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We still haven’t properly adapted to the metric system

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A friend was telling me recently about a small experience he’d had in a local grocery store: potatoes and apples were each listed on a hand-made sign giving the prices in imperial and in metric measure.

The only problem was that one of the signs was wildly wrong. He pointed this out to customer service, was duly rewarded, and went on his way. But it made me think of the various instances of the strange ways I’ve encountered in which metric is infiltrating the land. I have a few dozen anecdotes.

One concerns the Hudson Bay Railway. A Free Press editorial pointed out that the port needs to ship at least 600,000 metric tonnes of grain per year to be viable. A story in the same edition stated that one grain car carries 50,000 tonnes. So: one train with but a dozen cars ought to be sufficient. Where’s the problem?

Another story concerns modern study into the ancient Egyptian practices of mummification. Somebody at a university in one of the northern states planned to cover a cadaver with 260 kilometres of salt to check out the effects. That’d mummify it, all right: squash it out of existence, change the nature of the body, permanently alter the weather patterns, and perhaps even alter the earth’s spin!

But my favourite concerns a Winnipeg golfer who took up his clubs for a round near Fort Lauderdale in Florida. One of his shots came to rest within a metre or two of a large alligator, which didn’t do anything but simply observed with the casual malevolence which alligators broadcast. As quietly as possible, he took his shot, and blasted the ball 954 metres onto the green. With a nine iron!

One of our local humour columnists had one of his stories kind of demolished when some sub-editor changed a cannon from 330 kilograms to 330 kilometres. Regina - watch out!

But these few stories illustrate the point. It’s a bit odd, isn’t it; all that’s going on is that a few words are not properly understood and used, in an area of knowledge that is crucial to ordinary living.

The world has a long way to go before metric wins out. And in the meantime I can enjoy myself discovering the odd results!

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