Daniel Harvey Gonzalez / In pictures via Getty Images
At the local pub, diehard Brexiters will be throwing a pint at the news the UK is considering ending an EU-inspired ban on selling products in pounds and ounces only. But many others see the abandonment of the world’s benchmark metric system as pure hogwash.
Since becoming Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has pledged to usher in an era of “tolerance for traditional measures”. Brexit Minister David Frost clarified on Thursday what this means: giving shops and supermarkets the ability to sell items labeled only in imperial units.
Under the plan, market stalls and stores would not be required to include metric equivalent measurements.
The Imperial system uses inches, miles, and gallons as the units of measurement. It is almost the same as the system commonly used in the United States, with a few small differences.
Under the plan, it would be legal for market stalls, stores and supermarkets to sell their products using only imperial measurements, with no requirement to include metric equivalents.
Unsurprisingly, the metric versus imperial argument went straight to the court of modern public opinion – Twitter.
“I’ve never been really good with metric measurements and have always needed to convert. After nearly 50 years of metric, I doubt going back to imperial will help me now. And it won’t help anyone. who have been taught in school for the past 50 years of school “, a user said.
Some broadcast a satirical video mock the absurdity of old imperial measures. Still others have published a map showing countries using the metric system – the only exceptions being Myanmar, Liberia and, of course, the United States, which tried and failed to fully adopt the metric system from the mid-1970s.
From 1965, the United Kingdom began to withdraw gradually from the imperial system used throughout the Commonwealth. It was only a few years later that the project gained momentum, spurred by entry into the EU in 1973.
“In 1999, fishmongers, grocers, butchers and supermarkets were to start selling products in metric. Imperial units could also be listed, as long as they were not larger than their metric equivalents,” according to Wales Online.
Yet the life of the ordinary Briton is dotted with many Imperial units – a fact that has prompted some to Twitter suggesting the proposed change is much ado about nothing: “Imperial measurements never really went away. I always buy my milk and beer in pints. Distance is always measured in miles and speed in miles per hour. how do you ask for wood? – ‘5 meters of 4×2 please’ Oh, and it’s not really hot until it’s 80 degrees. “
The origins of the modern anti-metric movement in the UK can be traced back to 2001, when grocer Steven Thoburn broke the law for using a scale that only displayed imperial weights. Thoburn, later known as the “metric martyr”, became a hero of Eurosceptics for resisting European encroachment.
For many, pounds, ounces, feet and miles are a point of pride that recalls a time when the sun never set on the British Empire. And that probably doesn’t help the metric because France was the first to introduce it (in 1795).
Even so, as the UK Metric Association points out, there is not much about the Imperial system that is truly English, calling arguments to the contrary “quite absurd”.
“Some people consider it patriotic to use the imperial because it was ‘invented in Britain’,” the association explains. “However, most of these units originated elsewhere in Europe and were imposed by invaders.”