Signs of the past in Southend-on-Sea

There has been an exchange of views on Facebook recently about alterations to signs in Southend-on-Sea carried out by “activists” over a decade ago. This has provided an opportunity for Metric Views to restate the legal position and to discuss other related issues.

In around 2002, “Imperial vigilantes” covered 32 circular signs on Southend Promenade showing distances every 500 metres with labels in miles and furlongs. Their activities are the subject of a recent discussion on the Active Resistance to Metrication facebook page: 

The original signs with metric distances did not conform to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD), but would have been authorised under Town Planning legislation. Readers may not be aware that the Town and Country Planning (Control of advertisements) Regulations are neutral on measurement units: historical, Imperial, metric – all can be permitted. However, the TSRGD permit only miles, yards, feet, inches and, in limited circumstances, metres. There is no mention of furlongs.

The legal position is set out here: Advice on when metric signs are legal

But in addition to the Regulations, there are surely other matters to take into account when providing signage. For example, competitive cyclists and those of us who followed either the Tour de France during its successful visit to Britain last year or the Olympics in 2012 will know that cycling events are measured, both speed and distance, in metric. For hobby runners, 5 km and 10 km are both popular distances, known as “5k” and 10k”. For walkers, a favourite map is the Ordnance Survey (OS) Landranger series at a scale of 1:50000, or 2 cm to 1 km. And if you wish to pin point your position anywhere, not just on on Southend Promenade, you might use the OS kilometre-based National Grid, adopted in 1940.

The law, cyclists, runners, walkers. All were given scant consideration by the Southend “vigilantes”.

So what might be the aim of the “vigilantes” in re-introducing the people of Southend to the furlong, which, although it lives on in literature and on racecourses, ceased to be legally authorised in 1978? Indeed, what is a furlong?

The furlong is about 200 metres (or exactly 201.168 m). The name furlong derives from the Old English words furh (furrow) and lang (long). Dating back at least to early Anglo-Saxon times, it originally referred to the length of the furrow in one acre of a ploughed open field (a medieval communal field which was divided into strips). The system of long furrows arose because turning a team of oxen pulling a heavy plough was difficult.

And the acre? Imagine a rectangle one furlong by a tenth of a furlong, and that is an acre. Which takes us to Gunter’s chain, introduced in 1620 and a tenth of a furlong or about 20 metres long. The chain is divided into 100 links of 7.92 inches. A square link is exactly one hundred-thousandth of an acre and one ten-thousandth of one square chain.

Gunter’s chain reconciled two seemingly incompatible systems: the traditional English land measurements, based on the pole and the number 4, and the newly introduced system of decimals based on the number 10. Since an acre measured 10 square chains in Gunter’s system, the entire process of land measurement could be computed in decimalised chains and links, and then converted to acres by dividing the results by 10. A welcome simplification in the days when sums were done by hand.

Well, perhaps the people of Southend will welcome that information. On the other hand, they might find it easier to remember that a furlong is about 200 metres and that an acre is about 4000 square metres.

39 thoughts on “Signs of the past in Southend-on-Sea”

  1. Would not the proper venue for discussing our photo of our action be on our forum? You have no fear of being summarily banned nor of having your comments removed for being in disagreement with ours, unlike the Facebook pages of other British pressure groups.


  2. @ARM
    Maybe true, but aggressive responses and personal insults makes sure most do not enter the lions den.
    Remember, you are an active resistance group, this is a pacifist response group. (IMHO)


  3. We have noticed quite a good deal of passive responses and questionable tactics, such as pro-Imperial supporters being banned both here, and on this organisation’s F.B. page. Also comments made here never being approved and threads ‘being closed’ whenever the winner of a debate is not a metric-supporter. We are amazed that user ‘Charlie P’ has not yet been banned here, for instance, for roundly trouncing several oft-repeated logical fallacies perpetuated herein.

    Some prefer it more honest, more open. Speaking of a party as opposed to said party isn’t very sporting, is it?


  4. Having read the ARM claptrap on said FB page it suggests you are being economical with the truth, with little regard to the needs or feelings of anyone but yourselves. A self-serving minority group with few scruples or respect for others.
    You claim to only modify illegal signs yet you modify, or approve modification of signs into other illegal signs. I agree with John Steele, wtf is a furlong? Since when did a donkey derby measurement become an authorized signage unit?
    In my view, many comments by CP, yourselves and other so-called pro Imperialists have little logic or reason, just emotional irrational patter.


