Government’s return to imperial set to make UK a laughing stock

Yesterday, the Government published its response to the so-called TIGRR report. It was reported in some newspapers as announcing the return of pounds and ounces.

As previously reported by Metric Views, in June this year, the Government’s Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform (TIGRR) had recommended the return of imperial weights and measures, citing the inability of traders to choose which measurement system they use as being “an example of overly prescriptive EU regulation”. This assessment of Weights and Measures law is of course misguided.

In order to protect consumers, the UK, and the vast majority of other countries around the world permit the use of only one system of weights and measures for trade. Any ability of traders to choose different weights and measures from their competitors will always adversely affect a consumer’s ability to compare prices, and thus leave them open to unfair practices. The best way to maximise consumer protection has always been for every trader to use the same system of weights and measures. This is a principle that has been with us since Magna Carta.

In what has previously been described by some, misleadingly, as “taking back control” of our laws from unelected bureaucrats, it is ironic that a statement, that included the Government’s plans for weights and measures legislation, was delivered in the unelected House of Lords by the unelected Minister of State, Lord Frost, on Thursday.

The Government’s response to the TIGRR report, entitled Brexit opportunities: regulatory reforms, could be described as a solution in search of a problem. What few proposals there are have a general theme of removing consumer protections, or otherwise appear to be plans to change for the sake of change, seemingly to deliberately create divergence from common standards that we have previously agreed with our European neighbours. A short statement on weights and measures is included:

“Review EU restrictions on selling in pounds and ounces – We will review the EU ban on markings and sales in imperial units and legislate in due course.”

This was reported in The Times, on the same day, in an article entitled, Pounds and ounces return in victory for metric martyrs, in the following terms:

“Under plans unveiled by ministers today it will once again become legal for market stalls, shops and supermarkets to sell their goods using only Britain’s traditional weighing system.”

In his statement to the House of Lords, Lord Frost spoke of introducing a “one-in-two-out system” to reduce the quantity of legislation. However, the proposal to add imperial weights and measures to existing metric measures, stands that approach on its head, with the adoption of “one-out-two-in” weights and measures legislation.

Whether the Government go through with this retrograde step in consumer protection remains to be seen.

It is clear that no impact assessment of a return to imperial measures has been carried out. Inevitably, there would be considerable costs:

  • New imperial scales would need to be purchased by traders, which would in turn need to be tested and stamped by trading standards officers, who would need the necessary imperial calibration equipment.
  • Imperial scales have not been authorised since the 20th century. Trading standards officers would need to be trained in the certification of imperial scales.
  • There is a national shortage of Weights and Measures inspectors. This is a bad time to be creating needless work for existing staff.
  • Would there be a public information campaign? The majority of people in the UK have no experience of imperial units when shopping.
  • And last, but not least, our country’s reputation would take a massive hit. It is clear from the enormous backlash to this proposal on social media last night, that this is already making our country a laughing stock.

References:

Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform independent report – 2021-06-16
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/994125/FINAL_TIGRR_REPORT__1_.pdf

Brexit opportunities: regulatory reforms – 2021-09-16
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1018386/Brexit_opportunities-_regulatory_reforms.pdf

The Times – Pounds and ounces return in victory for metric martyrs – 2021-09-16
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/scales-of-justice-tilt-towards-the-metric-martyr-638vfn655

Author: UK Metric Association

For a single, rational system of measurement

63 thoughts on “Government’s return to imperial set to make UK a laughing stock”

  1. So this is Global Britain is it? The only country in the World that has gone backwards in the abandoning the international system of weights and measures, I do hope that this is a mistake the media has made, because if this is true then nobody will ever take the UK seriously ever again, yes I’m aware that the US Myanmar and Liberia also use the imperial system or a similar system, but none of those countries have adopted a measurement system then gone backwards, well apart from when the US tried in the 70s and abandoned it, but the UK’s situation is more embarrassing because it’s 2021 and we are about to go back to the dark ages of measuring.

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  2. This just shows how out of touch and backward thinking that some of our political leaders are. They have taken this ‘Brexit opportunity’ to try and score points from a debate that they lost in the 1970’s. They don’t seem to understand that the world has moved on and that the the vast majority of people simply don’t understand what lbs and oz’s are.
    When this story broke, I went straight to the comments in the Daily Mail and was very amused and reassured to discover that the majority are against this quite ridiculous and pointless idea. In fact, most of their comments would not be out of place on this forum.

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  3. I am in total agreement about the farcical nature of this proposal, and I think a lot of the rest of the UK population is also likely to be scratching their heads. But we need to understand that ‘rationality’ and ‘politics’ are completely separate concepts, always have been, always will be. The current Nationalist government doesn’t care about rationality – just votes. And they know that a large part of their electorate (older people, not particularly well educated, nostalgic for Empire) will be cheering them to the rafters for this proposal. Plus they know that it’s an excellent divisive measure to expand their ‘culture wars’ – in this case, Glorious Sovereign Global Imperial Measures vs. dirty foreign socialist tyrants’ mumbo-jumbo measures. You can be sure that this issue will dominate headlines for months to come – a conflict which is exactly what the Nationalists want.

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  4. Steve: I think you could be right in saying that this is a ruse to appeal to not-well-educated older people who have a bit of money in their pockets now from rising house prices and who vote Tory as a result. Particularly the ‘red wall’ voters. I think this is a ruse in the run-up to an early election with precisely these people in mind. It is interesting that no final date or reporting date has been announced for this ‘measure’ so it can be allowed to lie out in the open until after the next election, when, I think, it will be quietly binned.

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  5. I entirely agree with the points made above, and I would like to say a bit about the pint of beer. Wine and spirits are now served, by law, in metric quantities. In the case of wine, the quantities are 125 ml, 175, ml and 250 ml (or multiples thereof within reason). There is thus a good gradation of sizes of drinks available. In the case of beer, there is poorer gradation; effectively beer is sold in multiples of half a pint.
     
