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Imperial Rules
by Clint Wayne
2007-09-13 09:58:44
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Its not often I say it, but today I humbly thank the Eurocrats of Brussels for allowing us citizens of the UK to retain part of our history in permitting us to keep our precious measurements of miles, feet, ounces and pints that have been part of our culture since the Middle Ages. Earlier this week, the European Commission acted to ‘get the British Government out of a hole’, about eight-feet deep, claiming that they have never targeted the British Imperial System.

The notorious British ‘pint’ of beer will be drunk in celebration in pubs up and down the country, young holidaying couples will still be able to join the ‘mile high club’, a good ‘six inches’ will remain legendary and when my horse is winning the Derby with just one ‘furlong’ to go I will know I’ll soon be able to cheer and spend my winnings. Bosses will still require their ‘pound’ of flesh, stag parties will still be downing a ‘yard’ of ale and children will still be accused of not having an ‘ounce’ of common sense - thank heavens the EU has just shown some.

Günter Verheugen, the Commissioner for the Single Market, has exploded the myth that this was a part of a wider EU plot in an attack against the heart of Britishness. The imperial measures that have formed part of our traditions for centuries and have been the very essence of Britishness that all Europeans have come to know and love is now safe for future generations of children to learn that twelve inches make a foot, three feet make a yard and 1,760 yards make a mile… what could be simpler?

When their teacher informs them that there are sixteen ounces in a pound, fourteen pounds in a stone and a hundred and twelve pounds in a hundredweight with twenty hundredweight in a ton they will smile in delight and make learning fun for years to come.

The agreement to switch to metric was signed by the British Government back in 1980 as part of our introduction to the single market but its implementation has met with determined campaigners and a very unenthusiastic public unwilling to give up part of our traditions. Greengrocer Steve Thoburn, the ‘Metric Martyr’, was prosecuted and given a criminal record for selling bananas at his market stall by the pound. It was bureaucracy gone mad.

Local Councils have been craftily trying to introduce the metric system for years by putting measurements in metres on our information signs. When I’m shopping in town and I am desperate for ‘the loo’, a sign telling me that there is one 100 metres away is useless. Do I need to sprint or will a gentle amble be sufficient! Even the BBC are slowly brainwashing us on their weather forecasts with temperature information in ‘Celcius’. When the lovely Weathergirl tells me it will be 21 degrees C tomorrow will I need a pullover?

Pressure is also now slowly building here for the British people to have their say in the referendum that we were promised by ‘President Blair’ on the new re-hashed ‘Constitution’ but his successor Gordon Brown is holding out knowing that any vote on Europe will be a resounding ‘No’ but that is not a reason for not having one.

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Emanuel Paparella2007-09-13 10:51:07
To answer the question “what could be simpler?”: the decimal system, even if that may not be apparent to somebody who has grown up with a different system. It is simpler because it is based on 10 digits (etymologically digit comes from the Latin word for finger) corresponding to the ten fingers on the two hands that most humans are born with. Similarly, languages that are phonetic are simpler to write and to spell than non-phonetic languages. Italian and Spanish children can spell in first grade. Of course the argument for the retention of languages and many other customs and institutions (something lost on most mindless bureaucrats obsessed by efficient ordering and contemptuous of cultural nuances) is a powerful one when properly based on love of one’s heritage and traditions and not on simple nostalgia for forever gone imperial times, or worse, for an elitist penchant to just be different and stand out, but that should not be confused with mathematical simplicity per se.

Asa2007-09-13 11:19:02
After living in Finland for five years I must admit that my brain has been washed clean of imperial.

I am quite happy with metres, kms, litres and Celsius!

Clint2007-09-13 16:14:54
Thanks for the lesson Pap but you need to recognise sarcasm especially from the master or was it a cunning counter bluff?

Emanuel Paparella2007-09-13 19:08:11
I must admit Clint that I missed your sarcasm and irony in your piece, as I miss now that of distorting one's interlucutor's last name, but even so the arguments for tradition, and simplicity stand on their own and have nothing to do with imparting lessons to anybody but with reasoning and discussing the issue, perhaps continuing to disagree but but without becoming disagreable.

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