  5. @ARM
    I would love to be able to comment on your forum if it was as accessible to me as this one is but unfortunately I can’t find it on the internet and you’re not worth joining Facebook for. If you really were interested in being more honest and open maybe you could start a website like this one that allows people like me to have a say.


  6. In the past when ARM encountered dual signs they would paint out the metric. Why should it bother them if metric is there as long as imperial is there too? It bothers them because they fear that most people who are educated in metric will see their education in practice and relate to the metric and consequently ignore the imperial.

    Forcing imperial-only on the signs it is thought would force people to learn the units. Now with increasing metric on the height and width restriction signs, people don’t have to learn the meaning of the imperial.

    ARM claims that people prefer imperial. Truth is most people don’t care and accept what is there.

    They also fear that once people adjust to seeing metric on height/width signs, they won’t mind if distance and speed signs change or become dual too.

    ARM has never been able to explain why private businesses have put up metric signs and not imperial. Their claim has always been that metric is forced, but when a private citizen freely chooses to use metric it goes against their claim. But the fact that they have to amend signs that others have freely chosen to erect in metric is proof their forced metrication claim is purely fiction. They hide behind an unclear law to justify their actions.

    What needs to be done to put ARM out of business is to have the laws changed to make it clear that metric signs are perfectly legal and if people want them they can have them. Then ARM should be made to pay for all the signs they damaged and be forced to restore them to their original metric declarations, which are true as measured.


  7. People should be free to use whatever units they like, but we must allow the government we vote for to change those units for the benefit of the country, instead of using vandalism which costs the taxpayers money to fix. The one question I must ask how do you resist metric when it’s everywhere? Except road signs. Sorry if this is taken the wrong way.


  8. @ARM
    How do you see the way you modify or bury measurement signs you disapprove of as being any different from the Taliban’s censorship of music?


  9. I don’t understand how ARM claim they only destroy illegal signs when most of the signs they destroy are put their by councils or the government, don’t worry though they had the same problems during the industrial revolution with luddites. And look where they ended up.


  10. @Cliff says: 2015-07-11 at 16:49
    I would love to be able to comment on your forum if it was as accessible to me as this one is but unfortunately I can’t find it on the Internet and you’re not worth joining Facebook for.

    Part one, no, I do not think you would.
    Part two, that’s the right option.


  11. @ARM:

    You say on your FB page: “…compares with removing unauthorised metric road signs that violate the law.”

    Whether a sign is illegal or not, you have NO legal or moral right to remove or deface it. That makes you an out and out criminal. What is even more reprehensible is that you have been found in the past to remove metric-only signs that ARE legal.

    We all as citizens are not allowed to take the law into our own hands. That is anarchy plain and simple.


  12. Ironically when I asked my nephews and their friends, who are teenagers and younger who are the “metric martyrs” they all think they introduced the metric system into Britain. when I tell them who they are, they think they must have been weird and unable to adapt to the modern world. Makes you think?


  13. well, anarchy, actually, would be the absence of power imposed from above (in the sense that, instead, power would be distributed, from below, in a network-like way, among the people: as Proudhon said, “l’anarchie, c’est l’ordre sans le pouvoir”, which would of course be a very good thing towards which to tend, in the limits of human possibilities); while absence of any rules (or laws) would be better described as anomy or anomie: and this is of course undesirable, both for society and individuals.

    The strange thing is that movements which should promote freedom and progress often tend to return to the past, in a retrograde way; but this probably also a sign of these times: times which have lost the sense of a common future, so to speak.

    Anyway, what is the point in trying to reintroduce or retain imperial measures, when the whole world is metric? It makes no sense, at all…

    Freedom and progress, here, would rather be to greatly improve the metric system, in order to make it a really “democratic” system (and not something imposed by bureaucrats, technocrats, etc. etc.): made for all, in the whole world!

    (Talking about anarchists, Bakunin would probably have preferred the metric system (he and others also desired a polytechnic education for all, of course not necessarily in traditional schools, also rather obsolete in today’s society: which today, with the world wide web, could really be a possibility, if direct collaboration and sharing of knowledge became a real base of society).)


