Youtuber named Lindybeige who was talking about mortar shells in wartime historically. The difference between "Hand me the two inch!" and "Hand me the five centimeter!" could sometimes be the difference between life and death. Short, succinct language is something to strive for.

To be fair, it's very specific situation.

Besides, it can be easily fixed by creating your own terms.

I remember that one of my Law teachers, who was a man that used to be in the army, actually adressed this fact last semester.

He said that when soldiers in the army actually create their own words when a word is to long. It also helps in confusing the enemy as they no have idea of what you are talking about.

Edited by Water Mage

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I think the syllable argument isn't something that should be taken lightly. There's a Youtuber named Lindybeige who was talking about mortar shells in wartime historically. The difference between "Hand me the two inch!" and "Hand me the five centimeter!" could sometimes be the difference between life and death. Short, succinct language is something to strive for.

You would probably say "Hand me the 50mil or 5 C-M" in that kind of scenario.

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The names may be longer, but they much easier to remember and to tell the difference between dimensions.

They're not easy to remember. There are a whole bunch of long-ass words in the system that even my usually good memory can't remember them all. The only thing the metric system has over the imperial system for me is easy conversion between measurements. Like, it's easy to convert meters to kilometers or something. But that's it. And I like never need to convert anything here.

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I like metric, it's what I've used my whole life and it makes sense to me.

Edit: well, except for mile, and for someone's height feet/inches makes more sense.

Edited by Tryhard

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They're not easy to remember. There are a whole bunch of long-ass words in the system that even my usually good memory can't remember them all.

How it's not easy to remember?

They are the worde "metre" plus another,

metre

kilometre

centimetre

nanometre

millimetre

micrometre

decimetre

As you can see, all of them are just the word plus "metre".

Incredibly easy to remember, since it's all you need to memorize is the first part.

Why would remember the entire word, if they have same four last letters?

As I said before, just remember the prefix. And the prefixes are even shorter than the words on the Imperial system. Making the Metric system easier to remember than the Imperial.

EDIT: As I was editing my post, BBM posted the same explanation as me. Ninja'd.

Edited by Water Mage

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Sure, mile/feet are shorter, but like... the entire point of the metric system is that everything has a set prefix that tells you the relative size regardless of what quantity you're talking about. I know a 1000 metres is a kilometre, and a 1000 watts is a kilowatt and so on.

It's actually easier to remember things in the metric system than the imperial system, because you just need to know the base units and the prefixes. You only think otherwise because you're used to the imperial system...

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Try living in a place that uses Metric, and you'll get used to it fast enough. It's not hard. Frankly the American Customary units aren't that hard either. Lots of other countries have their own customary units that are in everyday usage, too, but don't give them "official" status.

American Customary measurements aren't all that hard, either. It's all a matter of getting used to it. In the end the systems aren't all that important.

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I've never used US units much so metric really wins by default for me.

Anyways, SI prefixes are very simple.

|

Micro

Mili

Centi

Deci

-

Deca

Hecto

Kilo

Mega

Giga

Tera (1 Teraoctet for example) (An octet is a 8-bits byte)

|

For example a Teragram is 10^12 grams.

Edited by Naughx

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The US and UK tend to go for imperial but Europe and Asia are pretty metric.

Whilst it's not really true that the UK goes for imperial any more (we only use it for milk, alcohol, and road signs - and in everyday conversation human heights and weights too) I think you've inadvertently hit the nail on the head for why the USA hasn't moved over.

The reason is simple, the USA is a dominant cultural power, so it can do what it likes. It has never had to switch to metric because people will adjust themselves into imperial measurements, just for the USA. It's also why Britain still uses a bit of imperial - it was a cultural power but now that the Empire has collapsed it's gradually subsumed into Europe, and forced to picked up a lot of the culture that goes with it - including metric measurements.

All this syllable and hard to remember BS is beating around the bush from an American centric viewpoint. When you are taught metric from a young age, just as you are taught imperial in the USA, it sticks in your mind. Not to mention that provided you know the prefixes in metric, you can generally work out about 9 different levels of a brand new unit you've found - not so in imperial, you'd have to memorise every name and every multiple of the previous that goes with it.

I think the syllable argument isn't something that should be taken lightly. There's a Youtuber named Lindybeige who was talking about mortar shells in wartime historically. The difference between "Hand me the two inch!" and "Hand me the five centimeter!" could sometimes be the difference between life and death. Short, succinct language is something to strive for.

As others mentioned, they'll shorten it. In fact my Dad, who only works in kitchen design, says 'mil' all the time.

They're not easy to remember. There are a whole bunch of long-ass words in the system that even my usually good memory can't remember them all. The only thing the metric system has over the imperial system for me is easy conversion between measurements. Like, it's easy to convert meters to kilometers or something. But that's it. And I like never need to convert anything here.

Referring back to my Dad, bearing in mind he was born and raised in a time before metric was the law in the UK, it can't be that hard if you need to learn it. Thing is, you don't, so you don't bother. Which is fine - not gonna bash you for it, but seriously don't say you have good memory then proceed to say you can't remember metric which is so goddamn easy if you put the effort in to remember compared to imperial. It's not even that imperial's hard, but when metric is consistent in prefixes across ALL units, and only the suffixes change (and they're fairly simple), in addition to knowing they're all various multiples of 10 or 1000, it's hard to believe that that's harder than learning 5 different multiples and names for length, then 6 different multiples and names for weight, then 5 different multiples and names for volume etc.

Edited by Relick

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Whilst it's not really true that the UK goes for imperial any more (we only use it for milk, alcohol, and road signs - and in everyday conversation human heights and weights too) I think you've inadvertently hit the nail on the head for why the USA hasn't moved over.

I live in the UK, I know which measurements people use :P. Most people will know their heights in feet and inches, their weight in pounds and stone etc.

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I live in the UK, I know which measurements people use :P. Most people will know their heights in feet and inches, their weight in pounds and stone etc.

This is interesting, as I've only ever seen people take their height measurements in metres throughout my life here.

I guess it still varies by region.

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This is interesting, as I've only ever seen people take their height measurements in metres throughout my life here.

I guess it still varies by region.

Weird, I've been all about England and it's rare to find people who do that. The older generation often aren't entirely sure how long a metre is!

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No, they ARE hard to remember. Water Mage listed only some of them. There are actually a bunch more that I learned of in science classes, but don't remember anymore. That's my point. The Metric system has far too many measurements in it.

Also, this is the first time I've seen anyone spell meter as "metre." Who spells it that way? England? None of the European countries I've been to did.

Edited by Anacybele

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