    I visited Australia a few years ago. There the system for serving beers gives much better gradation. I forget the exact quantities but it is similar to the way we serve wines, but on a larger scale. Time for a reform I think. We could introduce a litre glass here (I once enjoyed a litre of beer in an American bar, believe it or not) and could phase in other sizes, e.g. 300 ml and 600 ml.
     
    Now for the idea of reintroducing that crown. Personally I don’t give a toss whether the size of a glass is certified by a crown or some some other marking. What I do object to is the idiotic way in which beer is served in a container only just big enough to contain the prescribed quantity. I know of no other liquid sold this way. Oversized glasses are permitted in private clubs but not in public bars (unless beer is pre-measured at the pumps but this is uncommon nowadays). Oversized glasses,with marking to indicate when full, would permit a properly measured quantity but also allow room for a head, which most drinkers like to see; it makes a statement about the quality of the drink. At present it is Hobson’s choice, either a head with short measure or full measure with no head. That is full measure provided you manage not to spill any. In practice beer is spilt, especially later at night, making the floors slippery and hazardous. But when did Health and Safety regulations bear any relation to real-life common sense?

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  6. It is EMBARRASSING more for me, as a citizen of the US that we’re always the nation that’s singled out as the weirdo, recalcitrant, ignorant and buffoonish outlier nation that is the EXCEPTION when the subject of metrication is brought up. A message to all my UK global brothers and sisters – no matter HOW far back in antiquity and obscurity BoJo’s is trying to regress your nation, you will never be as mired in antiquation and obsolescence as the backwards, stubborn and stupid colonists across the pond. We are yottametres behind the world and I hope it comes back to bite us hard in the backside.

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  7. Lee Kelly,
    Nobody has taken the UK seriously for decades. So maybe the leaders of the UK have decided to get even by being spiteful.

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  8. Just found a blog post from NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology in the USA) updated just under a year ago about metrication in the USA:
    https://www.nist.gov/blogs/taking-measure/busting-myths-about-metric-system
    As for Myanmar (Burma) there has been an effort there to metricate since the early two thousand teens, so the ball is rolling there although the situation is reportedly muddled. Same for Liberia but not much information is available from there on metrication that I can find.
    And there is this update from a little over two years ago on Statista, which calls itself a “Business Data Platform”:
    https://www.statista.com/chart/18300/countries-using-the-metric-or-the-imperial-system/
    The biggest drag on the world metricating fully is the USA, but the UK muddle certainly doesn’t help and the current Tory government just makes things worse. Shall we call it a “megamuddle”???

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  9. Paul, I am sorry you feel embarrassed. Please hear my take on this. I regard the USA as a progressive nation, with a lot going for it, thanks mainly to certain innovative industrial elements within, though, overall, the mindset of its people is traditional.
     
    Yes, most groceries on sale in food markets are still measured in imperial. We must bear in mind that, for trading purposes, the USA has been largely self-sufficient, until recently at any rate, and has not needed to rely on imports. Therefore it has had less need to adopt metric for international trade.
    It is not completely isolated from international trade of course. Bottles of wine there are sold in 750 mm measures, just like the rest of the world. It is no coincidence that its huge California wine products are world famous.
     
    One industry that has promoted successfully international standards is the Ford motor company, which in the 1970s made a well-publicised exercise on standardising on ISO metric nuts and bolts. Other car makers followed this lead, and these metric sizes are readily available in USA retail outlets.
     
    During one of my visits there I have visited NASA – not just the exhibition area but also the behind-the-scenes research and development area. I can say that in there, metric and SI units are employed to the Nth degree.
     
    If we look at weather, then tradition appears to rule, with Fahrenheit used for temperatures. This works well with those weather maps you see in newspapers, with bands showing temperature ranges across the nation (50s, 60s, 70s, etc.) If these were to be expressed in Celsius, then either the bands would need to be wider or they would need to contain ranges of 5 rather than 10 – less effective. (Though Canada seems to manage.)
    I think it the case that USA recognises the metric system, but does not yet feel ready to make the change in many sectors. I feel that it will change when it is ready. Based on my own perception of how it operates, I guess then when it does change it will do so in an organised and systematic manner. Not like the half-hearted, wishy-washy, comprising, stalling, messy way it has happened over here.

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  10. @Metricmac
    One important step forward that the USA can make easily is to allow for metric only labeling on packages. Right now the FPLA (Fair Packaging and Labeling Act) *requires* both US Customary (our version of “Imperial”) and metric. However, a hopeful sign is that I have seen some packages here with metric *first* showing a sensible quantity (ending in zero) followed by a US Customary value in parentheses with an oddball looking but accurate converted value. Once the FPLA is amended to *allow* metric only (no coercion), more and more packages will drop US Customary and fill packages to a sensible looking quantity, thus gradually raising the awareness and acceptance of metric in the USA.
    That is just a first step; nonetheless, we here will still need larger Democratic party majorities in Congress to overcome the resistance of the main food industry group and their lobbyists. Let’s hope that happens in the not-too-distant future (so I can live to see it!)

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  11. Here are a few links about this proposal, many negative comments:
    Brexit Benefit* Found – Back To The Imperial Measurement System!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1KqJuHKYGM
    Brexit Media Take on Return to Imperial Measures
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVOYkXFc-eM
    UK SEMI-METRICATION MADNESS: British Weights and Measures Explained:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia3QIFhyNWs
    I am really flabbergasted about such a retrograde step: pure nationalist populism! Is this Global Britain? Just go to New Zealand, that is a very British country, but it is metric!
    This is a repeat of what happened in France under Napoleon in 1812!
    Go to the UKMA website and try to spread the information about the important British contributions to the metric system found under ‘British scientists’. We know that the blueprint of the metric system was drawn up in 1682 in Britain and much more. The Brexiteer nationalist anti-metric nonsense can easily be blown out of the water.