  14. @BrianAC: Who are we cheating, sir? Would you care to quote examples of a fallacy which we have uttered on Facebook or anywhere else, for that matter? It is interesting you show concern for the ‘needs and feelings’ of others. Yet you then go on to say that A.R.M. ‘[H]ave little logic nor [sic] reason, just emotional [sic] irrational rantings [sic],’ as if emotion were a bad thing. Do you identify with the Vulcans from the American ‘Star Trek,’ or not? You cannot, without an utter lack of objectivity and honest evaluative ability, chide our supposed lack of emotional empathy for others and then criticise our alleged lack of cold, logical reason absent emotional consideration, can you?We consider it both scrupulous and respectful to allow all people to have their say, here, whether their viewpoint agrees with ours or not. The furlong is 1/8 mile. Are horse races illegal for running in furlongs? Are road signs erected in furlongs illegal? We would argue that a furlong is more legal than a ‘1/3 m’ sign placed legally, let alone a ‘1/3 m’ sign placed, instead at a short distance of 500 metres. Would you care to clarify the meaning of: ‘Sure we have had spats elsewhere, but keep your thoughts (and mine) on those pages where they can be considered by the likes of Charlie P [sic]?’. We are unable to discern your meaning. We believe, also that you may have confused race horses and jackasses in your mention of the furlong.

    @Cliff: Perhaps, since you wish to parse words, you are not aware that Facebook is a subset of the internet. We realise how difficult joining F.B. can be, no e-mail required, no photos, five minutes time. We have a website that can immediately be accessed by clicking on the link embedded in our name, or directly at: http://?www.activeresist? We see no need to have a separate forum outside of this perfectly adequate one on Facebook. The metricviews site allows ‘people like you’ to have a say. . . And no one else. As for our activities resembling the Taliban’s banning of music, perhaps you could help explain how that repression of free speech compares with removing unauthorised metric road signs that violate the law.

    ‘As for our activities resembling the Taliban’s banning of music, perhaps you could help explain how that repression of free speech compares with removing unauthorised metric road signs that violate the law,’ is our quote in its entirety, Mr Frewen-Lord. Do you care to comment? We have, in the past, removed illegal road signs. Note, however, that you are quoting us quoting Cliff. Once again, not a very informed observation, is it, our answering an accusation quoting the accuser’s words? When has A.R.M. been found to remove metric-only signs that ARE legal? Are you not aware, that under current British law, it is a defence to pull down a sign that is not authorised? Also that bringing a sign into compliance with law is not ‘defacing’ it? Immoral? Demanding that a law in force is followed? What sort of morality entails ERECTING signs that are not authorised? Is this not also taking the law into one’s own hands, even worse, using funds from the public?

    @Lee Kelly: You are correct that. ‘Imperial Martyrs’ would have been the appropriate title. The tabloids concocted this misnomer for Imperial Traders who defied the T.S.O. jobsworths. If it comforts you to view all Imperial proponents as unable to function, feel free to do so. While you formulate theories as to our backwards nature, as a result of OUR FACEBOOK PAGE, we will continue to devote our energy to removing illegal metric sign installations from U.K. roadways to which the public has access. We leave psychoanalysis to experts, not semi-anonymous nobodies in cyberspace.

    @Sven: Perhaps you are not aware that the United States has over 300 millions who are not metric. According to ‘official statistics’ the U.K. is converted already. So how is the ‘whole world metric?’ Many countries are mixed, like Canada, and many throughout the Caribbean are also inch-pound users, no mention made though, alongside the United States, Burma, and Liberia. Perhaps a consistent list and per centage should be employed, rather than a set of statistics that morphs to suit the metrication argument of the moment. Why, for instance, does the average American believe Britain’s roads are metric? That we have ‘gone metric?’ By that set of criteria, the Americans ‘went metric’ three decades. prior to our own conversion, in the 19th century. In any case, as our actions are taken to UPHOLD the law, it is the opposite of anarchy. We act to ensure coherence through the continued legal use of Imperial on all signs, throughout the U.K. I am afraid I am not fluent in French nor versed in philosophy to the extent I could comment intelligently upon your two cited samples, however, ‘freedom’ is a relative thing. It is seldom imposed from above, as is the stated aim of the U.K. Metric Association. Our organisation was formed as a REACTION to T.S.O. raids on greengrocers and fishmongers and butchers who thought they had the freedom to sell Imperial. That freedom was taken away from them through unjust laws from outside of U.K. elected officials. A.R.M. serves to enforce laws that WERE representative of the vast majority of British people, to protect the British motorist in a way we are unable to protect the Steve Thoburns of this land.


