Why is it important to weigh ourselves in kg?

The measurement mess in Britain is in itself reason enough for the discontinued use of stones and pounds for personal body mass (commonly weight), but is there a case for using kilograms that goes beyond this?

This article proposes that there are possible implications for those trying to lose or maintain weight from a poor choice of measurement units.

To make the case we look at the assessment and subsequent planning and monitoring of changes.

Working out if we need to lose weight

(Please note: For those who don’t like maths or have never understood algebra please don’t be put off by the use of letters instead of numbers. This is kept to a minimum and alternative explanations in ordinary language are included).

Current main stream health advice tells us that we should have a body mass index (BMI) of between 20 and 25. This is in fact measured in kg/m2 and calculated as follows:

BMI = m/h2

where m is body mass in kilograms and h is height in metres. In other words divide the weight in kilograms by the square of height in metres. For example suppose someone 1.7 m tall is weighing in at 113 kg. First we need the square of height (h2):

1.7 × 1.7 = 2.89 m2

Then divide that into the figure for mass:

113 ÷ 2.89 = 39.10

A BMI of 30 or more is considered obese so this person needs to lose a significant amount of weight. But what weight should this person be?

We look at this question shortly but first it must be acknowledged that it is quite possible to measure BMI in units other than metres and kilograms; the concept itself does not depend on the actual units used. The resulting numbers though would be different and the scale for a healthy range something other than 20 – 25.

But it must also be understood that the use of kg/m2 for BMI is universal even in countries that are not fully metric like the US. It would therefore be irresponsible for any health authority or advisory body to adopt a scheme based on other units.

What weight should we be?

If we re-arrange the formula for BMI we can see how to determine our ideal weight from our height and a chosen value of BMI as follows:

m = BMI × h2

where BMI is a value between 20 and 25. In other words multiply the required BMI by the square of height in metres.

Taking the previous example of someone 1.7 m tall and a desired BMI of 25; we know the square of height (2.89 m2) so just need to multiply this by 25:

25 × 2.89 = 72.25 kg

Typical bathroom scales are not accurate to anything better than about 0.5% so let’s call this 72 kg

Planning a weight loss programme

There is good medical evidence that deliberately losing weight through dieting should not be any more rapid than 1 kg a week on average. Crash dieting can cause problems such as anaemia, irregular heart rhythms and muscle loss. A safe and satisfactory regime is between 500 and 1000 g per week so if we assume say 700 g that works out at 100 g/day. That means 3 kg over 30 days i.e. 3 kg/month.

In our previous example there are 113 – 72 = 41 kg to shed. That will take about 14 months. It is quite achievable though with the right approach.

It is quite extraordinary that respected organizations in the UK that offer people help with this do nothing to encourage the use of the kilogram. Instead they perpetuate stones and pounds leaving people forever burdened with that awkward ratio of 14 lb to a stone, making these kind of calculations unnecessarily difficult.

Shorter term goals

In the previous example the ultimate aim of getting personal weight down to a safe limit requires quite a long term commitment and a good healthy regime of eating and, advisedly, exercise. It would naturally seem quite daunting in that case.

Recent UK public health advice is telling us that for people who are seriously overweight, losing 10% can have significant benefits. This emphasis on percentages is worthy of note. It makes it all the more important that we have a handy way of reckoning it.

It is not difficult to see that 10% of 113 kg is 11.3 kg.

It is also a straightforward operation to calculate the total percentage loss represented by the ultimate goal as:

41 ÷ 113 × 100 = 36.3%

If the weight were in stones and pounds then any percentage would be an awkward calculation because there are two numbers requiring a conversion to one before the ratio can be calculated. This cannot be done with a single operation even with a calculator. Worse still, many people wouldn’t know how to do it anyway.

Monitoring progress

Needless to say, it is dead easy to calculate weight change in kilograms. In imperial units, small changes are mostly straight-forward unless the larger unit, the stone, also changes.

The general advice on personal weighing is to do it no more frequently than once a week, on the same scales and at the same time of day. Body mass varies naturally for obvious reasons, such as gaining from food and fluid intake and losing from perspiring and going to the loo etc. It is helpful therefore to be able to relate the typical mass values of these elements to that of the whole body in order to predict the effect it may have on scale readings.