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  12. Not “easily” blown out of the water I’m afraid, Han… Brexit voters are set in their ways, and truly believe that irrational divergence from the rest of the world is more important than sensible progress towards rational global standards. And the Tories (or indeed any UK party) only needs 40% of the vote (typically 25-27% of the electorate) to get a majority in Parliament.

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  13. If the government are so keen to de-regulate, in addition to allowing goods to be priced\sold in lb and oz, they should also abolish the pint\half pint for beer and cider (and milk).
    Allow publicans to use the word pint as a description only. There could be a simple regulation that states that the pub or restaurant has to clearly display what size of measure, in ml, will be served when a customer asks for ‘a pint’.
    I wager that many pubs will quickly adopt a standard ‘pint’ of 500 ml – and they’ll keep the price unchanged of course!

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  14. Most people young and old in this country and in particular children use imperial measures for their height, weight, bicycle and wheel size. When they inflate their tyres they will use PSI. For fast food their pizzas will be ordered in inches. They are making an informed choice. No one is advocating the replacement of one system over the other. There is a place for both. I have used both systems for fifty years in industry without any problem.

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  15. @Simon
    I haven’t found any good explanation anywhere as to why it is *advantageous* to use 2 systems of measurement instead of one. However, having 2 systems opens the possibility of mistakes (as was the case with the famous Gimli Glider incident where many people could have died and the loss of the very expensive Mars Climate Orbiter).
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider
    (The Board of Inquiry found fault with Air Canada procedures, training, and manuals. The Board recommended the immediate conversion of all Air Canada aircraft from Imperial units to metric units since a mixed fleet was more dangerous than an all-Imperial or an all-metric fleet.)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Climate_Orbiter
    (The spacecraft encountered Mars on a trajectory that brought it too close to the planet so it was either destroyed in the atmosphere or escaped the planet’s vicinity and entered into an orbit around the Sun. An investigation attributed the failure to a measurement mismatch between the two software systems: metric units used by NASA and US Customary (imperial or “English”) units used by the spacecraft builder, Lockheed Martin.)

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  16. I am a health and safety consultant and having also been in the airline industry, so I have some understanding with these issues. The needs of science and engineering have always been very different to other trades. I would like to refer you to the select committee report of 1862. All the leading engineers of the day were fully supportive of the new metric system. It was agreed that trial of the metric would commence, with a view to going fully metric. Problems arose with the views of the small traders and the general public. A leading astronomer of the dat summed it up. The problem with the metric system is that there is nothing between the centimetre and the metre to fill the gap. The foot provides the means to fill that gap.
    The incidents you mention should not happen again, because we have in place Risk assessments and method statements to prevent this happening.
    Let the people decide as they did in 1862 which measure they use that best reflects the career path they choose in life.

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  17. Hello, Ezra. Re your post of Sep 19:
     
    I am not impressed by the NIST web page. It reminds me of the propaganda put out by the British Metrication Board in the late 1960s. That organisation had its aims in the right place but was not successful in getting the message across to the general public.
     
    The world map sets things down as if in black and white. (That is metaphorically speaking, green and pale blue actually) Three countries are not metric; the rest of the world is. We know it is not as clear cut as this. See also my comments on Statista, further down.
     
    I disagree with the degree Celsius being included as an SI unit. The SI unit for temperature is the Kelvin. The degree Celsius is closely related to this but is actually an arbitrary scale, based on the freezing and boiling points of water.
    The Statista web page makes more sense, and here we have a world map with a third state – a mixed state for the UK. This again does not paint an accurate picture. Metrication progress in the UK is actually well past half-way, but there are still some glaring anomalies, notably road distance signage. However at least the word “mainly” in the key improves the perspective and the article does go on to mention some vestiges of imperial measures in some ostensibly metric countries.

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  18. Another thing I don’t like about the NIST site is talking about units like the second being SI, so metric by implication. Or the suggestion that imperial units have metric definitions. This is just an academic point, of interest mainly to the National Physics Laboratory and university research departments. What we need to concentrate on is identifying what still needs to be changed and how best to go about the change.

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  19. “The problem with the metric system is that there is nothing between the centimetre and the metre to fill the gap”. Why is that a problem? Why not say “30cm” instead “a foot”? Do they have a need to use “feet” in Australia and New Zealand? I don’t think they do – perhaps only older people. Or indeed do people “need” an intermediate unit approximating to 30cm in any other countries which weren’t previously British colonies? Not that I’ve heard of – I stand to be corrected if anyone knows better.
    The reality is that running two different measuring systems simultaneously in the same society *will* continue to cause misunderstandings and mistakes – sometimes trivial, sometimes annoying, sometimes expensive, sometimes catastrophic. At the very least it imposes completely unnecessary costs on businesses and government.
    The reason metric is blatantly obviously the best system is that humans have 10 fingers and toes. That’s why our numbering system is decimal, and why our measuring system is (should be) the same as well. Having a numbering system based on decimal, but a measuring system based on 3, 12, 14, 16, or 1760 is bizarre and irrational.
    But politics is, has always been, and will always be, irrational. The only thing that matters is what will get votes.

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  20. Simon,
    Since 1862, the majority of industries world-wide have adopted the metric system and not one has found a need for a unit to exist between the millimetre (the standard in industry) and the metre. They use only the millimetre and it works for all. The centimetre and the decimetre are in-between but no one seems to see a real need for them.
    The claim made that the foot perfectly fills the gap was made up by Luddites looking for an excuse not to learn something new and better. 150 plus years later we still have those living on the fringes of industry and technology still making the same claim.
    There is no need for two systems, just one and that one system needs to be SI, the system based on physics and nature and used by the majority world-wide. All that happens when two systems are used is confusion and error. It also gives the countries that are using only the metric system the opportunity to advance the quickest to the top while those struggling with two systems or more are slipping quickly to the bottom.