  15. @ARM,

    Yes, furlongs are illegal on road signs – the EU Weights and Measures directive explicitly allows miles, yards, feet, and inches as the ONLY archaic units allowed on road signs other than modern ones. When thinking about it 1/3 mile signs make sense placed at 500m, especially considering roads are constructed and designed, with signs placed based on metric standards.

    I have had a look at your website and note one particular example of you removing legal metric, removing a 2.0m width restriction sign placed under the 6′-6″ one; that is legal use of metric, in fact the only thing illegal there I believe is the metric should be above the imperial. Also, changing privately-owned signs is pretty pathetic – you claim people should have the “freedom” to use imperial units, yet stop people who wish to use their right to use metric units.

    Canada is, on the whole, even more metric than the UK – so your claim they’re mixed is laughable. Many of those countries you claim are not metric are hardly considered “major” countries, according to Wikipedia, the only two major countries yet to change their road signs are the US and the UK, whatever your definition of “major” country, you’re never going to make two into a majority or even a sizeable minority.

    Metric is winning. It’s a coherent system of related units, imperial is a hodgepodge of different things people decided might work. Even taking into account your points raised on other “mixed” countries – I would say well over 90% of the world’s population use solely metric for every aspect of their lives, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world changes too. We only have one area really to change over and the rest will naturally follow, and I have absolutely no doubt that this will happen in my lifetime – even with the DfT’s track record.


  16. “Are road signs erected in furlongs illegal? ”

    Your argument against metres is that any unit not explicitly listed as approved in the Traffic Signs manual is illegal. I must have missed the chapter on furlongs, could you quote chapter and verse? For distances (but not clearances), you seem limited to miles (including specified fractions) or yards, but not both together. Rip it down.

    Since the Southend signs (either before or after vandalism) don’t look EXACTLY like an approved traffic sign out of the traffic sign manual, they must not be an approved traffic sign, and must, therefore, be “advertising.” Were the original signs approved by the town council? If so, they must be legal. Were yours? If not, they must be illegal. I must admit with the “Healthy Southend” tagline, they look a like lot “advertising” to this American. Don’t illegal signs need to be torn down or fixed?

    A minor curiosity, some American horse races mention furlongs, but all the track signage I’ve seen is sixteenths of a mile, reduced to lowest denominator, 1/16, 1/8, 3/16, 1/4, etc with the “mile” understood. I suspect if you asked 100 Americans what a furlong is, 95 would be wrong. How would Brits do? Have you cleverly labeled in a unit “no one” (at least only a small minority) would understand? Who exactly have you served by “protecting” them from metres and exposing them to furlongs?

    Well, there are about 350 million Americans, but some of us are metric, or as metric as we can be. Your estimate of 300 million non-metric might be a bit high, but I don’t have evidence to counter it. I’d be hard-pressed to argue less than 250 million. Never assume all Americans are of like mind on anything.


  17. Imperial based road signs on UK roads is the last visible occurrence of imperial in the UK and as far as the opposition sees it the proverbial foot in the door. It is perceived that as long as one major item remains imperial, there is a chance, albeit a very slim one, that there can be a complete reversion to imperial.

    The only way to maintain an ignorance of metric and a preference for imperial is to expose the public eye to imperial only and keep metric off. That means no dual signs and no private signs. Even the slightest appearance of metric means the imperial can be ignored and the eye and mind can focus strictly on the metric value. But, the imperial can’t be ignored and in theory must be learned and understood if no metric is present. Thus whenever metric appears, it must be removed.

    ARM is losing the battle now that height and width signs require metric on them and the dual signs are appearing so that there will be an increase of metric awareness that ARM tried to keep from public view, but is now unable.

    It is just a matter of a very short time that distance signs go dual. Then just a matter of time before the imperial is completely removed.


  18. I believe the use of m for miles, ‘ for feet and ” for inches is also illegal in pedantic point of law. These are m = metres, ‘ = minutes and ” = seconds respectively.
    Arm should get all of those removed from our roads.