Strangely, people in the UK are not shy of measuring food portions in grams and fluid volume in millilitres. Why then do they not simply extend this to whole body mass?

Perhaps people are not generally aware that a litre of water and most of the fluids we drink weigh a kilogram (within the limits of accuracy of everyday weighing equipment), or the amount in millilitre is numerically the same as its weight in grams. What better way then to asses the immediate effect on body mass after eating or drinking?

For example if we have drunk the recommended 1.5 litres of fluid throughout the day  it will, potentially, add 1.5 kg to our body mass. If we go to the loo and pass say 400 ml of water it reduces by 400 g, and so on.


The foregoing has, hopefully, demonstrated that the use of the kilogram offers greater simplicity to the process of assessing and monitoring changes to personal body weight.

The human body is an animal organism like any other and doesn’t warrant the use of obscure units like stone and pounds especially in circumstances where it is important to easily recognize what constitutes a healthy body weight and how it can vary with  easily measured components like food and drink.

This article has not touched upon the much more complex topic of how we actually go about losing and maintaining weight because the issues there have more to do with energy balance involving other units. This author is planning another article at a future date that will consider that very important topic and the implications for how we measure it.

Author: UK Metric Association

Campaigning for a single, rational system of measurement

39 thoughts on “Why is it important to weigh ourselves in kg?”

  1. Another conversion from feet and inches to a single unit would also be required for those who measure their height in feet and inches. The reason for the continued use of stones and pounds for weight (and let’s not forgot pounds and ounces for babies) and feet and inches for height is inertia and tradition. People do it mainly because that is how previous generations measured their weight and height.

    It is a pity that politicians and health services do not do more to encourage the general public to measure their weight and height in metric units and thus make it easier for members of the public to calculate their BMI easily. The National Health Service works internally in metric units and should communicate with the public in metric. Then they will get used weight and height expressed to metric units, which we see in so many aspects of our daily lives.


  2. Good article, Phil,

    In the US, BMI is almost always presented as an apparently dimensionless number, 18-25.0 “normal,” >25.0 overweight, >30, obese. The formula makes clear it has dimensions, but that aren’t commonly used.

    I belong to a social club of retired men and one of our retired doctors wrote this as part of his monthly health column in our newsletter in January:
    “Obesity or Being Overweight causes 20% of cancers. A healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) from 21-23 kg/m^2 could reduce cancer incidence by 50% in 2-20 years.”

    I don’t think I had ever seen it before with units attached, although I knew what the units were. I think consistent use of BMI as a dimensioned number with the units shown would help people remember the formula and recognize how simple it is when mass is in kilograms and height in meters. This might be a point for USMA and UKMA to note and advocate.

    (In the US, the formula is commonly shown as 703*m/h², where units are pounds and inches, and the 703 (rounded) accomplishes the conversion. The metric version of the formula and the units are commonly omitted.)


  3. Have just bought a new suitcase to take on holiday. The young guy in the shop instantly talked pounds when I talked to him about the weight of the suitcase I was looking at.

    I said that the luggage allowance was 20 kg and that a weight of the case in pounds was not very helpful. He said that he couldn’t do the conversion!

    Anyway, the metric weight was specified on the label, which I already knew!

    Why is it that the ‘default’ language of measurement is imperial? What is the root cause of the inability to think metric? Is it to do with the way the subject of measurement is taught from primary school? Are children ever taught to measure themselves, or is that taboo?

    If schooling is efficient at teaching measurement in metric, why do you hear teenagers talking stones, yards etc?

    At least it is becoming rare to hear of temperatures in Fahrenheit these days. Is this because TV weather news is finally getting the message across? If so, then perhaps TV shows are a better means of getting the message across than schools!

    Let’s hope that, in the future, TV shows like ‘Embarrassing bodies’ could be persuaded to switch from stones to kilograms and teach us all how to use the information so clearly spelled out by Phil.


  4. I have lived in the UK most of my life yet the idea of weighing anything in stones just seems absolutely martian to me let alone people still coping day-to-day using them . It is a big off put to me when they use it on TV – it is like they are speaking another language. To me, a stone is another word for a rock.

    I measure my height in cm and weigh myself in kilograms. I hate having to explain to people why you should use metric but most people seem to understan . To me using kilograms is a no-brainer. However my Mum still uses imperial even though I keep on explaining her the benefits of “thinking metric”.