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  21. Have a look at another example in this BBC article (just past halfway) : https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58687026
    “One petrol station in Stockport sold 5,280 gallons (24,000 litres) of fuel on Friday, compared with 1,760 gallons (8,000 litres) on the same day the previous week.”
    What! Did the petrol station report that it had sold 5,280 gallons, or did it report that it had sold 24,000 litres? I am 100% certain that it’s the latter, which begs the question – who is it decided to make the conversion, and why? Furthermore, why did the imperial measurement move to the primary position, with the originally-reported figure in brackets?
    You haven’t even been able to buy petrol in gallons anywhere in the UK for at least 20 years!
    Who is leaning on the BBC to start ramping up imperial measurements everywhere? * Do we really have to guess * ?

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  22. I lived in South Africa during its metrication program and then moved to the United Kingdom. There were a number of differences between the South African and British program.
    Firstly, the South African metrication board reported to the Prime Minister so its mandate spanned all ministries while the British metrication board was part of the Department of Trade and Industry so it had no authority over the Treasury, Department of Transport or Department of Education.
    Secondly, in South Africa the Government assisted those companies that had to renew their measuring equipment whereas in Britain, the costs were “borne where they fell” (ie, the Government was paying as little as possible and nobody could force the Treasury to cough up). Had the UK Government subsidised the cost of new weighing devices for market traders, they could have taken the wind out of the so-called “Metric Martyrs’” sails.
    Thirdly, the South African Government made it illegal for any retail outlet to sell measuring equipment that was calibrated in imperial units. In the UK, tapes measures are still manufactured in a way that makes it easier to read the imperial units than to read the metric units.
    I believe that the Australian and New Zealand experience was similar to South Africa’s

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  23. @Steve
    Leaving aside that the “gallon” cited in the BBC article is not the same size as the gallon used in the USA (which adds another layer of confusion — should school children in the UK now learn 3 systems of measurement: metric, Imperial, and US Customary?), we can rightly ask if the UK should abandon the current grotestque sudivision of the pound into 100 pence (reminiscent of the execrable Celsius system of 0 degrees for freezing of water and 100 degrees for the boiling of water at 1 atmosphere — horrific!) and instead revert its money to pounds, shillings, and pence? Surely, having the pound subdivided into only 100 basic units (pence) as is the case now does not provide the granularity that the UK used to have when citizens had at their disposal the old system of 12 pence per shilling and 20 shillings per pound. Those who advocate even parallel use of Imperial with metric really ought to be advocating for the return of the old £/s/d money as well. No cherry picking allowed if one is to be totally honest!

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  24. Modernman, re your post of Sep 22:
     
    I saw this sort of thing when I was in Australia a few years ago. There, beers, etc. are sold in a sensible range of metric measures, but the word “pint” is occasionally loosely used for a measure that is near that value. We can’t readily legistate against people using loose phrases as long as the official measures are firmly defined, and this is not really a problem.
     
    However I would not go along with redefining imperial measures in round metric terms. We had a problem like that in the timber trade in the 1970s. Timber was sold in multiple lengths of 0·3 metre, so this would be unofficially described as a foot. This caused numerous complaints of being sold short measure.
     
    Nowadays in DIY stores timber is described accurately and exclusively in metric and there is no problem at all. It is not so much a case of what customers pays as it is of their getting what they want. If they get something less than what they want it may be unsuitable for purpose.

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  25. Hello Simon. You mention children using imperial measures. This is probably something they have picked up from their parents. We are not doing children, with most of their lives ahead of them, any favours by cluttering up their minds with these obsolescent measurements. They are making ill-informed choices because they have not received forward-looking guidelines.
     
    You mention height and weight. In their dealings with the NHS metric units will be used, so it is in their interest to be familiar with these measurements in metric. Body mass index is height squared divided by weight. This is calculated in metric for a good reason. Would you like to explain to me how to calculate the square of 5 feet 8½ inches? You may use a calculator if you wish.
     
    You mention bicycle wheels. The “inch” equivalent of many of these wheel sizes are nominal and based on pre-war standards, when tyres were much fatter. Slimmer tyres bacame more popular but had to fit the same sized rims as the older type, so diameters became smaller but were still described the old way. For example, take a tyre marked 28″ x 1¼”, as could well be fitted to a touring bike. Measure its diameter and you find it is only 27 inches. The ISO size, which has been marked on all bike tyres for many years, is 32-622 for this sized tyre. These are the tyre thickness and rim diameter in millimetres, and are accurate and correct. The overall diameter can easily be derived, in this case 686 mm.
     
    The so-called gear-inch method of comparing gearing of different bikes is hopelessly out of date. It does not even take pedal crank length into consideration, and has the demerit that the formula relies on inacurate input data. A better way to compare gearing is velocity ratio (which incidentally works in both metric and imperial – it is dimensionless), which does take account of crank length.
     
    You mention pizzas. If the sellers choose to describe them in inches, then this is the sellers’ choice, not the customer’s, informed or otherwise. One could say that the diameter of a pizza is not critical because it does not need to interface with anything or is not used in any calculation. It is the weight and nutrition information that is most important.
     
    I am trying to understand your idea of informed choice. The problem is that different people choose differently. More than once I have had to return bicycle tyres or rims to dealers because someone has “chosen” to think in terms of old imperial sizes rather than the modern, accurate ISO system. Some sizes are very similar to others. I once ordered a hardware item from a calalogue. The catalogue gave the dimension in inches but it seemed right for my requirements. When the item arrived it was described exclusively in centimetres and smaller than the catalogue size owing to rounding down. Fortunately it was still suitable for its intended purpose, but if a more-critical interface had been required it could have been unfit for purpose.
     
    Like you I have used the metric system for well over 50 years, and the imperial system for fewer years – I see no need to use it nowadays, except unfortunately in my car. The continued usage of two systems does cause problems.