  19. @ARM:

    Sorry, but you are plain wrong when you state, “…we will continue to devote our energy to removing illegal metric sign installations from U.K. roadways to which the public has access.” Take a look at an article in today’s Independent by Paul Vallely. In particular, take notice of the following statements made by Mr Vallely:

    – It is a debate about achieving an equilibrium between personal freedom and the common good. Part of the point of law is that it seeks to protect us all from the judgement of self-righteous individuals, or indeed political pressure groups. [ARM is definitely a bunch of self-righteous individuals, from which we need to be protected.]

    – The key point it that its not for individuals to make such judgements. It is for society to do that, a function we delegate to a jury and a judge. [Take note ARM – any illegalities in terms of road signs are for society to judge and take action upon, not you.]

    – Victims are not always best qualified to judge when justice has been done. Though it is today fashionable to talk about the voice of the victim being heard in court, that process must have limits. Distancing victims from the judicial process is what distinguishes a revenge culture from the civilised rule of law. [ ARM obviously considers itself as victims – otherwise why is it so obsessed in ‘rectifying’ so-called illegalities? But ARM’s actions clearly put it in the category of revenge culture – and therefore not part of the ‘civilised rule of law’.]

    ARM seems to have a very twisted logic as to what it thinks it can do in regard to what it thinks is adhering to the rule of law. The UK has a long history of law-abidance and the proper processes to achieve that. ARM needs to learn that lesson unless it wants to be considered as a reactionary vigilante extremist collection of law-breakers.


  20. @Daniel
    You said “Imperial based road signs on UK roads is the last visible occurrence of imperial in the UK”.

    Have you been to the UK recently? If you had, you would see that, actually, it is hard to find evidence, outside of business, commerce and pre-packaged food, that the UK isn’t an imperial-only country.


  21. @Charlie P,

    so we shall ignore the NHS using exclusively m/cm and kg for body measurements, ignore that every single piece of furniture one buys from Argos / Ikea and other such stores is designed and advertised in mm/cm. Weather forecasts give temperatures almost exclusively in ºC, and that’s all people ever use when talking about the weather.

    Let’s also take no notice that the government works almost exclusively in metric units, even distances in law and even on the foreign travel advice (intended for “metric illiterate” citizens) are given exclusively in kilometres. Recipes now being in either metric exclusive or metric primary clearly aren’t important either. Even things which remain the same size as their pre-metric definitions are now defined in metric units. People are even talking about their personal weight in kilograms now and will talk of their shopping in metric units.

    All of that is unimportant though, I assume.


  22. A (somewhat pessimistic) list of metric Britain appears in the article “50 years on”:
    All too often, a metric product has an Imperial wrapping such as the speedo in an all metric car, or the screen description on an all metric TV, giving the impression that the UK is much less metric than is actually the case.
    My own guess is 90% metric – even those Imperial road signs are dimensioned in metric and placed on roads which, if less than 45 years old, were designed and built in metric.


  23. @Charlie, @derekp
    Exactly! So contrary to what Daniel said above. It is mostly stuff that the public at large do not see or do not get involved in (outside of work) that is metric. In most circumstances outside of work, with the exception of pre-packaged food, and especially in private conversations and activities, imperial is predominantly preferred and largely used. The recent UKMA survey confirms that.

    The public interface to most things, including NHS heights and weights, TV sizes, and most things in electrical, diy, furniture, estate agents, farm produce, street markets, second-hand and classified ads, skips hire, BBC, newspapers, private fruit&veg shops, car sales, bicycle sales, tool hire, clothes shops, shoe shops. Even weather forecasts often give F, especially BBC, and websites usually have units as an option.


  24. Charlie P says: 2015-07-20 at 09:45 @Daniel
    ‘You said “Imperial based road signs on UK roads is the last visible occurrence of imperial in the UK”.
    Have you been to the UK recently? If you had, you would see that, actually, it is hard to find evidence, outside of business, commerce and pre-packaged food, that the UK isn’t an imperial-only country.’

    Oh, come on sunshine, that really is a load of twaddle.
    “Imperial based road signs on UK roads is the last visible occurrence of imperial in the UK”. Is a totally accurate statement. The word “visible” is there, not spoken, UK wide not in your local market place. The media of course are the other real hold outs, holding the country to ransom for their own agenda. That is not to a large degree “in public view”. IMHO, just for Charlie P.


