UK floats half in, half out of metric system - worse than USA, Myanmar, Liberia

Posted on by Mike Evans

Yesterday Gizmodo bemoaned the fact that only three countries in the world—Liberia, Myanmar and the USA—do not use the metric system. They should have remembered the poor old UK which has been saddled with a hybrid arrangement for over thirty years.

Where else in the world do fill your car with litres of fuel, then see speed warning signs in miles, and countdowns to the next exit in yards? And despite buying litres, we all talk about miles per gallon. The metric concept of litres-per-hundred-kilometers is totally alien to the British driver.

We think of distances exclusively in miles and always have done. No one says that it is 320k from London to Manchester. It is and always has been 200 miles. If asked for directions we'll advise people to turn right after 50 yards, not meters. We can't even decide whether to spell litres this way or the liter way.

The result is confusion and unnecessary duplication. Our problem is that successive Governments have procrastinated over a clean, wholesale change and have permitted anomalies to continue. Often this is merely to placate the vociferous traditionalist minority who would love to go back to feet and inches, ounces and pounds. Children no longer learn about the old system, but they are expected to understand miles, yards and gallons when they take to the road.

In this respect we lie far behind the USA, Liberia and Myanmar. They are countries that know their own minds.

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