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  26. As has already been said by other, what Simon says about imperial use being an informed choice is not the case. When a child has spent their time in education learning metric to come home to parents, media, and their peers pressuring them to use imperial instead because it’s the way things have always been done, that is what makes the whole debacle drag on. Through the fault of successive governments a few vocal luddites were allowed to set the agenda and so here we are now with the tabloid press hailing this as a success.
    It’s ironic that the general public, who for years has sat on the sidelines saying they don’t care how we measure stuff, has actually pushed back and are writing in droves to those papers to say how utterly ridiculous it is in the 21st century to be taking such a backward approach and many are even recognising that if we expect to be able to trade with the rest of the world in a post-EU Britain then using the same measurement system as everybody else is a no brainer.
    What has struck me though is that some sectors of the press appear to have moved (intentionally or not is unclear) in the right direction. I’ve noticed articles in The Guardian recently that are using metric units more often and sometimes even discarding imperial measures completely but I was pleasantly shocked by one article this past weekend about the queues at petrol stations, the first paragraph read:
    “A kilometre of one of the UK’s most congested roads was on Sunday taking on a new, unwanted role: the queue for a BP garage still managing to sell petrol.”
    Later in the article it did have a quote from a driver saying they needed to drive 200 miles but that’s to be expected when that’s what you have on the road signs.
    It does show though that, like much else they’re doing at the moment, attempts by our government to appease their right wing support is actually backfiring and that people may actually begin to use metric more often as they realise how stupid we look by clinging onto the past.

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  27. Hello again, Simon. Thank you for coming back.
     
    So in the 1860s an astronomer said that the problem with the metric system was there was nothing to fill the gap between the centimetre and the metre (100 cm).
     
    One person’s opinion nearly 120 years ago.
     
    So if that “gap” is such a problem, it is surprising that in the course of nearly 120 years I am not aware of any astronomers coming up with something to fill the gap between the mile or kilometre and the light year (9·46 x 1012 km).
     
    Risk assessments do not actually prevent things from happening; they try to quantify the chance of undesirable events, largely for insurance purposes. However they can be useful in identifying ways to reduce risk. The method statement adopted by Air Canada included fully metricating the fuelling system across all aircraft.
    It is not a case of making a decision according to our careers. Whatever our jobs, we all go shoppping, travel around, watch or participate in sport, etc. We need to operate with whatever these activities present to us.
    Regarding personal choice, and also taking account of your earlier post, my overall assessment is some people choose imperial measurements for the more casual things in life, whilst recognising that metric is more important when we require precision.

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  28. Metricmac said:
    “However I would not go along with redefining imperial measures in round metric terms. We had a problem like that in the timber trade in the 1970s. Timber was sold in multiple lengths of 0·3 metre, so this would be unofficially described as a foot. This caused numerous complaints of being sold short measure.”
    How would anyone complain about beer in short measure if the pint in England was increased from 568 mL to 570 mL officially. This would be in harmony with other countries that actually have the pint unit in their WMA but define it as exactly 570 mL. Even all pint glassware is 570 mL. There is no 568 mL pint glass. Even if a bottle says 568 mL, the actual fill is 570 mL as the filling machines only resolve to 10 mL increments. Why does the definition have to be out of sync with the real world?
    With a 570 mL definition, a third of a pint becomes an exact 190 mL, and two thirds is 380 mL.

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  29. Steve
    In the early 1970s I was working in the Land Survey Department at Nottingham City Council where we carried our topographical surveys for all the housing, roads and schools schemes that were being planned for the city. Suffice to say that from when I started in 1970 everything was fully metric and apart from the trigonometric control that was done with millimetre accuracy, we measured all the detail in decimetres. This had the advantage that we only used whole numbers or halves ie we only needed to measure to the nearest 5cm as this was all we could realistically plot to at 1:500 scale. Using ‘chain surveying’ techniques and taking literally thousands of measurements per day that were hand written, it meant we could work at speed in teams of three. To avoid any possible confusion especially if working in the rain when the paper would be sodden, we always used the ‘forward slash’ instead of a decimal point. You may also be interested to learn that the chains we used were 20m in length.
    I always felt lucky that I worked in a profession that was one of the very first to go metric with the Ordnance Survey’s pioneering National Grid in 1936.

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  30. Interesting point about the decimetre, Tim. Although it has never been in popular usage, I’m sure it had a definition at the inception of the metric system. It is a pity that the astronomer of 1862 did not spot it.

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  31. @Daniel
    Wow! The Bylines publications certainly are spot on.
    And the article doesn’t even mention that both Liberia and Myanmar are currently moving towards metric and that some USA measures are different from Imperial in the bargain.
    So much for Global Britain, alas. They might as well put up big signs at Heathrow saying KEEP OUT and NO TRESPASSING!

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  32. Ezra,
    Unfortunately way too many people have allowed themselves to be duped by the Fake News. The Fake News is salivating at the remote possibility of the UK returning to imperial, yet this is not the government’s intentions. There would be a huge backlash from most businesses if they even tried.
    All that was “promised” was that shop keepers be allowed to show advertisements in pounds only. Presently the law requires pricing in grams with pounds as a supplemental indicator in smaller font. Many small shops are breaking this law now by advertising in pounds only or pounds with grams in small font. So, to keep these shop owners from being charged as criminals, the government is promising to amend the law to allow for pound only pricing.
    There is no promise to revert to imperial nor relax the laws allowing for scales in units other than grams. But you see how the media, repeating a lie often enough gets so many ignorant souls to believe it as truth.

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  33. The decimetre was certainly used from the earliest days of the metric system. During the first few years of the the nineteenth century (1801 or 1802?), various metric units were given “everyday names”. The decimetre was called a “hand”.

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  34. I assume there is little point in posting a valid other side to this argument considering it uses ‘right wing’ and ‘nationalist’ many times?
    I believe you might have missed the point and why pressure groups like this are now irrelevant.

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  35. The imperial system is what made Britain Great and what made America. A lot of the imperial measurements are strange but we know exactly where we are, so dont dtch something that does work ok. As for metric we are seeing more of this being sneaked in by mainly manufactures and we are getting used to grams and kilogram. However there is a lot of misuse and confusion, ie bags of fertiliser sold in litres not kilograms, and the other way, not good!