  25. Charlie P wrote: “Imperial is predominantly preferred and largely used. The recent UKMA survey confirms that.” and “Even weather forecasts often give F, especially BBC”

    It is quite clear to anyone who takes an interest in Britain’s weights and measures (mess) that governments have never given much thought to the public. If they did, the government-run NHS, to take one example, would not constantly provide the crutch (pun almost unintended) of back conversions to the units of pounds and stones which are unlawful as primary units in commercial usage. It makes no sense. Apart from the obvious scope for misunderstanding, it is wasteful to provide conversion charts and verbal conversions back to imperial units when users of the NHS can reasonably be assumed to understand the metric used by the professionals since most people have now learnt metric at school. That is a very long way from saying ‘imperial is predominantly preferred’ by the public. Most patients are not asked. They are simply given the figures as imperial conversions. Some UKMA members, I understand, use metric when dealing with health professionals and are often met with surprise that an ‘ordinary’ patient of the NHS should understand the professional system of measurement. If ordinary people have been forgotten during the adoption of metric in so many areas of life, it is the road signs that would provide the necessary push for them to see and realise that metric is not just suited to certain ‘work-related’ tasks but dovetails into the private sphere as well. We respond to what we see around us. If we see only imperial road signs we tend to continue to use imperial in our private lives. That is not an explicit choice, it is more of having nothing to tie the ends of measurement in professional life and in private life together. UKMA’s survey provided me with a snapshot of where Britain is now in its journey of adopting metric usage. It is obvious that people prefer what they know (or what they think they know: as the survey showed, people are often quite ignorant of the Imperial system they claim to know better and which Charlie P will have us believe people prefer).

    On the subject of temperatures, my experience is that the BBC has largely shelved references to Fahrenheit temperatures. Even in the recent heatwaves I only heard one or two Fahrenheit units being mentioned (and that was on BBC London and very sotto voce). The new ‘whopper’ temperature seems to be 30 degrees (Celsius) or anything above.


  26. @ARM
    How do you feel about removing some unauthorised estate agents signs that violate the law by using imperial measurements? I’m sure you’re aware that British law requires the use of metric units in all product description and advertising. Billboards advertising offices for rent by the square foot are everywhere. You lot could could have a wonderful time removing all these signs or “modifying” them to give the areas in legal square metres.


  27. Hmm, since my post earlier, as well as the posts from Brian AC, Jake and Cliff, both ARM and Charlie P have become rather silent. Could it be that they have (finally!)realised that their arguments for continuing with imperial measurements are simply not sustainable?


  28. @Cliff: Our group’s name was intended to make our purpose clear to someone with even a modicum of intelligence. Would you care to divulge your reasoning as to why a group dedicated to resisting forced metrication would remove non-metric signs?


  29. @John Frewen-Lord
    Of me, and others, you wrote: “Could it be that they have (finally!)realised that their arguments for continuing with imperial measurements are simply not sustainable?”

    You must be confusing me with someone else, I’ve never argued for continuing with imperial measurements.

    My reason for contributing to this forum is to voice my opinion that the reasons and arguments used here for forcing any further change to metric, where metric is not wanted or required (i.e. private, personal, out-of-work, travel, etc.) are mostly unsupported by evidence and/or are reliant on flawed arguments standing on logical fallacies. We must remember that the UK is virtually 100% metric in industry, commerce and government admin and has amply demonstrated its competence to compete and punch above its weight in the world of metric.

    Branding the UK people as idiots, ignorant, Luddites or whatever, and suggesting that they are incapable of learning metric or too thick to deal with it or that they need to be force-fed with it for their own good is simply not going to work.

    We need to give credit where credit is due – the UK people are truly “bilingual” in measurement language terms – and treat that as a strength, not as a weakness. We also need to be honest about the cost of further metrication, and evaluate the value to the UK economy of the continuing imperial culture and traditions (to tourism, social cohesion, wellbeing, accessibility, etcetera) and not try and fool ourselves it has no value. We also need to resist the temptation to confuse correlation and causation and stop making this association a laughing-stock by publishing articles such as the recent one blaming dual-unit signs for crashes.

    We need to grow up and face up to our weaknesses, and not try to blame everyone else for our failings.


  30. Jake: Do you consider a comment ‘humorous’ even if that same comment has been repeated hundreds of times? Telling the same (poor) joke over and over and over and over and over and over again isn’t, after all, very humorous, then, is it?