    It seems to me that this is a way for politicians to “dumb down the masses” without appearing oppressive because I can’t see any other rational argument for it. I mean, the Australians have no problem using metric as can be seen in the Australian Biggest Loser which is regularly broadcasted on Sky in the UK https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuMP8WrAjFI while the British version of this show still feels the need to use the antiquated measurements of stones and pounds.

    I have mentioned it to people who work in maternity units, and they agree that weighing babies in grams and kilos make more sense they say it is because parents expect to here there baby weight in pounds. This is a load of rubbish not at least because nearly every woman of child bearing age learnt only metric at school (unless American ) and do all the shopping and cooking in kilograms and grams.

    As with everything people have their own mind but education is paramount. Like shops have, if people can only buy metric labelled products they are going to cook in metric. If the road signs indicate distances in km people are going to refer to distances in km. Please TV producers, NHS and politicians support only metric for the benefit of the UK.


  5. Martin,

    I think the answer to your question can be found in the speech Lord Howe in Parliament last year. He said the the UK was divided between the elite who use metric in their daily lives and the rest of the nation who doesn’t.

    Metric is the language of the professional class and imperial is the language of those on the outside. When a professional speaks metric in the presence of those on the outside, it makes them uneasy. They know immediately they can never rise to your status. It doesn’t matter what they learned at school, as their status in life doesn’t demand that they know metric or use it and obviously never will encounter it their working career as those of the professional class do.

    You almost have to end the class division before you can see a change among the non-professionals to full metric usage.


  6. Many digital bathroom scales are designed as kilogram devices – the electronics that converts your weight to a digital number does so in multiples of 0.1 kg, 0.2 kg, 0.5 kg etc – mine has multiples of 0.1 kg up to 50 kg, 0.2 kg up to 100 kg and 0.5 kg thereafter. A secondary set of electronics converts the metric weights into imperial weights for those who wish to see their weight in imperial units.

    This has the problem that if you are monitoring weight loss or weight gain you have to cope with the problem of rounding errors. If for example, your weight one day was 101.8 kg and the following day it was 101.7 kg, the ADC in the scales would round the values to the closest 0.5 kg and would register 102.0 kg and 101.5 kg suggesting that you had lost 0.5 kg. Imperial-lovers would have these figures multiplied by 2.204 in the digital part of the scales and show weights of 223.5 lbs and 225 lbs – a loss of 1.5 lbs! The error has been made worse merely by converting to imperial units.


  7. A more general comment is that there is absolutely no reason why doctors and nurses working for the NHS should not converse in metric units with patients since these are the units taught in school and most people in Britain have now been educated in the metric system. After all, you can’t ask for your shop prices to be converted back to shillings and pence on the grounds that you don’t understand decimal currency. Weight issues are a big problem at the moment in many Western countries, so surely it makes sense for health specialists and the public to speak the same language when it comes to units of measurement. It is lunacy to have one system of weights for the shops and a different system for health issues.


  8. @Martin

    I would take issue with your description of how a electronic scale works. In my experience, the load cell produces a specific current when a specific weight is placed upon it. You tell it “this is a zero load” when there is nothing on the plate. Then you tell it “this is a 150 kg load” when there is 150 kg on the plate.

    If the scale works in 100 g intervals, it then divides the difference between the amperage at 0 kg and the amperage at 150 kg into 1500 divisions, and displays a value based upon this conversion.

    In the same way, with an imperial indication, it is obvious that the zero value is the same in both the metric & imperial systems, but the scale will be told “this is a 330 lb 12 oz load” when the 150 kg of weights is placed upon it. If the scale works in 1/4 lb divisions, it will then divide the difference between the amperage at 0 lb and the amperage at 330 lb 12 oz into 1323 divisions (330 x 4 plus 3) , and display a value based upon this conversion.

    As such, the accuracy of the display is based purely upon the size of the scale intervals in whichever system the scale is displaying at any particular time. The system with the smaller scale interval in use on the scale is likely to be more accurate in most cases.

    However, in most cases I have observed, a metric scale is likely to have a smaller scale interval than the equivalent imperial machine, so your contention that metric scales are likely to have smaller errors is likely to be correct in the majority of cases.


  9. I have based this specifically on the scales that I have. I have noticed a similar situation on my digital thermometer which very clearly steps up in 0.1°C increments, but which, when switched to Fahrenheit, has a step of 0.1°F followed by four steps of 0.2°F.