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  36. Just because something worked centuries ago doesn’t mean it’s fit for today. Humans have 10 finger and that’s why we have a decimal numbering system – to then have a measuring system based on 3, 12, 14 and 16 is very odd. It only arose because of historical accident, and because it was easier to calculate fractions of 12 (a third or a quarter etc) in your head in medieval times when almost everyone was illiterate and innumerate. It’s now 2021, and only nostalgia and politics allow imperial to cling on in 2 or 3 countries out of 200-odd, causing great confusion!!

    Liked by 1 person

  37. imperialyes says: 2021-10-21 at 16:23
    I do not see the correlation there at all.
    It was indeed Great Britain (and more the USA) that made the imperial NON-system a world wide phenomena, but it was first plentiful Oak, then cheap easy coal and finally the the outcome of WW II with American dominance that were the drivers. Certainly not any merits of the mishmash of irrational units of measure. As a measure of success then surely the metric system displacing imperial in every county bar America ought to have some merit don’t you think?
    Once electricity was discovered during the period of the industrial revolution, the limitations of the non-system became a burden, has been ever since and will continue to be a millstone round our necks for ever more.
    John Prescott Joule soon found this when trying to electrify his brewery. Add Watt, Faraday, Henry and maybe even Newton to name a few and the limitations of the stupid units become obvious.
    You drop into the myth that there is something wrong with a working relationship between volume and mass. You cherry pick a particular ‘confusion’ of a bag of fertiliser. Well, how about a pint of prawns or a pint of bird seed? The “dry pint” and other units that I thankfully have forgotten, often used for seed and agricultural products. That is fine by you, I guess. Pizzas in inches? Your happy with that also I take it. How about a yard of ale then.
    As ever your logic does not seem to fit in with the real world.

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  38. The imperial system may have made Britain Great and what made America, but these two countries are not only not great any more but in a very steep decline. China is quickly moving to the top and has promised by 2025 they will be #1 and ahead of the US. Imperial, USC or whatever version either uses, may have made them but in this century it is unmaking them. China, a very modern metric country is now the new great power.
    Imperial/USC is the very rope China is selling to both England and the US to hang themselves with.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. @Imperialyes, it has to be pointed out that the history is filled with great countries and civilisations, but even they have changed over to the Metric system, I mean there was a time all travelling by horse was done on the Left side of the Roads, even as far back as the ancient Egyptians rode carts on the Left side of the tracks, and people need reminding that NASA sent the first Man on the Moon using the Metric System. If a country’s greatness is based on the use of the Imperial system, I have some sad news… the UK & US is neither great nor completely uses Imperial..

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  40. Its funny that some people want to copy others, and be dictated to. While I do admit we should hace a global measrurement system,there are certain things that make country for what it is, why do we need Welsh language, french etc when the international is English.? We have a crackpot electrical colour code copied from Europe,instead of the British standard.
    There are good points and bad about the metric system,and good and bad about Imperial, so a mixture suits.
    Most,if not all shop items are packed in metric measures,however the majority of people talk in Imperial!

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  41. imperialyes says: 2021-10-22 at 16:28
    “Most,if not all shop items are packed in metric measures,however the majority of people talk in Imperial!”
    That is exactly the problem , total stupidity.
    That is exactly the problem that the UK alone inflicts upon itself.
    “Its funny that some people want to copy others, and be dictated to.”
    Here we go again with the Brexit mentality. Rule by diktat from the dreaded EU! Let it be so that the UK has standards different to every other country in the world in everything. Let us see how much we export then. Lets us see how useful our imports would be.
    There was a time when UK standards became de-facto world standards. That era has gone, so has the USA influence.
    These days we have world standards, ISO amongst others, love it or hate it as you please, but thankfully, hopefully, it and others like it will prevail. Call it copying others, being dictated to (apparently you were happy with UK dictating to 75% of the world?) call it what you will. We call it international standards.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. The British Empire is dead and has been so for a very long time, even though some Luddites think that Brexit is the first step in its restoration. The US is on the edge of its losing its #1 position, even though in many ways it already has. A languages international prominence isn’t written in stone and once the US is no longer #1, the use of English will decline as well, since the two powers that use it as their native language will no longer be on the top.
    Latin for a long time was the “international language, then French (lingua Franca) was the international language, but with the rise of the US was replaced by English. As each nation is deposed from its top position, its language loses its international prominence.
    If English does remain the international language even with Chinese world control, it will have to be heavily purged of imperial unit words.

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  43. Hello again, Imperialyes; thanks for keeping in touch.
     
    You talk about people being dictated to. My observation is that successive governments of the UK have been too weak in their implementation of developments like metrication. You will read elsewhere in this Forum that South Africa was much more direct and forceful in implementing metrication. Call this dictatorship if you wish, but South Africa is not now in the messy situation we are currently in. One instance in we in the UK could say we are being dictated to, if by default, is the continuing usage of imperial road distances, forcing us to make difficult calculations about economy of fuel,sold in litres.
     
    You talk about copying others. The world has effectively been shrinking over the last century. We now have international travel, imports, exports, exchange of labour, etc. on a scale as never before. Electric cable colours, though off the topic of metrication, are an example of the desirability to standardize; there is a safety issue here. You think we copied this off Europe – well if it makes you feel better there are some things the rest of the world copied off us. An example is pipes and fittings, imperial based and a world standard – though the USA has something fairly similar but different enough for it to be incompatible with ours.

    I don’t understand what you mean by people talking imperial in shops. I find most people talk about things in the way shops describe them. Few people in my observations ask in a shop for something in imperial (unless it is sold that way) and then expect the shopkeeper to convert it to metric.

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  44. At the 1902 Imperial Conference, the prime ministers of the various colonies voted overwhelmingly to adopt the metric system throughout the Empire.
    In 1905, the British Government contacted the governors of all the colonies to get an update on the situation. The governors of Mauritius and the Seychelles replied those colonies were already metric, the lieutenant governors of the Australian states replied that they would follow Canberra’s lead, but otherwise the governors repeated the view of the 1902 conference.
    In 1907 the proposal was put to the House of Commons who voted to retain the imperial system. The main reason was to tie existing customers into British goods, especially with the rise of the German industrial base. The manufacturers won the day and Britain retained the imperial system. When Britain finally started to adopt the metric system in 1965, the Commonwealth followed suite and apart, from Canada and a few other territories that were heavily influenced by the Untied States, completed their metrication programs in about a decade.

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  45. What makes the world, we are all different, and countries have different standards, measurements, languages etc.
    It would be a sad planet if everyone was the same.
    Of course it would be nice to have an international measurement system, there is the metric system and there is an international language, English, but its still nice to have something special for GB. The imperial system is used in many parts of English speaking countries.
    I don’t know how I was asked to submit to this website, but its clear this is only for people who are keen to get their views over to people who don’t feel so passionate about the metric system.
    It is not a balanced discussion website.

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  46. I wonder why Daniel’s bizarre take on the world is allowed but my own submissions ignored?
    Mentioning that Brexit is a desire to bring back the Empire (after the Commonwealth replaced it) is not something that was heard of or a commonplace view during the Brexit arguments pre-referendum.
    I believer there is a misconception that Brexit will make metric go away or that people will be forced to sell in imperial. This is untrue.

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  47. I get the feeling that some businesses are planning to cash in on the confusion
    McCain Oven Chips are a great example; until fairly recently (in the last decade) their oven chips were sold in 1.8 kg bags (around 4 lbs but without actually saying so) and were only recently updated to 2 kg. I’ve noticed in the last year or so that they have upsized again, this time to 2.25 kg (the size printed in bold 4 cm high letters). You have to wonder if they’re just short of advertising them as a 5 lb bag!

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  48. Free thinker, even if they desired to sell a 5 pound bag, they could never fill it to such. All filling machinery today are metric only and can only fill in 5 g increments. The closest they could get without being under sized would be 2.270 kg. 2.265 kg, which is 5 g less, would be undersized. I wonder how much of a price increase the product as experienced with the increase in mass. If they wanted to advertise such a size, they would have done so and not chose the size they did. This could be a bonus size, some companies do that. They offer 2.25 kg for the price of 2 kg.

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  49. Yes, Imperialyes, it would be a sad planet if all were the same. But it is not all the same.
     
    Britain has thatched cottages and country pubs. The Netherlands has windmills and tulip fields. Germany has bratwurst and bier kellers. The USA has big monuments, big skyscrapers in every down-town, big almost-everything. Australia has kangaroos and boomerangs. We could go on!
    Britain, like most countries, has plenty to make it special. But there are aspects where standardisation is desirable. As you say, the English language has a lot of international clout. This is beneficial to us. The imperial system has been abandoned by most of the world that ever used it because it is outdated and the metric system is proven to be better. It is not beneficial to us to keep it and waste so much effort in making conversions all the time. It is not fair on our youngsters to clutter up their minds with an obsolete system that will not see them through their life. The sooner we complete the changeover the better.
     
    This discussion website is as balanced as the contributors care to make it. Yes we are keen to get our views over, but we are happy to hear ALL views. You and we do of course have the right to reply. That is how a forum works.

    Liked by 1 person

  50. I hear what you say but there is literally no call for the imperial measures we use to be abolished. Unlike brexit, terrorism, the economy, royal affairs, deaths, crimes, good news etc the headlines make no mention of issues regarding us using ‘miles’ on the road for example. I believe the call to standardise that far is gone now. We are now into the 21st century and (in the example of miles) no one even mentions that its a type of measurement system. Technology means we dont need ‘km/h’ on the same dial as mph and the milo meter is there as a reference. In fact because of GPS being used by most these days (in stead of the very few) we hear distance talk about ‘yards’ ‘quarter od a mile’ etc etc without any harm or complaint (it actually teaches ‘yards’ more to a younger audience).
    I’m Welsh and the numbest of Welsh speakers are fewer than those in the world that use imperial.
    It *is* beneficial to make conversions (ie translations)
    It *is* fair to ‘clutter up’ youngest minds by teaching them a language that is only spoken in some communities in Wales.
    By your logic (which I get, by the way) there should be a move to drop Welsh (as has been tried in the past) for almost precisely those reasons.
    It would save money, require less stand in govt positions, give more time up to learn other things in school, make Wales more ‘international’ in its approach to communications.
    But we dont do that.
    I can predict the response to this – but in my opinion its almost exactly the same principle. ITs a tradition worth keeping. It will never die out but it if did then we lose some history with it.
    There are some in Wales that favour dropping Welsh as an old historic language – but they are very few. ITs a similar situation with simple measures in the UK and US but with FAR fewer words involved 🙂 And dare I say – far fewer in support for this.
    As you say – you seek balance – I hope you find this a valid contribution

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  51. @Steve H
    By the arguments you bring up about traditions worth keeping, the UK should bring back pounds-shilling-pence at least alongside the current decimal currency if one chooses not to want to just fully revert to ₤/s/d altogether. After all, bringing back the old system would simply be about fostering another form of bilingualism (like Welsh alongside English) and restore lost history, just as some people and organizations expend time and money to bring back dying and even nearly dead languages.
    What say about then about that proposal then, Steve? Fully in favor of that?

    Liked by 1 person

  52. I can’t comment as it’s a false equivalence
    Sorry
    Welsh was I threat of dying out but that would be a very different process to the currency topic – which is not metrication – but may have raised suspicions in it’s day (the government hiding something just to grab more money ).
    I can see that. It was before my time but as I said – not equivalent. It would be like me suggesting a failure to metricate because we didn’t decimalise the way ‘time’ is recorded and used. Entirely different.
    You could go back further and show how popular hanging was but again – a false argument.

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  53. The comparison between a standard system of measurement and different languages is bogus. They are not comparable on any level.