    Far more humorous, we think, is a group dedicated to metrication pedantically and incessantly criticising those who use the abbreviations of ‘K.P.H.’ or ‘mtr,’ instead of the ‘symbols’ (as they are not truly symbols, but rather abbreviations sanctioned by dictat without the approval or endorsement of any English language authorities). Kicking a recent convert to your religion surely isn’t the best method of attracting further followers!


  31. Let’s get back to discussing the signs. The problem with signs displaying furlongs is that they won’t be understood by most of the people who see them. As I understand it, furlongs were mainly confined to racecourses.

    Miles and fractions of a mile or miles and yards would certainly be better than furlongs. Signs in metres and kilometres would be even better, because they would be better understood by tourists (except for many from the US). Dual signs would provide for most if not all.

    But “furlongs”? Forget it!


  32. @ ARM

    Taking the points of your comment in order: I would have nothing to do with an organisation that ‘pedantically criticises’ people, as you put it. Drawing attention to misuse of metric symbols (or imperial ones, if you wish) is a completely different thing. Of course metric symbols are symbols. They are the symbols agreed for worldwide use, with our government’s approval. I do not see where ‘diktat’ comes into it (but I have the impression that any kind of official authority bothers you, starting with your own council probably). There are no ‘English language authorities’ in the sense of the Académie Française, if that is what you mean, which regulates the French language. English is based on common usage and different forms are used in different English-speaking parts of the world. However, English speakers do have the great advantage that many metric symbols ‘do’ bear a close a close resemblance to the English words they stand for. Spare a thought for the poor Italians: they use the symbol ‘km’ on their road signs even though there is no letter ‘k’ in the Italian alphabet. But they know that ‘km’ is a symbol and not the representation of a word. What has supporting Britain’s metric conversion got to do with ‘religion’, I wonder.


  33. There is also a humorous system, called FFF, based on the furlong (about 200 m, or 1/5 km long)::


    Anyway, a measurement system pertains to the sphere of the common good, and does not touch personal freedoms (except maybe if minding only one’s own business is considered as a “freedom”: let’s hope this isn’t the case…); thus, logic, rationality and common sense should prevail when choosing a system that is good for everything and everyone: today, this system happens to be the SI, mainly for historical reasons; tomorrow, it could evolve into something even better, if people – and not only scientists and engineers – are interested in it.

    So, all this, after all, has little to do with government decisions being forced from above and so on: for example, ideally, if we had a worldwide network of direct democracy (let’s hope, sooner or later), without a central government, such decisions could very well be taken from below, in an open source-like way, instead of delegating everything to often incompetent and uninterested (except maybe for their carreers) politicians.

    (And even if such a Star Trek-like (BTW, Star Trek uses the metric system!) world might still be far away in the future, we should anyway try to tend towards it, beginning from today.)

    Etc. etc. (many things could be said about the degeneration of today’s politics, and so on, almost everywhere)…

    The real, fundamental problem and question of these times probably is: where do we want to go, as a worldwide society?


  34. ARM said “. . .as they are not truly symbols, but rather abbreviations sanctioned by dictat without the approval or endorsement of any English language authorities . . .”

    Wrong on two counts:
    *They are symbols and are standard across languages. The symbol for kilometers per hour is km/h, even when the word for kilometer begins with “c” in Italian or “q” in Portuguese.
    *Both the US and the UK signed the Treaty of the Meter and are part of the BIPM and all its oversight committees. We both participated in the “dictat,” (actually, Webster says I’m supposed to spell it with a “k,” diktat) and our governmental measurement bodies say we should use the SI correctly if we use it. English is a very fluid language. Look at the differences in American and British spelling. It can surely accommodate standardization of a few symbols in the SI. Not sure these who these “authorities” are, but for the US, Webster, the US Government Printing Office style manual, the Chicago Manual of Style, etc use SI correctly. Of course the AP uses it all wrong, but, then again, they hate the metric system, much as you do. Should I take my SI style leads from supporters or opponents of the SI? Really tough question, isn’t it.

    I love how you use that word, diktat, for any rule you disagree with, but any departure from the TSRGD is “illegal.” I guess there are rules and there are rules.


  35. We still do not understand how our organisation, named ‘Active Resistance to Metrication’ using the T.S.R.G.D. As a means to an end, namely the *active resistance to metrication* is, in any way, a paradox. Note, we are not the A.R.T.S.R.G.D.S. where the ultimate S stands for ‘scofflaws.’ We welcome those here and elsewhere to hold local authorities and sign owners accountable for illegal and unauthorised signs, though we must state that the use of the wrong font,colour, or other extreme pedanticism will likely result in immediate amendments tothe pertinent regulations contained therein.