  10. Interesting scales you have, Martin.

    You tell us that they operate in a 0.5 kg scale interval when weighing amounts greater than 100 kg, yet when you switch them to imperial mode, they appear to display weights which are rounded to the nearest 0.5 lb.

    In addition, they appear to do this conversion to the 0.5 lb intervals whilst using an incorrectly rounded conversion factor. If the correct rounded conversion factor of 2.205 was used, the scales would display 224.0 lb.

    I think I’ll stick with my own (metric only) weighing machine.


  11. It seems absurd to me to bring “Class” into the Imperial/Metric debate, I for one and many other of my friends on the so called “Outside” are not unnerved or made to feel un at ease by Metrication. We are more than capable of entering any debate with any professional in any walk of life.

    The fact I prefer Imperial measurement is down to the fact that I believe that there is no reason to use Metric over Imperial, it may be true that some conversions may be a little more complex but why should that make ANY difference, the conversion can take place and the answer is just as relevant and accurate, it was in the past and will still continue to be so in the future.

    I accept the fact that Imperial measure is part of my heritage and respect the right of any human being who wishes to maintain the language of it’s people. The French are very forceful in that they believe their language should be kept alive and I agree.
    The same goes for the Celtic language of our British isles, it is right that their language should not be forgotten, I for one am glad that the Welsh Road signs are written in both Welsh and English, I know then that I am in a different country and know I have to deal with things differently. It isn’t an issue, it is part of the experience of meeting a different culture and Imperial measure to us is part of “our” culture

    In my opinion, (and that is all it is !!!!) Metrication should only take place after a referendum gives any government a mandate to do so, to change to metrication at the behest of anyone , be it the EU or Parliament without the consent of the people would be unfair.

    Thank You


  12. Ted, Imperial measures are also a part of the heritage of the Commonwealth, but that didn’t stop the rest of the Commonwealth from adopting metric measures several decades ago.

    When something better comes along, it’s preferable to adopt it. Decimal currency is one example. Metric measures are others.


  13. @Tel

    The 1824 Weights and Measures Act, which brought in the imperial system, standardised weights and measures and abolished older measurements such as the English wine gallon. Every civilised country has recognised the need for one, and only one, system of weights and measures. This was mentioned in the Magna Carta document in 1215. Thus there should be a single system used for legal, official, administrative and trade purposes. Individuals will still be free to use any measurement system they want for private activities such as cooking and DIY work.

    The issue about measurements is a separate issue from language. The sixpence, farthing and guinea are also part of British heritage but nobody today is arguing for the UK to go back to using the old currency with pounds, shillings and pence (£sd). Metric has many advantages over imperial. It is simple to learn and use, has a much wider range of multiples at both ends of the scale, is a world standard, there are no measurement tables to learn unlike imperial and is fully compatible with our decimal number system. Some of these reasons were the same reason for switching to a decimal currency in 1971. Decimal currencies are used worldwide and the advantages of decimal currencies are now taken for granted.

    Measurement regulations are not normally decided by referendum. In the UK and many other countries, elected representatives make laws about the use of measurements.


  14. Ted: you seem to link measurement with language. These are completely different issues. You appreciate diverse cultures, so do I. But just imagine if every country had its own units of measurement on the roads. How would we ever cope? Even now, languages change, as you say with Welsh in the UK. But driving around continental Europe, as I often do, I am pleased that the units of (metric) measurement remain the same even if the shapes and signs of the road signs change and there is sometimes language on the signs which I cannot understand. The thing is, the more you leave language out of measurement and focus on a single system of units, the easier it becomes for everyone to understand the meaning of the signs. Language actually adds clutter to signs. More often than not you cannot read language on signs when driving anyway as you pass the sign too quickly. Better to concentrate on having simple signs showing units that everyone can understand, Brits, Celts, the Welsh and everyone else. There is no loss of heritage or culture in doing that.