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  54. This has nothing to do with old money for new or the welsh language, I think you are completely missing the point here.
    We are a metric country for trade and industry, as we buy and sell products using the metric system.
    The exception to this is the clothing trade and that is because overwhelmingly the general population young and old prefer the imperial system. Likewise in leisure, sport, pastimes and gardening the general population prefer to use imperial.
    Having been in industry for fifty years, I have used and will continue to use both systems and like most people, I was taught metric at school. There is a place in society for both systems.
    As I have said before, we need to remember the select committees report of 1862. The metric system is not a perfect system for every application, there is more than one way to crack a nut.

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  55. I believe that decimalisation was only introduced when the infant computer industry spelt out to the government how much the continued use of £sd would harm their industry and cost the country. To help those who are not familiar with COBOL, FORTRAN etc (the main computer languages of the 1970’s), try adding up sums of money, expressed in £sd on a spreadsheet. Now try it using a decimal currency. It is a no-brainer.

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  56. Hello Stuart 2661. Most clothing items have been dual-marked for many years. People’s personal clothing sizes are something that people are “used to” rather than something that is variable or something to put into a calculation. Hence people do not see a strong need to re-think their personal clothes sizes in metric. It is not a major problem.
     
    I’m afraid I don’t follow your reasoning on leisure, sport, etc. I am sure many sports fields are defined in imperial terms, e.g. a cricket pitch is 22 yards long, and there is no reason to change this. However others are decidedly in metric, e.g, swimming pools, 50 m Olympic length or the more-common 25 m. Most distances for running competitions are in metres. There is the marathon, neither a metric nor an imperial distance, which dates back to the original Greek Olympics, so I understand. But for shorter distances, 10 km and 5 km are common. I no longer hear of running events described in miles.
     
    The pastime that makes most usage of measurement is do-it-yourself woodwork, metalwork, etc. The major d-i-y outlets sell these almost exclusively in metric and that is how most people work nowadays. As for gardening, around 12 years ago I laid down many small laurel shrubs, half a metre apart. I now have a fine laurel hedge. A few years ago a gardener, who had taken over a weed infested allotment, commissioned me to clear it up and make it fit for use. I needed to estimate the time it would take me to do this, so I could work out a reasonable fee. I did a “test-dig” of one square metre, and timed myself in making it weed-free and well dug. Then I multiplied this by the area of the plot in square metres. These plots were quite likely originally defined in poles or something like that, and I could have done my test dig in square yards – but I did not want to complicate matters.

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  57. Metricmac,

    The problem with clothing and shoe sizes is that they vary from not only country to country but from manufacturer to manufacturer for the same garment and shoe. I’m sure they are all made to one metric standard in the factories, but are later size marked depending on where they are going and how the retailer wants them marked.

    When yo go to the store to buy these items you almost need to try them on, for size X in one brand or one shop is size Y in another brand or shop. There is no consistency in marking the sizes. There is no way a person can actually know their real size.

    To confound the issue, many clothing products today don’t offer sizes but offer small, medium, large, XL, XXL, XXXL, etc.

    It should almost be mandatory, to mark the product and packaging with a standard and true to as measured metric size, similar or equal to the EU norm.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_European_standard_for_size_labelling_of_clothes

    Then, they can include the national/regional, local or whatever size. But, I’m afraid they would never do this as people would start to notice that two brands of clothing might have the same metric size but a different local size and be confused or have the same local size with a different metric size. Most likely the reason it hasn’t been implemented yet.

    The same would be true for shoes, using the mondopoint system as the standard base and include the local size for those who struggle with change.

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  58. Re Daniel 2021-11-07
     
    Thank you for your lengthy and thoughtful response to my post. You have highlighted a good point here. Clothing is not by its nature a high precision item, and this accounts for the rather loose custom for measuring it. As you rightly say, there is no substute to trying clothes on, with the sizing a rough guide to initial selection.
     
    Rough sizing like M, L, XL, etc. is appropriate for sportswear or underwear, where just a few sizes will suffice. Sizing in inches or centimetres would be unnecessarily accurate.
     
    For a similar reason, children’s clothes are often sized by age range. They will need to fit losely during a period when the child is growing so they will be a “good fit” for a brief period at best, before they are “handed down for the younger sibling”.
    Shirt collar sizes are a bit more critical. Chest sizes are sometimes given in centimetres/inches but more usually a general sizing is given, e.g. “medium” or “slimfit”.
    Trousers are still more critical, and are sized in both waist and inside leg. To my thinking, inside leg is not the best place to measure, because it depends on the waist measurement to an extent. For example, I can choose a waist size from 76 cm to 86 cm, depending on whether I opt for slim fit or baggy – a belt will hold up the larger size. A 76 cm waist requires a 78 inside leg, but if I opt for a larger waist size the inside leg required is shorter. However the outside leg is exactly a metre for all cases, so I would consider the outside leg as a better measurement to go by. However the custom of measuring inside leg is well known and unlikely to change. Does anyone know the reason for this?
     
    Finally, shoes. There are various size systems in use; a detailed account can be found here:
     
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoe_size
     
    The sizes most commonly found in UK shoe shops are the familiar UK system and the European (Paris Point) system. Shoes usually show size in one system or the other; dual marking is not common.
     
    It is fairly easy to measure the length of a foot from heel to toe, and I have seen measuring gauges in shoe shops to do this, calibrated in shoe size, though they seem to be less common nowadays. However a foot is a three-dimensional object, as is the shoe it wears. When the profile of the shoe, usually an irregular curve, is taken into account, measuring by length only is too simplistic. Hence the “try on and feel how it fits” approach is more important than the actual sizing. When I buy shoes I start out with size 9, European 43, but I have known shoes of size 8½ to fit better, or at the other end I have a pair of size 10 which fit quite nicely.
    Clothing size is therefore a rather inexact science. I recall mondopoint being proposed in the early 1970s. It seemed a good idea for an international standard but it came to nothing. Perhaps it was too accurate to cater for the many variabilities of shoe sizing.

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