  36. @Charlie P
    Here, I address the main points you made in a comment on this article.

    You say that you oppose forcing any further change to metric. It is government’s job to regulate the use of measurement units for all official, legal, trade and administrative purposes. Every country needs a system of measurement that everyone understands and uses. No country needs two systems. Needless to say, citizens can use whatever measurement units they like when cooking at home or doing DIY work. Governments have been regulating the use of measurements for centuries so deciding what measurements will be used for official, legal, trade and administrative purposes is nothing new.

    You say that the British are “bilingual” in measurement language terms. However, this claim is not supported by a YouGov measurement survey commissioned by UKMA. That YouGov survey showed that:
    – 76% of respondents were unable to answer correctly how many yards there
    are in a mile
    – 43% could not say how many metres there are in a kilometre
    – 32% of respondents were unable to answer correctly how many pounds there
    are in a stone
    – 39% did not give the correct answer when asked how many grams there are
    in a kilogram

    These findings suggest that many adults in Britain are unable to
    understand or make use of the key information that is provided for their
    protection or benefit.

    This measurement mess matters for the following reasons:
    · Incompatible units make comparison difficult – undermining consumer protection
    · Mutual incomprehension – people who use different systems don’t understand
    each other
    · Constant need to convert – prone to errors
    · Accidents – such as the airliner that ran out of fuel as a result of wrong conversion
    · Costs – of mistakes, and of running two systems
    · Failure to reap the benefits of past investment in metrication – especially in education
    · Foreign perception of the UK as insular and living in the imperial past

    You mention the costs of further metrication and that we must assess the value of doing so. The costs are modest in the grand scheme of things and the biggest benefit is that the whole population will no longer need to be familiar with two systems. Compare that to the projected cost of £50 billion for HS2 and£900 million for the Millennium Dome. How many are likely to benefit from HS2? How many benefited from the Millennium Dome?


  37. @Ronnie Cohen
    You are resorting to logical fallacies again.

    1. You say that I said that I “oppose forcing any further change to metric.” That simply is not true. What I said was “the reasons and arguments used here for forcing any further change to metric, where metric is not wanted or required (i.e. private, personal, out-of-work, travel, etc.) are mostly unsupported by evidence and/or are reliant on flawed arguments standing on logical fallacies.” Can’t you distinguish between the two?

    2. You then launch off that false premise to say “It is government’s job to regulate the use of measurement units for all official, legal, trade and administrative purposes.” That is not in dispute, and such regulations are already in place in the UK. So that is irrelevant to my point.

    3. You try to rebut my statement that ‘the UK people are truly “bilingual” in measurement language terms’ by citing examples of where large proportions of them were shown not to know the intricacies of either system. That’s like saying a dual English/French speaker isn’t bilingual because they don’t know all the grammar rules of each language.

    4. You then summarise the situation as a “measurement mess”, without having established any such thing.

    5. The reasons you then list for why the self-proclaimed “mess” matters are all nonsense:
    5.1. Which units are incompatible, and in what context?
    5.2. There is no evidence offered that if there was just one system that it would be understood any better than the two systems are now, so the assertion is unsupported.
    5.3. When are these conversions required? Only in comparable circumstances as when bilingual speakers need to translate from one of their languages to another.
    5.4. Where is the evidence of these cross-system mistakes within the UK and that they are more common or more serious than mistakes in the use of a single system?
    5.5. I’d say the evidence of this reaping is all around us – we are a prosperous nation – punching above our weight. Or do you actually have evidence to support your contrary opinion?
    5.6. Again you give no evidence to support this assertion and we still need to see the comparison of the cost of dropping the traditions and culture against the benefits of keeping them.

    6. You still fail to quantify the cost of the loss of the benefit that we enjoy from maintaining some of these traditions. And two wrongs don’t make a right!


  38. you have no right to call me a nobody ARM, I have just as much a right to an opinion as you do. I’m sorry for causing upset to your group as I’m sorry for causing upset to this pro metric group. But I’m in favour of both systems working together it shows intelligence if you can convert between imperial and metric. But you can’t stop people using metric or imperial. If the British public don’t want change it’s their right, that doesn’t mean that things will not change over time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: