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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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Disparate Measures
My generation occupies a ticklish position in the history of weights and measures. Our childhoods were marked by decimalization, with the result that for many purposes we are neither fish, fowl nor good red herring. For example:

Temperature: I use centigrade (not Celsius, please) for temperatures approaching freezing, and Fahrenheit for hot days. Anything in between, I haven't a clue.

Length: I'm bilingual as far as centimetres and metres / yards, feet and inches go - but can't be doing with kilometres. People, however, are measured exclusively in feet and inches.

Volume: I memorized "A litre of water's a pint and three quarters" from the back of a Rice Krispies packet, circa 1972. But that's all I know about "metric" measurements of volume. (How did the decimal lobby get to bag the word "metric", by the way?)

Money: Okay - I have successfully moved to decimal currency over the last forty years, but I increasingly believe it to have been a mistake as far as the nation's capacity for mental arithmetic is concerned. And I'm still more inclined to say SIXpence than six PENCE. It saddens me that no new names have arisen to rival 'tanner', 'bob', etc.

Weight: For food, I use pounds and ounces, and work on the rough idea that a kilogram is just over two pounds. For people, of course, it's stones and pounds. Kilograms mean nothing in that context, while giving the weight in pounds alone triggers a hasty sum involving the fourteen-times table.

But now we come to it. When crossing the road, I naturally use the Kerb Drill (the military ethos of which quite passed me by), and feel that the Green Cross Code is an upstart interloper.

For this reason, I can never warm to David Prowse, whom I first knew and disliked as Green Cross Man, long before he was Darth Vader. Perhaps that's why I found Star Wars only mildly entertaining rather than a major cultural event: the spirit of Tufty was strong in me, and wanted revenge.

(Having said that, I do sympathize with Mr Prowse. Why it's impossible for a supervillain to have a Bristol accent is a mystery to me.)

My late Aunt Pam dated David Prowse back in the day! They made an odd couple because he's very tall and she.....wasn't. :o)

I suspect my having lived abroad helps- I'm bilingual on all the weights and measures stuff and find converting easy enough and that got me on to centigrade quite young- it's fahrenheit I simply don't get at any level. The one exception is personal weight, for some obscure reason- still Stones and pounds.

They tried to call the pound coin a 'Maggie' ('cos it was bold, brassy and thought it was a sovereign) but that one didn't stick, sadly.

I don't think I'd heard that about the Maggie!

Thinkum's Lament

They tried to teach me metrics,
And forsake the English mile,
They took away my yardstick,
And they metered out my smile

But then, alas, they quit the job
And left me lost, adrift
Without a proper scale to use
My downfall then was swift.

I do not know my ounces,
Nor a mile's length in feet,
For pints unto a gallon, I
Must look it up and cheat

So if you have small children,
Give them a gift to treasure
I do not care which rule you choose,
But teach them how to measure!

All is true! Give them a metre, and they take a mile.

My experience is just like yours! I do know that 16C is 61F and 28C is 82F, the two reversible temperatures!

Well, I think we are more or less coaevals. I knew the 82/28 thing, and have clutched it like a talisman through my temperature-based wanderings, but the 61/16 one is new me, so thanks!

By the way - 98.4 or 37, when it comes to medical thermometers? (The former, for me.)

37! Although when the doc told me this week that mine was 37.7 it didn't sound like much to worry about.

I am somehow. . . "chilled" is not the appropriate word in this context. . . shocked to learn of this 98.4 detail. Really? Why are British people using Fahrenheit on average .2 degrees colder than Americans? What does that mean?

Yes, I know that in America it's 98.6 - and I've never understood why. British sang froid, perhaps?

Me too - except that, having spent many hours over many years making costumes for school plays and clothes for myself and my offspring, I also happily buy 45" wide fabric by the metre, or 115cm fabric by the yard. At least it gives me several easy points of comparison, as fabric comes in several widths.

I find it hard to think of beer in litres, even when it is served that way, as it was when we were in Estonia. I have learned to think in litres for car fuel, because it's way too painful to cost gallons.

It is also very unpleasant to think of spending twelve shillings on a first class stamp and ten bob to send a Christmas card. But, then, anything even remotely connected with our government makes me feel uncomfortable these days. :-(

Ah yes, I'm with you on the petrol thing. In fact, this post started with my trying to work out the price of a gallon of petrol in my noddle, and failing miserably.

