Imperial madness !!

A sad reflection on that part of the British character that is so resistant to change… City of York council are called to account reports the BBC for using metric measurements on footpath markers.

It seems that it is only the UK and the United States that continue to use miles and feet as measure of distance, and in the UK the situation is really confused, we buy fuel by the litre, measure distance using miles, and buy frozen food by the kilo !!

As someone taught only metric measurements 30 years ago in a UK school, I often wonder if we will ever join the rest of the world ?

BTW OS maps have been metric since the mid 1960’s

8 replies on “Imperial madness !!”

While in the “Valley” you should have stopped by the Computer History Museum [], a utterly fascinating place not so far away from Apple headquarters. You could have seen some of the first Apples [] 😉 Google is just up the road (and yes, it exists too!)

I agree that free data is often worth the price (little or nothing and worse, possibly misleading). University GIS programs often depend on free government (in the US) so the student mindset develops around using free data even if out of date (especially demographic data). For business use, using 2000 population data is appropriate if planning for 1999, not 2006. Microsoft’s Virtual Earth probably uses the old Terraserver image data from the US Geological Survey. Once again, Google can be praised for using imagery that is of a more recent date. Thank you for your observation.

I work for the US Geological Survery and see the samething here….Some of our traditional topo map products are metric and some in feet. aside from that issue, at least most the US actually users only one unit.

Wish I had 12 fingers to count with.

I adore traditional measurements (nb: not ‘imperial’, traditional) and can never understand why people like you ridicule them and scorn our love for them. What have we done to offend you?

I find older, traditional measures more poetic, more interesting. I find the ‘tyranny of the ten’ dull and tedious. What particularly puzzles me is why it’s cool to mock traditional, colourful measures, but not cool to mock people who want their own language or culture.

If you want to mock us for liking to count in colourful ways, I do hope you also have the courage to mock the Welsh for speaking in an impractical language and the Muslims for worshipping an impractical religion.

But you probably won’t bother. Until there are enough of us to bully you, you’ll be content to bully us. It’s only human nature, after all!

I forgot to mention that ‘Imperial’ is not how traditional measures are referred to in America. It was how they were referred to in a statutory way in the UK and colonies, and even then only in the last hundred years or so. Actually, they are ‘customary’ measures.

But ‘Imperial’ is a convenient shorthand to mock them mindlessly, so ‘Imperial’ they will probably remain to people who only want to do things one way and can’t tolerate variety or difference. I hardly think that wanting to do something differently constitutes ‘madness’ – although that certainly used to be the official attitude in Soviet Russia.


Sorry you find the standisation of units of measure such an infrigment of your personal liberty, of course if you would like to continue to use “traditional” messures you should be able to, indeed pehaps you might also like to try other nations “tradional” units as well – how about the japanese shyaku (3.3 m) or historic measues like the cubit (2.187 m) – I wonder when traditional becomes historic ?

My point is that a standard unit of measure used by all makes life easier, and the sooner the UK adopts metric measures used by almost every other nation other than the US, the better !

My favourite example of mixed units is in the sailing world. Distances are measured in nautical miles and cables (1/10th of a mile) but depths are in meters. It is the only case I know of where the unit of distance used depends on the direction of the measurement.

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