I grew up with the metric system and although I have been exposed to the English system for most of my life, it still irritates the hell out of me that the United States refuses to convert to the metric system. There are only three countries that have not adopted the metric system as its official standard of measurements. Obviously, the United States is one. The other two are Myanmar (Burma) and Liberia. The rest of the world, well, is sane when it comes to measuring stuff.

I don’t get it. The English system is a hodgepodge of numbers that don’t make any sense at all. Like 32 degrees Fahrenheit as the freezing point! Come on, 32! Why not 33, or 34, or even 45! Why 32? Was 32 some ancient American’s favorite number, or what? The sane number for freezing is simply, zero, yup zero makes sense for its so cold out there that water freezes, or your tongue sticks to a pole if you’re stupid enough to not realize that 32 means – don’t be stupid with your tongue on that pole. See how zero clearly means, don’t stick your tongue on that pole!

In 1975, I was excited to see that the United States finally saw the folly in their resistance to adopting the metric system when Congress ordered the conversion to metric. Oh, I’ll admit to poking fun at some Gringos trying to master the simplicity of a base-10 mathematical system. Like, how difficult is it to understand that everything is divisible by 10? Or, that zero really means its too cold to stick your tongue on that pole. But, alas, the simplicity of a base-10 measurement system was too much for the Gringos. Like, 12 inches equals one foot makes more sense then 100 centimeters equals one meter. You did note the “centi” in centimeters, right? Hint, “centi” is Latin for one hundred. But, hey, who am I to argue? It’s not like 32 is too hot to go to town in a parka. What!?, I can feel your Gringo brain trying to digest that little nugget of temperature reality….

Thirty-Two degrees Celsius demands shorts, not a parka on top of layers of clothing! For those metrically challenged, 32 degrees Celsius is 90 degrees in the Gringo version of the thermometer.

But no, it gets worse. My car speedometer insists I’m driving fast at 60, so fast that the cop tells me I’m speeding. Hello!, any Gringos paying attention out there? Want to give me a ticket for speeding? Give it to me when the speedometer shows something respectable, like say, 100! Now, that’s a nice round number that screams a speeding ticket on a residential road. But 60? Come on, that is not speeding! That’s like moped speed with the wind on your back going downhill.

It’s not like the Gringo’s failure to convert to the metric system hasn’t caused any problems, not withstanding my traffic tickets or lack of proper clothes because Gringo’s can’t learn a simple base-10 system.

In 1999, NASA lost the Mars Climate Orbiter because the NASA engineers used the proper measuring system, you know, the one used by sane people all over the world – the Metric system – while the contractor who wrote the software for the orbiter, Lockheed Martin used, oh my God, the English system.

Now what could have gone wrong?

Let me see, the loss of the $125 million satellite because Lockheed Martin engineers thought pounds made so much more sense than newtons? Really?

Of course, there’s the Evangelical’s out there that believe God created the U.S. to dominate the rest of us – so He gave us 12 fingers so that we could measure out a foot, or two. Oh, wait, my bad, God gave us ten fingers, so we could count out measurements metrically! Now, doesn’t that make much more sense?

Now some of you still believe the English system is superior to the Metric system. Let me let you in on a little secret. I weigh about 77 kilos. Doesn’t that sound soooo much better than 170?!?!

So, you women, especially, don’t walk in your size 25 high heels, run to your nearest government official and demand that the U.S. adopt the metric system forthwith. It’d make me so very happy and make you feel as light as a feather!

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

3 replies on “The Stupid English System”

  1. Martin
    Sorry you do not have the brain power to convert from one system to another! Since in what I do I have zero issues using both systems. Yes we believe everyone should just go to Universal time then no one would ever have to convert for time zones or daylight savings time! ;O)

  2. When I drove to Canada for the first time in 2015, the speed limit on HY 1 was 90 and I thought, “Hey, these Canucks rock,” as I passed everything on the road. Later, I realized before the RCMP could ticket me, that it was metric – 90 kilometers per hour!

    As the world’s premier super power, the USA can do whatever it wants and the rest of you will just have to live with it. It’s the Mandate of Heaven. Me, I like to buy gas by the gallon, not the liter (as I have in Canada the last three years) and I prefer my ale in pints.

  3. Many of us engineers and scientists agree that the metric system is more sensible but we are stuck with the English system of measurement. Thus when we publish/present our work we write in one system followed by the other system in parenthesis such as 30 ft (9.144 m).

    The English system is ingrained in our heads; we get an automatic understanding of how much. But with all the sophisticated gadgetry I guess learning proper conversions for everyday use may not be a factor. “Alexa, what’s 45 degrees F in Celsius?”

    Growing up in the border we learned as kids about kilos y kilometros from our visits to Cd. Juarez and shopping en los mercados.

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