Edited at 2012-03-30 08:59 am (UTC)

dates and pounds-and-ounces and the names of funny kings

I am probably the only 32-year-old American ever to have written a fic with a reference to the Green Cross Man. (It's still a WIP, so I can't link it.)

I blame my morbid interest in public-service campaigns of all sorts.

Re: dates and pounds-and-ounces and the names of funny kings

Well, I'm most impressed. You should check out the other kerb drill films, too, if you've a general interest. I've just been watching this one, which hits all my "past is a foreign country" buttons, combining as it does the "Young girls should talk to strange men", "How to light a traffic victim's cigarette for him" and "Skulking suspiciously in a built up area: first steps" messages with the main one of not getting knocked over by cars.

Re: dates and pounds-and-ounces and the names of funny kings

Hee, I'd never seen that one before! I would have thought 1940s cars would do a lot more damage.

I don't think I've ever seen an American PSA about crossing the street -- we have road-safety ones here, but they're mostly about wearing seatbelts and not driving drunk. Anyway, I was a kid in the eighties, so most of the ones that aired were about drugs. And they terrified me -- watching TV was always an adventure, that way.

Re: dates and pounds-and-ounces and the names of funny kings

Another friend on here has recently been recalling how truly scary the 'TV detector van' ads of his youth were- complete with creepy looking dirty old man in back of said vehicle spying on people with rays!

Re: dates and pounds-and-ounces and the names of funny kings

Oh yes - they were very Orwellian, weren't they?

I was taught exclusively in decimal measurements, but because (apart from money) these were almost never related to real life, they don't mean much to me. And all the adults I knew outside school used imperial, e.g. in teaching me to cook and talking about heights or weights, so I did too, and still do.

I remember the Green Cross Code (and Tufty!), but not the Green Cross Man.

As for money, I astounded my GCSE history teacher by being the only one in the class who could do the calculations he set regarding the Corn Laws in my head. I don't think I was ever taught how pre-decimal currency worked, but it wasn't hard to work out from books.

Since I've been driving a car with a built in thermometer that tells me how hot or cold it is outside, I've converted totally to centigrade for temperatures. However, cooking is still mostly pounds and ounces (apart from one American cookie recipe I do with is in cups!).

Otherwise I agree totally with what you posted. Regarding money, I have to keep stopping myself from thinking, "Ten shillings to send a letter! You used to be able to feed a family of four for a week on that."

You've reminded me of this:

I'm that bit younger and more metricised- I do temperature in centigrade, but my lengths and weights-of-people are pretty much identical to yours. I hae vague memories of the green cross code, but I htink my school mostly brewed its own campaign. (We got the full force of the "building sites bite!" one, though, which was traumatic, and that bloody stupid "say no to strangers" song.)
Being part-American, I'm trilingual for cooking- pounds and ounces, millilitres and grams, cups, all fine- but although I can do gas marks-to-centigrade from memory and work out what is meant by "a slow oven", I cannot remember what 325 fahrenheit is in real money, or do what my mother does and look at "two ounces of butter" and save getting the scale dirty by knowing that it's.... ooh, four tablespoons, perhaps? Like I said, I dunno. I have conversion tables stuck to the fridge for that.
(When it comes to mnemonics, "a pint's a pound the world around" is amusingly unhelpful!)

(edited to put in a missing qualifier)

Edited at 2012-03-31 08:36 am (UTC)

"Building sites bite!"? That's a new one to me!

With cooking, I was brought up on gas, and moved from that to a centigrade oven (which I still have to check against the gas marks) - so have no real experience of Fahrenheit in culinary context. Cups are a mystery to me, but I have scales that will convert different measurements and that solves most other problems. To be honest, though, I'm a great believer in doing it by eye, thumb and feel, and think that for most purposes recipes should be treated as impressionist word pictures rather than instructions. It usually works.

The whole set of films seem to be on youtube if you care. I'm not linking because I'd have to look at them! The one where a kid gets buried alive is still particularly vivid in mind.

Gosh - that is rather graphic. I was lured to watch "Dark and Lonely Water", as well, which I do vaguely recall ("I am the spirit of dark and lonely water..."). Though I didn't see the building site videos, I remember being shown something a little similar at school (without the SF paraphenalia) about the dangers of farmyards - presumably because ours was a rural area.

Edited at 2012-03-31 09:16 am (UTC)

Long live the spirit of Tufty! (Though my youth was tilting more into the Green Cross Code generation, I did have the little Tufty Club badge in Primary One...)

I'm right with you on the weights and measurements, but can't remember anything of pre-decimalisation.