  15. Tel,
    Innovation, resourcefulness, inventiveness and excellence is heritage to be proud of.
    Retaining a defunct way of measuring things is the antithesis of all those things.
    You don’t believe there is any reason to use metric over imperial? Try this.
    One is a coordinated system of measurement, the other is just a load of loosely connected units from a less enlightened age.
    Try looking for walking directions on Google maps. Pick metric measurements and you will be given a series of distances in metres and kilometres which are easily added to find the overall distance or the distances between one or several points on the route.
    Choose the imperial/USC option and you are confronted with distances in feet and decimals of miles. Try adding distances like 200 m , 600 m and 1.2 km and it’s simple to get an overall distance of 2 km but add 200 feet, 300 yards and 1.2 miles together and it’s a hard and time-consuming task.
    Try measuring a room for carpet. Using SI units a 3.5 m x 4 m room is easily calculated to be 14 square metres but finding out how many square yards there are in a 11’6 x 12′ room takes longer and the extra conversions make the calculation more prone to mistakes.
    If your car has petrol consumption of 10l/100km and petrol is 2 pounds a litre it’s easy to work out that it’s going to cost you around 30 pounds to go on a 150 km drive but it takes longer to work out how much it will cost if your car does 40 miles to the gallon and you are going to travel 100 miles.
    A pint of beer costs 4 pounds in the pub but you can buy a pack of 4 x 330 ml cans at the supermarket for 5 pounds. How do you find what the cost saving is?
    How can you say that all the time wasted by everyone in the country, at work or at home, on performing these unnecessary tasks every day when there is a simpler, quicker and easier way of doing it doesn’t make any difference?


  16. If I can make another comment in reply to Ted’s about ‘class’, I do not think the poster above, referring to Lord Howe’s speech, was talking about ‘social class’. The reference, as I understand it, was to professional classes of employment, i.e. health professionals, engineers, surveyors, architects, etc. in contrast to tradespeople, i.e. people such as greengrocers and butchers, all of whom measure and weigh in one way or another. It cannot be denied that most of the vociferious opposition to metric units in the last decade or so has indeed come from the ‘tradespeople’ group and some of these people have scored a ‘success’ in holding up the achievement of a proper single system of measurement for even longer with their illogical campaigning. The problem is, without a proper single system of measurement in a country, everyone loses: those like the people in UKMA who campaign for a single system of measures that everyone is taught and should be able to use as well as those who for whatever reason cannot or will not see the sense of having a single national system of units for trade, administration and other official purposes. We are probably stuck with ‘dual measures’ on shop tags for another generation the way things look at the moment as a result of this opposition. How does this help anyone?


  17. It’s all very strange. I work in a technical environment, where everything is 100% metric, and I and my colleagues converse effortlessly in metric terms all the time. However, we have a 150 kg floor balance, and every week we have an informal “weigh-in” to see who is gaining or losing weight. It perplexes me to then hear those same people discuss their gains/losses in terms of lbs !
    Yet again, intelligent people, but business = metric, non-business = imperial in their minds. But I’ll keep trying to make them see the error of their ways…


  18. Apologies, I meant to be replying to Tel, not Ted.
    One other point I would make in reply to Tel’s claim that he and many of his friends are on the ‘outside’ in the imperial/metric debate is that there is no ‘outside’. We are all in this together. This is a national issue that affects everybody equally, whatever job you do and whatever your family background. Britain needs to decide what its system of weights and measures is going to be and stick to it. Numeracy is suffering because this issue has not been resolved, employers complain about staff not being sufficiently proficient in metric usage because imperial is still out there in the street, quite literally: on road signs. Other posters have written that no one is trying to be prevented from using whatever measures they like in their kitchen, their bathroom, their garden shed or anywhere else in their own private life, but honestly: what exactly is the point of doing that? Is it not better to complete the metric changeover (notably by moving to metres and kilometres on road signs and encouraging the use of kilograms and metres in conversation with NHS patients) rather than struggle on and on with this half-way house that nobody really seems to be happy with. I am sure that even those, like Tel, who want to continue using imperial for their own private purposes, will accept that the economy could not possibly revert to imperial usage as the default system. There is only one way to go and that is forward to the completion of metrication for all official, administrative and trade use. Future generations will wonder what all the fuss was about.


  19. In response to some of Tel’s comment above.

    Metrication is not really about language. Most countries in the world have adopted the metric system but still use their own native tongue. The symbols and definitions in the SI are in fact language independent. The Welsh in particular should take note. Using metric on their road signs would in no way detract from them using the Welsh language. When they read the signs they could, if they wished to, simply read the symbol m as whatever the word for metre is in Welsh just as they substitute the word llath for yard.


  20. If I wanted to compare metric to something else that is independent of language and intercultural, I would compare it to the notation used in music. Give a piece of music to two players who do not have a common language and both will be able to read the music and play the piece. Both can read the notation. It is the same with metric symbols. They are universal.


  21. @Jake,

    That is an outstanding analog. It offers two advantages over the usual arguments of rationale, coherent units:
    *It explains it very well to people who are not so mathematical.
    *Countries can “maintain their culture” and write VERY different kinds of music, all using the same notation.
    Plan to be plagiarized (with respect), Sir. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Phil,

    Absolutely!! Metrication has absolutely nothing to do with either language or culture. Every country of the world that has adopted the metric system has experienced no effect on either their language or culture. If anything, cultures and languages that have gone through changes have done so due to the adoption of technology, nor metrication.

    How much has electricity, the telephone, computers, automobiles altered a nation’s culture. How many nations have adopted modern clothing fashions that are noticeably different from their ancestors? How many have cultures have been changed by the internet? So, why aren’t the metric opposers crying about these obvious attacks on culture?

    Why is it only in the US and UK that such opposition exists? Why aren’t there anti-metric organizations in every country? It could be that most countries welcome positive changes to their culture, changes that will and are improving their lives. Is it then any wonder that these countries are advancing economically and culturally ahead of the US and UK?


  23. @Ray,

    I think any opposition dies down after a while. Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa are some Commonwealth countries that forced it to a conclusion and any opposition has died down.

    The US, UK, and to lesser extent, Canada, have floundered in metrication and compliance to metrication direction (all at somewhat different points in the process). Furthermore the opposition has be rewarded by causing that floundering, and is ready to continue their opposition to forestall what they are against. To the degree the government accepts floundering and allows the mess to contine, metrication will not occur. All three governments lack the will to push metrication.


  24. John,

    The Commonwealth countries had some minor resistance, but none ever formed anti-metric organizations or peppered government ministries with metric opponents in order to stall or reverse metrication. They didn’t have the same sense of empire as the UK nor did they see metrication as an attack on their culture. Metrication was promoted as a positive action that would result in increased prosperity due to being able to trade with more nations than just those in the empire. At the time metrication began in the late 1960s, the empire had ceased to matter and the Commonwealth nations had to trade directly with metric countries and being metric itself was needed.

    A diehard metric supporter would see Canada in the same light as the UK – incomplete. But to a metric opponent, Canada is more metric than they can tolerate. Driving on metric signed roads, cars with metric only displays (http://imgur.com/viEKTC6), weather reporting in metric, petrol in litres, supermarket products in metric with no imperial secondary measures, kilogram scales and list goes on and on.

    Metric opponents in Canada (and outsiders too) keep a compiled list of things that haven’t changed, but they are items that most people don’t encounter in their daily lives. One can go on about tire rims, but the majority of people haven’t a clue as to what a tire rim is, so why bring it up other then to have some remnant to cling to for support.

    The governments lack the will to push metrication because no one is pushing them to complete it. Do you know anyone who is?


  25. I have yet to meet an adult in the UK who states their weight in metric units. Or their height for that matter. I am an astrophysicist and we usually use cgs units (or rarely full SI) – what the heck does it matter when it comes to everyday use. Some people on here need to use their energy for more important things than how people state their height and weight.


  26. There is a nice follow-up in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the call from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) to weigh all patients in kilograms and specify all doses of liquid medication in milliliters. You can read this here:


    Another important step in the right direction for metrication in the USA! 🙂

    In that vein can someone provide an update of where things stand in the UK when it comes to any existing holdovers in the UK of Imperial units by the NHS or private medical facilities and pharmacies (chemists shops)?



  27. One thing you could consider doing in order to try and educate those you work with is to be stubborn. Since most people using the imperial system complain the metric system is too hard for them to learn and they don’t want to convert, just use their own game against them. Just feign ignorance and pretend you don’t understand their archaic measurements any more than you understand someone speaking Old English.

    Also, don’t worry that imperial units will be forgotten, I myself still use them during role playing games or on re-enactment events. Even though my country, The Netherlands, has been metric for 200 years. We still use pounds and ounces, but they refer to 500 grams and 100 grams respectively.

    What has always been my thought behind the reasoning of British using imperial measurements is that they want to be different. They didn’t want to adopt European currency, they don’t participate in Schengen, they drive on the left side of the road, etc.


  28. @ Henk

    I think you are confusing recycled measuring words with actual units. The difference is you use the ounce and pound as slang terms for rounded metric values, but you don’t measure them on a pound scale. You use a gram scale. If you ask for a pound of chicken from the butcher, he doesn’t pull out a pound scale to weigh it he weighs out 500 g.

    If you actually weighed pounds and ounces on an actual pound/ounce scale, that would be different.


  29. @Henk says:2016-10-31 at 14:30

    That is exactly what I have been doing for the last few years, pretending I do not understand Imperial measures and often ask “What is that in English?”
    A bonus now is that for much of the time I am beginning to really not understand any but the most obvious utterances.
    And yes CP and BWMA and ACWM, before you ask, I really am proud of my ‘willful ignorance’ of those measures, the curse of my whole working life.
    In retirement I will learn and forget what I want, not what I have to.


  30. @Henk, Daniel Jackson – Between 1820 and 1871 (If I remember my facts correctly) the “pond” was legally 1 kg in the Netherlands while between 1812 and 1837 the “livre” was legally 500 g in France. Prior to the French Revolution, the value of both the “pond” and the “livre” varied from city to city and from province to province. The metric system provided a standard system of units of measure thereby simplifying interprovincial and intercity trade.


  31. If we’re going to move to a proper SI unit for weight, let’s move to the proper SI unit for weight: the newton

    Kilograms are for specifying mass, not weight. Roughly speaking, 1 kilogram at the surface of the earth weights about 10 newtons.

    Or, if we want to use kilograms, then let’s call it what it is: mass. But you cannot use a scale to determine mass. A bathroom scale measures force, weight which would be in newtons.


  32. @Jake

    What an incredibly good analogy using music notation!

    That’s one of the best analogies I’ve heard!


    Actually, scales *can* display mass units, it is just a conversion factor from force units.

    However, I do agree it is confusing.

    I also agree it would be less confusing if scales used the proper units (Newtons).

    I was very confused about this until I spent a day investigating.

    Since I’m American, I found there are things such as pound-force and pound-mass units.

    You are correct that what the scale is *actually* measuring is force, but then with a conversion factor it can convert it to mass for display.

    However, I’ve now switched over to completely SI metric.

    So even though my scale is actually measuring my weight in Newtons, I have the display set to display the result in kg.


  33. Ezra,

    Why blame the entire BBC for the lack of metric? The BBC is an entity that can not make choices such as to determine what units to use. A real person who works for the BBC made that personal choice. Maybe because in the video all one sees is an inch ruler and the person making the unit choice insists they only know inches. Is it possible they chose to post this video with an inch only ruler visible was to expose the readership to FFU?

    The real problem that I saw in the video was that to “20” marking did have a metric equivalent as 50.8 cm. Why 50.8? Why not just 50? I know 50.8 is just an exact translation of 20 via the inch to centimetre conversion factor of 2.54, but do we know for sure that the 20 mark is precise enough to express centimetres to tenths?

    Then if you watch the video to the end you notice the snow goes way past the 20 mark? So, why insist it is only to 20 and stops there?


  34. The met office (in their BBC broadcasts) are still using bar for atmospheric pressure, instead of Pascals. They talk of isobars, instead of isoPascals.


  35. @Daniel
    If the BBC had a mandatory editorial policy to use only metric, there would be no variation based on the individual reporter. Sadly, such a policy does not exist. 😦


  36. Ezra: if Britain had metricated properly, even BBC reporters would only know and use metric, by default. There wouldn’t be variation from one reporter or news article to another. Anything else would be history to them like all the other measurement units which are now museum pieces. It would be interesting to know how, say, Australians find the news reporting in the UK where units of measurement change from one person to another.


  37. Ezra,

    That is simply because the BBC, not being a sentient thinking being, is incapable of making such a policy. A living person or persons have to make that a policy. Maybe there is such a policy (Do we know for sure whether there is or isn’t?) and it is being ignored by those employees that object to metric while at the same time those that prefer metric will use it.

    It is possible that the supreme editor or whomever has the responsibility has decided that since this issue is such a hot potatoe to let the individual reporters/editors make it their choice on an article by article basis.


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